NEW DELHI: The next time you hear someone recite verses from the Bhagavad Gita, pay more attention. The wisdom of the ancient Indian scriptures may come in handy in tackling issues from management strategies to corporate governance in today's highly competitive world of business.
Consider this: Motivational gurus and management experts like Deepak Chopra, C.K. Prahalad, Arindam Chaudhuri, Shiv Khera and Mrityunjay B. Athreya are increasingly borrowing from ancient Hindu scriptures to cope with the modern-day business management challenges.
"Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, yoga is excellence in action," said leading management consultant Harish Bijoor. "We preach it as a basic tenet in our sessions - that one can derive a higher state of being in an organisation by achieving excellence in action and be consistent in doing so," Bijoor told IANS.
Krishna may indeed give management guru Philip Kotler - whose strategies on marketing are routinely referred to in classrooms and boardrooms alike - a run for his money, management gurus maintain.
"Quite a few business strategies owe their origins to Hindu myths. According to Indian religious texts, 'swa-dharma' or self ethics can be used to achieve quality in all the functions of a company," Bijoor maintained.
Agreed Athreya, who took the example of "Neelakantha" Lord Shiva's epithet, when his throat turned blue after drinking the poison churned up from ocean so that the magic potion of mortality could be partaken by his followers to defeat the demons, or evil.
"This act symbolises courage, initiative, willingness, discipline, simplicity and austerity - these are all the qualities that successful business leaders, as also managers, preach," Athreya, a specialist in vedic management, told IANS.
Such myths are relevant more than ever today as businesses the world over have begun to retrench workers and cut down on employee benefits and charity in the wake of the current meltdown, the experts said.
"It is the dharma of all organisations to focus more on corporate social responsibility and protect employees' interests in this hour of crisis. A company should make profits during the good times and help people in bad times," Athreya said.
"Firms should reduce prices, be content with a lower profit margin and eliminate waste."
Quoting Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata, Athreya said: "Every day, people see creatures depart to (god of death) Yama's abode. Yet, those who remain seek to live forever. This verily is the greatest wonder."
Similarly, he said, people retire every day, jobs are lost, and sometimes it is seen as unavoidable as has been seen during the current economic turmoil.
"But the impact of the crisis and the consequent sense of insecurity can be contained if managements become 'deerghdarshi' (far-sighted), and try to evade the crisis even before it happens."
Ancient wisdom will also help mitigate fears about competition.
"A lot of people are bothered about what competition is doing. We too advise managers to look at competition, but in a benign way. Look at them as ethical people, who are just doing their job and you are doing yours," said Bijoor.
Some of the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism, the Vedas and the upanishads, can help in scripting an ideal corporate governance philosophy.
"The management should be 'saatvik', meaning balanced and orderly. They should take care of their customers and business partners, besides their employees. That is the backbone of any sound corporate governance model," Athreya said, quoting from these scriptures.
Companies have started adopting ancient Indian wisdom and techniques like the Sudarshan Kriya, a complete body workout regime, and followed in corporate stress management workshops. Software giant Wipro, for example, has a programme dedicated to improving mental state of its employees using meditation and yoga.
Bijoor, however, feels Indian managers are still smitten by western management philosophies. "I routinely quote from texts like the Ramayana in the sessions that I hold for corporates around the world", he said.
"But it is ironical that businesses in countries like Germany and France are adopting the wisdom of Vedas while our people are still besotted with western philosophies."