Though management as a practice is very old as a subject it has evolved in a big way only in the last fifty years. Today there are a number of management gurus who have extensively studied this subject and evolved a number of theories relating to it. However we do not find many ancient books which have codified thoughts pertaining to management the Thirukural is an exception despite being two thousand years old.
Considered the Tamil veda, the Thirukural is a treatise on the Art of living its eternal and universal appeal lies in its secular character clarity of thought depth of understanding and penetrating insights into the fundamental of human thought and behaviour.
In this book the author gives examples from his varied global experiences and explains how he has drawn inspiration from the Thirukural to deal with every day business situation in what is a fascinating analysis the author also sows how the thought of contemporary management gurus compare with the timeless wisdom contained in the Thirukura.
The book is an indispensable guide for management corporate executives entrepreneurs students of management and those who aspire to be leaders.
V. Srinivasan is the management director and chief executive officer of infotech Ltd. Within a span of just six years he has turned 3i infotech in to global technology company with 2500 employees in forty countries across five continents. Having travelled widely around the world he has a deep understanding of global business issues he has also been on the board of several companies.
Srinivasan combines a comprehensive mix of academic qualifications and professional experience he is a graduate in mathematics from Madras university and secured the first rank in the university Apart from being a rank holder in the Chartered Accountancy examination he is also a qualified cost accountant an a company secretary. He has also attended the executive development programme at the Kelloggs school of management in Chicago USA, meant for aspiring top executives.
As a young boy I read a short story which left a deep impact on me at that time, even though I did not understand its full significance. The story was about - Pauranika (a person who gives religious discourses), who was considered to be an expert with regard to discourses on the Bhagavatha. He approached the king of Benaras, which was then considered to he the highest seat of learning, and told him that while he had given discourses in several courts, he had one desire left, that of giving a discourse in the Benaras king’s court. The king was very pleased, but got down from his throne and, with folded hands, told him how it would be a great honour for him to listen to him but could the Pauranika please read the Bhagavatha once more before starting his discourse? The Pauranika was angry but as his anger would be of little avail in the presence of the king, he had no option hut to go back and read the epic once again. As he did so, he found deeper meanings in the various passages. His anger evaporated as he realised that the king had good reason to make the suggestion that he did. After completing his reading he once again approached the king with the same request, only to be told by the king to read the epic once more before starting his discourse. Dejected, lie came hack home and plunged into reading the Bhagavatha once again. As he delved deep into it, he found that he was getting gradually transformed. His sense of ego left him and the desire to display his prowess before the king also disappeared. He read and re-read the book many times. Realising that the Pauranika was not going to return, the king rushed to his home, prostrated himself, and requested the Pauranika to begin the discourse as he had at last found a worthy teacher.
I was introduced to the Thirukural at the very young age of seven. I was staying with my maternal uncle and used to accompany him in the evenings to the house of a Tamil scholar who was an authority on the Thirukural. His exposition of several of the kurals inspired me to read and understand the text in its entirety. As a young boy it was possible for me to grasp only the superficial meaning of the book, but that was adequate enough for me to regulate my conduct in a meaningful way. As I persisted in my learning process, I found that the very same kural which conveyed a particular meaning to me as a young boy seemed to shed an entirely different light as I grew up. When I was barely fourteen, I remember asking my teacher why the Thirukural dealt with only three aspects of life, that is, virtue, wealth creation and enjoyment of life, and excluded the fourth aspect that of achieving enlightenment. I did not get a very satisfactory answer at that time. It was only when I turned sixty that I realised that every one of these kurals dealt with the aspect of enlightenment and in view of this, a separate treatment of the subject was redundant.
The limited success I have been able to achieve in my life and career is largely influenced by the teachings of Valluvar. I made a genuine and deliberate attempt to apply the teachings of this great saint both in my life and career. Therefore, on receiving a request from Srinivasan to write a preface to his book on management philosophy as embodied in the Thirukural, I found myself in sync with his thought process. I read his book with considerable interest, given my familiarity with the subject, and was delighted with the way in which he was able to organise and summarise the various teachings of the great saint and articulate their relevance in the current context. I particularly enjoyed his comparison of the kingdom with the corporate organisation, and the various functionaries of the kingdom with the executives of the organisation. This rather innovative attempt establishes the relevance of the ancient text to current times.
This, in fact, is the greatness of the Thirukural, its ability to transcend times and propound the universal Truth, which has applicability across time and borders. Thiruvalluvar is generally considered a Hindu but the Jams say that considering his teachings, he cannot but be a Jam. Buddhists believe that he must be a Buddhist, while the Christians consider him to be a Christian given the similarity of his teachings to the Bible. The very fact that nearly two thousand years after his time he is still being claimed as part of different religious groups is proof of the universality of the Truth espoused by him. In fact, I would go one step further and say with a degree of confidence that this also establishes that all religions in their essence are one and the same; the differences, if any, being merely superficial.
Srinivasan indeed has excellent credentials to outline management concepts and link them to the teachings of Valluvar. I came to know him as a young executive of ICICI and have seen him rise to great heights within the organisation. The manner in which he put 3i Infotech on the growth path, successfully dealing with many challenges the company faced in its formative years, is testimony to his emergence as one of the young corporate leaders in the country. The book not only incorporates the results of his rich experience in corporate organisations but also reflects his deep understanding of ancient Indian philosophy. I am greatly impressed by his ability to link the teachings of Valluvar with the various concepts propounded by the management gurus of the day. This comparative analysis would be of great interest to students of management.
I would, without hesitation, recommend this book for reading by young and aspiring corporate executives.
The art and science of management has emerged as one of the most important fields of study in the modern world. However, too often we take a narrow view of the subject and look for management lessons only in the context of business organisations. What we miss is that management depends on human behaviour and thought, the way we approach challenges, the way we plan for the future, the way we respond to change and the way we interact with each other as individuals and groups. Thus, management lessons can be drawn from history, sport, politics, literature and the world around us.
Innovative thinkers have found texts of the past centuries, on subjects ranging from warfare to philosophy, to be rich sources of management insights. Management principles have evolved out of observations of successful people and organisations and relate to a set of well accepted attributes common to all of them. These principles have existed in various forms in ancient Indian society and culture. Old treatises with observations on the conduct of government, trade, diplomacy and social relations are a source of information on common practices at that time and lay down a framework of what behaviour was deemed to be both ideal and effective in realising the desired objectives. The Thirukural, is a treatise on philosophy and life and has deep insights into human behaviour, on qualities that help or harm a person when it comes to interpersonal and social relations, politics and diplomacy. Over the centuries it has inspired generations of thinkers and writers.
Srinivasan has taken the commendable initiative to seek and share from this great work precepts that can be fruitfully applied by modern-day managers. Srinivasan is a long-time colleague and friend. An outstanding leader, he is also a keen observer of people and situations. As head of a successful company, his view on management is based on practical knowledge of business conduct. In this book he has drawn from the Thirukural specific verses and analysed their relevance to the management of business today, drawing fascinating parallels between socio-political situations in the ancient world and day-to-day issues that we now tackle in our management roles. His readable prose style and the ease with which he moves from the text of the kural to management situations make reading this book both a pleasure and a learning experience.
Srinivasan’s book is a remarkable attempt to distil the wisdom of this great work into easily understandable concepts for modern managers. His hands-on experience and knowledge of business, combined with his deep understanding of our culture and philosophy, is the great strength of this book. I am sure readers will find this an interesting and rewarding experience.
Though management as a practice is very old, as a subject it has evolved in a big way only in the last fifty years. Today there are a number of management gurus who have extensively studied this subject and developed a number of theories relating to it. However, we do not find many ancient books which have codified thoughts pertaining to management. The Thirukural is an exception, despite being two thousand years old.
The Thirukural is a treatise on the ‘Art of Living’ born out of Tamil culture. Its author, Valluvar, was a genius who came from Tamil Nadu, a culturally rich state in the southernmost part of India. Having examined and analysed in detail all aspects of life, Valluvar separated the fleeting from the enduring. His endeavour was to distil the essence of his ruminations into a treatise on the art of living. The Thirukural’s eternal and universal appeal lies in its secular character, clarity of thought, depth of understanding, penetrating insights and Valluvar’s capacity to present his views in an extremely generalised and universally applicable form.
Considered the Tamil Veda, the Thirukural consists of 1330 aphorisms grouped into 133 chapters of ten couplets each (each couplet is called a kural). These simply fall into three sections. The first on Virtue has thirty-eight chapters. The second on Wealth is the longest and has seventy chapters covering the entire area of the state, its polity, economy etc. The third part deals with Love and has twenty-five chapters. Each kural is poetically crafted with just seven apt words. While the rhythm and beauty of the words are mesmerising, the contents and message are thought provoking. Viewed from a management perspective, one can say that while the first part is on the management of self, the second is on the management of the state or organisation, and the last section covers the management of the man-woman relationship.
Though there are different schools of thought regarding the exact period to which Valluvar belonged, there is wide acceptance of the view that he lived about two thousand years ago.
The literature on the Thirukural is vast — it has been translated not only in English but in other languages as well. However, most of these books link the Thirukural to literature and philosophy, not to business and leadership.
I was first introduced to the Thirukural during my early days of schooling in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, where it was part of the Tamil curriculum. Right through school, and even college, we used to learn about twenty kurals each year, covering various subjects. During those times, the Tamil teachers who taught the Thirukural viewed it from a pedagogic standpoint, simply as a piece of literature characterised by good grammar, beauty of words and rhythm. Attracted by the rhythm and nuances of the words used and their grammatical structure (which made retention easy), I memorised a number of kurals during my school days, even without understanding their full meaning and depth. In the late 60s and early 70s, all public transport buses in Madras (now called Chennai), were painted with kurals, which further helped me memorise them.
After completing my studies in mathematics and accountancy, I started my career in the late 70s. For the first three years, I worked under my father (late N. Venkatraman, a practicing chartered accountant) and later joined the ICICI group. Although I joined the group at the junior management level, I had the opportunity of moving to the middle and senior management levels over a period of twenty years, and became the MD of 3i Infotech (formerly ICICI Infotech) in 1999. I was also corporate secretary of ICICI for about five years. During my career with the organisation, I have had the privilege of working closely with great leaders like N. Vaghul (chairman, ICICI Bank) and K.V. Kamath (MD and CEO of ICICI Bank). N. Vaghul has been a career banker for almost fifty years and has reached top positions in banking with State Bank of India, Bank of India and ICICI Bank. He was one of the three advisors to the president of the World Bank. K.V. Kamath transformed ICICI from a project finance institution to a universal bank and has won several awards, including the Asian business leader award. As corporate secretary to the board of ICICI, I also had the privilege of attending the board meetings of ICICI and interacting with dynamic leaders like N.R. Narayanamurthy (chairman, Infosys), R. Seshasayee (MD, Ashok Leyland), Ashok Ganguli (former chairman, Hindustan Lever), and several other top-notch professionals.
I have attended the executive development programme at the Kellogg School of Management, where I had the opportunity of interacting with senior professors such as Bala Balachandran. I have been part of several forums and seminars on leadership and management where world-renowned leaders like Jack Welch (former CEO of GE), Louis Gerstner (former CEO of IBM, who was responsible for the company’s turnaround), and Bill Clinton (former US president) have spoken about leadership. I have also read several books on leadership and management, including those written by Peter Drucker, Stephen Covey and Geoffrey Moore.
As CEO of 3i Infotech (which has grown in five years to a USD 100 million company with 2500 people with operations spread across forty countries in five continents), I have had the opportunity to understand for myself what management is and what constitutes leadership. I have also had an opportunity to interact with people from multicultural and multi-ethnic backgrounds. These associations and interactions have given me an depth understanding of the essential elements of leadership and management.
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