February 09, 2013

Book Review : Three Mediocre Books on Corporate Preparedness

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 21-Jan-2013)

There is no magic formula for making it big in life. It’s all about your preparedness and how. These three books are trying to look at corporate preparedness and make a feeble attempt to teach the subject to its readers. While Make It Or Break It by Partha Sarathi Basu is a guide for the novice in the corporate world, Daddy’s Logic by Anthony Rose encourages us to get out of our cosy cubicles and get going. Jack’s Business by Gabriel Fuchs is a manual on how to tame greed, something that has built and broken industries in many parts of the globe.

Basu is finance director for India and South Asia at AkzoNobel. His books include Why Not. . .! Racing Ahead with Mentors. His latest book mainly targets aspiring teenagers or young professionals who are just about to start a corporate life. Through fable-like stories as examples that prepare young professionals to manage everyday life, Basu acts like a mentor and motivator. And in that effort, he performs well, though he is not great. His examples portray real-life scenarios in any office and show how a young executive should prepare so that her early career remains “successful”. To Basu, success merely means not committing any blunders due to the lack of knowledge of corporate culture and being aware of one’s environs. There is no protagonist and the author spews out rule after rule meant to ensure a trouble-free career as well as cordial relationships with peers and seniors.

This self-help book is written in simple and lucid language and teaches the importance of common sense without making any effort to talk about the relevance of having dreams and how to chase them. In the preface, Renu Karnad, managing director of HDFC, calls this book a “Lonely Planet” for aspiring professionals fresh out of campus. Aptly so. And just that.

While Basu guides the path for a novice, Rose, a public relations veteran, goes beyond the customs of a cubicle. In Daddy’s Logic, he covers larger aspects of life. Spread across 20 chapters covering 20 aspects of living a regretfree happy life, these are primarily based on author’s interactions and experiences with this father over a span of 30 years. The author has superimposed advice from his daddy with examples of corporate leaders, underscoring the fact that our parents play an important part in shaping our early life and their advice is often followed and implemented even after they leave us. This book contains a surfeit of practical advice peppered with loads of anecdotes and pragmatic insights.

Fuchs talks about more than just greed, which has become a prominent keyword for any book associated with the finance industry, along with arrogance and skills. The plot is generally the same: a nobody’s quest for success sees him going on to achieve the heights and then losing everything due to his ego and greed. There is no place for feelings of guilt, sorrow or pity and the lure of fast money leads one to the fast track to success and by the time he realises that he has gone too far, he generally ends up languishing in a prison cell. The central premise of any such book is similar to the tagline “Greed is Good” from the 1987 epic movie Wall Street  by Oliver Stone.

Fuchs is a consultant and a business intelligence expert. His book claims to be based on a true story and so readers would expect something new to be told in it, but the subject has become so mundane that almost all plots read alike. Perhaps, Greg Smith’s open resignation published recently on The New York Times – ‘Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs’ — would give us a realistic feel of what goes on in the industry. Still, the book is a much better, faster and credible read than most such books.
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