Books and Me: Dhandha

Book Title: Dhandha – How Gujaratis do Business

Author: Shobha Bondre (Translated by Shalaka Walimbe)Dhandha Book Cover

‘Dhandha’ is another inspiring read for entrepreneurial minds. It is a given that Gujaratis are born business people. Gujaratis are referred to as a benchmark for reference when it comes to business sense. But most of what people speak about Gujarati businessmen (women included) is hearsay. There is very little that is written about of the Gujarati way of doing business, at least in English. Hence a lot of the business students and aspiring entrepreneurs outside of regional literature like Gujarati and Marathi have not had privy to this knowledge. Shobha Bondre’s works in Marathi seemed to have had a wide readership. But the non Marathi speaking population will now have access to her works – thanks to Shalaka Walimbe’s interesting translation.

The book describes the journey of five Gujarati business persons (one woman as well). Each of their stories are truly entrepreneurial. They are typical of how many of the Gujarati business persons have grown and built their own communities. The book is first and foremost, very inspiring. Every story traces the growth of an entrepreneur from rags (almost in some cases) to riches. The stories also highlight the fact that they were ordinary people like all of us. One can easily relate to these people since the stories are so intertwined with their personal lives. This makes the reading very human and realistic. It is not that they have not had problems or that they did not have set backs, but every story is about determination to be in business, to be successful and to be fair to their lives. They have taken tremendous risks as well. The success and the ongoing challenges of some of their lives are useful lessons for teaching entrepreneurship.

Every class that I teach on entrepreneurship rarely goes without a remark about Gujarati business acumen. But instead of accepting their natural inclination towards business and speaking at the macro level, we can now bring at least five real stories to class: Bhimjibhai Patel (Diamonds are forever), Mohanbhai Patel (The Circle of Life), Dalpatbhai Patel (Motelier becomes Mayor), Jaydev Patel (Life of a Salesman) and Hasu & Hersha Shah (Not Only Potels).

The book is an easy read for anyone. One of the highlights of the book is the absence of smart statements and prophetic advices. The suggestions are all about being honest to the profession, thinking long term, working hard, building strong relationships, etc – all of which are so simple, that it may be exciting. But it is this simple advice that has created generation after generation of Gujarati businessmen and women. A lot of learning for entrepreneurs lies subtly embedded in the stories and that is what makes story telling interesting. Lessons can be milked out by the reader based on their level of extraction. Overall a good read which goes beyond inspiration. With a foreword by the chief minister of Gujarat (Narendra Modi) and an introduction by the state’s brand ambassador (Amitabh Bachchan) – the book has received a generous introduction.

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