Thursday, June 13, 2013

Boar in Boots: Book review

That's a weird name. Why did I pick this book? I love stories and I expected to find lots of them. And I must say I was not disappointed. The author Parthasarathi Swamy has been a business journalist for the last 25 year working with most of Indian business magazines (was the editor of Business World and currently editor at IndiaKnowledge@Wharton) . So I did expect a few insider stories from his encounters with industry scions and there are plenty.

The book is titled as "Boar in the Boots:A Business Travelogue - Down the bylanes of two decades of India's liberalization. It consists of the author's experiences and articles from a number of Industry leaders. More that anything else it made me familiar with a lot of key players in the India Industry wihtin the last 20 years (unlike Gita Parimal's business maharaja's that covered only the well know business houses like Ambanis, Birlas and Tatas)



The language is conversational but be ready to google out things like, who was Gordon Geccko. And I am sure you would like what you find. (He is credited with the dialog "Greed in Good")

The chapters are short so dont worry about picking up a 300 page book. That's enough of a formal review, here is an excerpt from my notes when I was halfway through the book.


Page 166:Harshad Mehta
Just when I started feeling that it was becoming a drag, he slips in a great piece of narrative. After reading pieces from the likes of Adi Godrej and Narayan Murthy he gets you on your toes with his insights into scams, corruption and his interactions with Harshad Mehta.

That tells me one very clear thing, I picked up this book to get familiar with the journey of India's liberalization but what I craved for was inside stories, anecdotes from the author's experience covering business in India. He ensures that there are enough scholarly articles by erudite professors and industry think tanks for the serious kind of readers but thankfully intersperses his witty insightful articles to keep me glued onto the book.

For people like who missed the 90's and the liberalization growing up, there is enough from the last decade. I had just not taken the pain of collating my thoughts as I lived through them. For eg. I never looked at Satyam scam and told myself it can be looked at as a classic case of 'affinity fraud'. Well to be fair I did not know this word until I read this chapter on Satyam. But now that I do, I can move on to deeper issues around diversity on governing boards of companies. I am just a little better off understanding why Mr. Kamath was a natural choice when Mr. Murthy was stepping down a few years ago.
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Some of the narratives opens up your mind to areas that you never thought of. I did not expect Mr. Murthy to be speaking about increasing FSI (floor space index) as a next step for liberalization/reforms. He says that will allow businesses like his to employ more people and get over land shortage. Now that he does say it, I can understand it must be something that a large business like Infosys has to grapple with.