Book Review

Book Review of Dhandha: How Gujaratis do business by Shobha Bondre

To tell you what the book is about, I shall borrow the next paragraph from Goodreads ..

Shobha Bondre’s Dhandha is the story of a few Gujaratis: Jaydev Patel—the New York Life Insurance agent credited with having sold policies worth $2.5 billion so far; Bhimjibhai Patel—one of the country’s biggest diamond merchants and co-founder of the ambitious ‘Diamond Nagar’ in Surat; Dalpatbhai Patel—the motelier who went on to become the mayor of Mansfield County; Mohanbhai Patel—a former Sheriff of Mumbai and the leading manufacturer of aluminium collapsible tubes; and Hersha and Hasu Shah—owners of over a hundred hotels in the US. Travelling across continents—from Mumbai to the United States—in search of their story and the common values that bond them, Dhandha showcases the powerful ambition, incredible capacity for hard work, and the inherent business sense of the Gujaratis.

People often pull my leg when I get down to asking my team Chalo bataa, kitna aa rahaa hain, kitna ja rahaa hain dhandhaa mein? I had heard about this simple concept from a Baniya friend when he saw me completely baffled during my B-school days during the time that I had to ‘study’ subjects in Finance. But it took me several years to internalize that statement and definitely wish I had understood it earlier. My thought was that this book would be reinforcing the concepts but actually turned out to be a different read altogether.

We have grown up hearing about the importance of hard work, but the extent of hard work that the chosen examples in the book manage is absolutely unimaginable. At times, you feel the exaggerated number of hours of slog is simply nothing more than just that, exaggeration just for the sake of it! But if we start to look at the drawbacks in this book, then there may be many such instances.

 So, why you should read this book?

  •  Inspirational to say the least, the background of the characters and their ambition levels is phenomenal. ‘Think scale and think without boundaries’ is easier said than done. Throughout the case studies / stories we do see a significant reinforcement of this statement. They do effortlessly think scale and without boundaries that you are left admiring them in awe. Especially in the case of a simple boy from a village, who goes on to work as a labourer and becomes a huge success story in the diamond business, it is not the step by step upgrade but the sheer force of passion driven by fiery ambition that is unbelievable. The willingness to go the extra mile for the sake of passion is moving. And story after story, the message is to train your eyes to define the end goal. Vision is important for the journey to fall in place! As with many other things in the book, it doesn’t tell you a way to reach there, but shares how some others reached the dizzying heights of success.
  •  Another common trait was the sense of collaboration. Again the extent of collaboration between the Gujjus, their families and how, for example, several people staying in a small apartment stay focused and come together as an integrated support system was good to see. It is common in many communities, but given that I am mostly a-social in the real world, I wouldn’t comment on the other communities. But my learning was that when in doubt, ask people. There is somebody out there who might be able to help you because they have walked the path years ago. A mentor and a mentee are both important. And there is really no need to try and do everything yourself.
  •  As far as the cliché that goes, ‘behind every man there is a woman’, the book takes that concept and shreds it into pieces. There is no woman ‘behind’ every man, here the woman characters are equally enterprising and stand ‘with’ the man at every step. Strong bonds exist despite several adverse situations that could have easily given rise to cracks and made the relationships crumble. That way the relationship between man and wife, with siblings, extended family… giving back to their home town or village, these were all inspiring and something that others should learn from.

The writer has not just taken the perspective of the main star(s) of each case study but weaved together the perspectives of different family members and other important stakeholders who contributed to the success of not just themselves but ‘entrepreneurship’ in general.

 Definitely worth a read and focus on the positives, lots to learn and if you are tired and thinking of a break in your Journey, this might just be the lemonade that will rejuvenate you and fill you with some renewed energy to try harder till your next milestone. You might question if the milestone and goal itself needs calibration: but one thing for sure is that if you haven’t read the book, go ahead and read it. Your interpretations might vary but am sure you will get something out of it and will only become a better individual. Giving back to the society was also a common trait but as I said, to each his own … just read it and it is only 100 rupees or so and can be finished very quickly.    

Will give it 3.5 to 4 stars / 5



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