Unilever lost the plot? It's a monosyllabic answer, and one that
leaves you open-mouthed, if this account of the 'dramatic transformation'
of its Dutch foods unit is taken as a millennial precursor to some
sort of global rejuvenation. Written by a greying organisational
psychologist and a couple of young academic researchers, it's quite
a dramatic story, literally-hints of which are evident in the cover
(the visual and stylisation). Well-enacted, too.
The book begins without much ado. After a few
words of awe from T.E. Lawrence on natural rock formations, the
book's narrative-a five-act drama-opens to a scene that engages
all five human senses. The smell of rotting food; the sight of a
huge warehouse full of 'rejects'; the sound of Mozart's Requiem;
the taste of incoming chief Tex Gunning's operating style (he'd
whisked 1,400 unsuspecting employees to this warehouse one fine
morning in 1995); and the feel of a splash-in-the-face awakening.
To the desert, to the Scottish clan-land, to
Iceland-as the pages turn, these whisk-em-off 'outbreaks' assume
a pattern in Gunning's masterplan, as the effervescence of his ideas
begin to work others into a lather. Old notions of hierarchy get
dissolved as teams become teams, the voiceless speak up and free
associations gain potency. The business' focus shifts to market
opportunity, not process maintenance. Leading the consumer, not
To The Desert And Back
By Philip Mirvis, Karen Ayas & George Roth
Price: Rs 1,242
Spontaneity grows. Initiatives get taken. Ideas
pop up. Wins are scored. And when Gunning's modest unit merges with
Van Den Bergh, the original Dutch arm of Unilever, his folksy 'farmers'
turn the latter's 'sophisticates' into go-getters. That's when the
'artists' of value creation and 'executionists' of value delivery
join forces, and some turn into 'angry young men'. Angry enough
to stage a rebellion. And what does Gunning do? He goes to the bigwigs
on the board, who sit together, recall their childhoods, break down,
sob like crazy (the chief too), empower the rebels, and "suddenly
start saying, 'No, no, let's do this and let's do that'". That's
it. Team after team unmasks. The 'cascade' begins. And a few teary
outbreaks later, it's action time.
Brand after brand is relaunched-Liptonica iced-tea
gets 'mountain madness', Uno noodles gets bikini cool-and, boy-oh-boy,
the topline flashes growth, growth, growth.
The net result?
'Holistic integration', as the last chapter
calls it. Personal and business growth. Appealing to the head and
heart. Driven top-down and bottom up. Through order and chaos. "Gunning,"
notes the book's concluding analysis, "was by turns a tough
bastard, a poet, a preacher, and an everyday mate. And like any
other successful leader in business, he was guided by his own theories."
Underlying all the drama was a neat strategic
plan: to loosen up, foster empathy, rally everyone, redefine 'competitive
space', spot new consumer needs and highlight the.
Rather theatrical. Books are books, and do
have their inconsistencies, rushed insertions and what not. But
never mind all that. What matters is the 'take out', and that too,
in its finest form.
And the desert trip?
Ah... that's the climax, the Act V. The final
y2k outbreak-to Wadi Rum, Jordan, and the famous Petra monastery,
sculpted by the Nabataeans a millennium before the scientific age.
The outbreak's idea? To unify forces. Stimulate
minds. Distinguish. Accept. Reject. Reflect. Truly, madly, deeply.
"Understand what worked well."
Think back. For the future.
Reintegrating India with the World Economy
By T N Srinivasan
Suresh D Tendulkar
Oxford University Press
Price: Rs 395
since India opened its gates to the world as a destination for investment
and a player in world trade, there have been several scholarly books
on the country's joining the world economy as a full participant.
Still, Reintegrating India With The World Economy, by two of the
India's leading economists-T.N. Srinivasan, the Samuel C. Park Professor
of Economics at Yale, and Suresh D. Tendulkar, Professor at the
Delhi School of Economics (DSE)-is a welcome addition and fine read.
This slim 152-page book with 14 pages of exhaustive
references and abundant graphs, addresses two of India's major concerns.
What should India's position be in the multilateral trading system?
Second, and more importantly, which domestic policy issues need
to be addressed if India must achieve a sustainably high growth
On trade, the authors believe that India should
play the borderless trade champion at the WTO, rather than play
'Third World leader' by engaging in protectionist barrier-for-barrier
theatrics, which plays well at home but hurts the country's long-term
trade interests. They even suggest that India should unilaterally
reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers-as a strategic move to enhance
Indian competitiveness and gain market access.
On the domestic front, the authors remain cautiously
optimistic, despite the deteriorating fiscal reality, infrastructure
deadweights, autarkic labour laws, antiquated bankruptcy code and
outrageous liquidation procedures.
So why the optimism? "It is heartening
that the need for this extension and deepening of reforms is being
realised by the parties in power and by the opposition,'' say the
authors. Indeed, one would love to agree.
By Leslie A. Yerkes & Charles Decker
Price: Rs 920
Short little fable on a café called
El Espresso, its owner's passion for coffee and employee empowerment,
and the wonders his passion works for business.
By Noam Chomsky
Price: Rs 295
Here's a book Ariel Sharon might not like
you to read. About how the Western world deludes itself on peace
and justice, and their mutual interdependency.
Of The Press
By Durga Das Basu
Price: Rs 995
What does a 'free press' really mean?
A legal reference book. Why is questioning India's 'territorial
integrity' illegal? What does Section 153A say? The details.