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About the Oracle

books Updated: May 20, 2013 10:53 IST
Gaurav Choudhury
Gaurav Choudhury
Hindustan Times
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Tap Dancing To Work: Warren Buffet...
Collected by Carol J Loomis
Penguin Rs. 799 PP 345

The question of giving is best addressed between a man and his maker. Tap Dancing to Work — an omnibus of the best articles published in Fortune magazine on master investor Warren Buffett — traces the story of the ‘Oracle of Omaha’. The compilation of articles about Berkshire Hathaway and its legendary CEO, going back to 1966, takes a comprehensive look at Buffett’s investment and business logic. By the end of the 345-page anthology compiled by Carol J Loomis, Senior Editor-at-Large at Fortune, and a long-time friend of Buffett’s, the reader will get a peek into one defining dictum of Buffett’s philosophy: profit maximisation and philanthropy should never be seen as mutually exclusive acts. How much to give and to whom are questions decided, to a large extent, by the social reality seen through the prism of the individual philanthropist.

There exist myriad opportunities for corporations to exercise social responsibility where the state’s delivery pipeline does not reach. It is also in the corporate sector’s best interests to improve the ecosystem in which they operate.

Many articles in the book, the title for which was inspired by Buffett’s popular phrase that he “tap dances to work”, are written by Loomis herself who edits Buffett’s popular annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. Arranged in a roughly chronological order, they can be segregated into three categories that mirror Buffett’s own life as an investor, business management guru and, as a philanthropist. In the enthralling chapter entitled “The Bill and Warren Show”, Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates explain how they became “richer than God,” and talk about their definition of success, the influence of the Internet, on what determines a company’s real worth, on mistakes, business partners, managerial succession and charity.

Buffett stunned the corporate world when he announced he had pledged 99 percent of his wealth in Berkshire Hathaway to philanthropy. With Gates, who is his bridge playing partner, Buffet is coaxing America’s richest to pledge half their fortunes to charity as part of “The Giving Pledge”. Partnerships — business and individual — perhaps define the core of Buffett’s philosophy. “I had $9,800 at the end of 1950 and by 1956 I had $150,000... I didn’t know what I was going to do in Omaha... I did not have a plan. I certainly did not know I was going to start an investing partnership. But then a couple of months later, seven people wanted me to invest their money for them, and a partnership was the way to do it. And that began it all.”

For anyone with an enduring interest in investment, business management, philanthropy and on the value of money, Tap Dancing to Work is a must read.