Boar In Boots
Fortytwo Bookz Galaxy
Rs. 495 pp 303
How does one tell the India story? One way would be through scholarly research about an economy that is about to take off, elegantly told through a sea of differential equations. Elsewhere, gurus of Indian origin propound about an enormous middle class, billions at the bottom of the pyramid and frugal engineering - replete with extensive case studies. Then there are the "autobiographies" of corporate chieftains, whose readers are as ghostly as the authors.
So, how does one tell the India story to the common man? Parthasarathi Swami does it through the journalist's craft of anecdote, interview, travelogue and reportage. The book could have been called The Lessons from Two Decades of India's Economic Liberalisation, instead the author's unabashed love of doggerel swung the title to Boar in Boots, "a portmanteau phrase… brings the whiff of jungle and adventure together with the languor of the tabby under the table". Don't let the title throw you. Boar in Boots is meticulously researched. Swami studied at the Indian Institute of Technology and edits India Knowledge@Wharton: he could have waded through fields of polynomials or management mumbo jumbo to get his point across. Instead, the business travelogue takes readers to the US, China and all over the subcontinent to get a hang of what makes Indian business tick. The men and women scripting the India story are here, from Ratan Tata to Sachin and Binny Bansal of Flipkart. Success and failure are evaluated against broader social and economic trends. The Nano thus shares space with TeamLease. Swami teases the reader to find the point in his seemingly serendipitous journey, which makes Boar so much more readable than the scrubbed opinions masquerading as business journalism. The question seldom asked in the Satyam case is whether there were too many Telugu biddas on the company's board. "Before the righteous of big business start patting themselves on the back for their 'diversified' boards, let them remember that six men from Oxbridge are as closed and bigoted a group as six Hathikhanawalas from Horniman Circle."
The insights are as incisive as you would come to expect from a veteran business journalist. So is the choice of views culled from India Inc. Swami deftly avoids the trap of every CEO wanting to sound like the finance minister on budget day. That is the point of Boar in Boots. The Boar may or may not be a runaway hit. It will have served its purpose, though, if India's swelling tribe of journalists absorbs a fraction of the tradecraft on display in Swami's effort. Today's reader is drowning in noise. Writers must once in a while step back and ask themselves whether they are merely adding to it.