Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Dhandha: How Gujaratis Do Business by Shobha Bondre; Translated by Shalaka Walimbe

On the jacket:

Dhandha, meaning business, is a term often used in common trade parlance in India. But there is no other community that fully embodies what the term stands for than the Gujaratis.

Shobha Bondre’s Dhandha is the story of a few such 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.


I like reading about entrepreneurs. So reading Dhandha, about five of Gujarat's successful businessmen was intriguing. A foreword by the state CM and an introduction by the state's brand ambassador didn't work for me. Dhandha is a well conceptualised, nicely written book. I fail to see the political backing, or maybe I am reading it wrong.

There were a few things my logic doesn't agree with. Like when someone is ready to toil and work for 20-22 hours (first story), why not use a few hours out of that, to gain education. I am a Bengali and the only way I know to earn money is by studying, gaining qualifications and thus making myself sellable in the job market, to bring back to moolahs. I understand concepts and priorities differ from community to community, so while in no way am I saying, putting all your energy in earning money is what I would want my children to do, I accept knowing how a Gujarati's mind works when it comes to business, is fascinating.

Back to the book, it is about five businessmen in five stories. Diamonds are forever talks about Bhimjibhai Patel, we get to read about Mohanbhai Patel in The Circle Of Life, and about Dalpatbhai Patel in Motelier becomes Mayor, while Life Of A Salesman tells us Jaydev Patel's story and we meet Hasu & Hersha Shah in Not Only Potels. Every story is inspiration and teaches the same values our parents have tried to inculcate in us - work hard and dream big. Only and only if you are ready to work hard for every awake moment of the day, can you taste success in whatever you do and once you reach there, you cannot just stop dreaming. 

A good read and unputdownable to an extent, Dhandha is a book all entrepreneurs should read and get inspiration from. In fact, in a country like India, where there are people of so many religions, castes and communities, there should be more such books. There is so much to learn from each state, a talking about how and why the locals are the way they are, would be very enriching

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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