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Book Review: Bond To Baba

The author asserts that leaders need to “constantly rethink, reinvent, and reboot


A ston martins, pens that double up as guns, and shaken Martinis are probably what most people would associate with the fictional British secret service agent and spy James Bond. The Formula 1  racing throws up images of speeding cars and Lewis Hamilton, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reminds us of the anti-corruption slogans and well…a lot more! But author Ninad Karpe, in his book Bond to Baba: Successful Strategies has cleverly and successfully managed to look at all of them through a fresh lens, drawing valuable business lessons from each. In his book, Karpe has leveraged a wide range of genres like movies, sports, politics, history, and religion to highlight the importance of constant evaluation of business strategies amid rapidly changing times and trends and the need to constantly recalibrate strategy to remain relevant.

Sounds heavy? Rest easy. Unlike other business strategy-oriented books in the market, Karpe’s Bond to Baba does not take into account overwhelming strategic matrices, complex management models, or detailed business cases of companies such as Apple or Walmart. In fact, there is a refreshing absence of the massive piles of literature on strategy that one usually comes across when discussing such topics. (In his foreword, Forbes Marshall, Co-Chairman, Naushad Forbes, writes, “ Bond To Baba is a highly personal take on strategy that is simultaneously entertaining and insightful.)

For instance, from the very first page on James Bond to the last page on Baba Ramdev, Karpe’s  book is a compelling account of strategic insights that can be extracted from 10 unconventional profiles. — James Bond; Kabaddi; Formula One; Hardik Patel; Alexander the Great;  soccer; Baahubali; Alok Kejriwal, Baba Ramdev;  and the surprise Marathi blockbuster, Sairat.

The author makes the content relevant for businesses by drawing analogies between these profiles and contemporary examples from the corporate world such as Maruti Suzuki, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Apple, Tata, IBM, Google, and Tesco.

Karpe, a strategy consultant, has sprinkled the narrative with his personal experiences and perspectives, adding high credibility to his keen observations. Every chapter illustrates a new insight. It seems prudent to not spill the beans here on the discoveries from these unconventional profiles, or how they intertwine with corporate examples. However, it would be interesting to share a few nuggets of wisdom from the book.

The author asserts that leaders need to “constantly rethink, reinvent, and reboot.”  For instance, in Skyfall, in a surprise twist, the five-decade-old legendary Bond franchise, highlights the key role of emotional quotient, judgement, and intuition in business. Equally fascinating is how “pincer strategy,” a war tactic or a maneouvre used by Alexander to attack the enemy from both sides, has been applied worldwide to unsettle competitors.

Karpe makes some important observations through his illustrations. The response time for critical decisions in any business is coming down drastically. A sound decision that is delayed serves little purpose and, similarly, a bad decision taken in a hurry can be disastrous. He stresses that the leaders should constantly try to spot new trends, not be complacent and keep motivating people!

A Formula 1 enthusiast, Karpe is known to take his races very seriously. (Karpe’s intro on the book flap reads: “During the F1 season, Karpe switches off his mobile phone on race day to follow the fast-paced cars.”)  It comes as no surprise that he explores the application of F1 racing technology and pit stop techniques to real-life situations such as data analytics, innovation, teamwork, and accurate timing in decision-making. As Karpe says, “Ultimately, a podium finish in an F1 race will not happen just because a team has a superior car and a superb driver. Strategy is the key to winning!”

Karpe makes a simple but profound point — what worked in the past may not work in the future. Therefore, one needs to relook at strategies periodically. It may be argued that crafting a strategy is not as easy as the author makes it out to be. But the author does not profess to offer the perfect roadmap for evolving and implementing strategies. He shuns complexity and delivers snippets of relevant examples through a novel approach. Many examples may be familiar; but count on some surprising revelations.

Young graduates and students must approach Baba to Bond not as a one-stop classic strategy book but as a toolkit that encourages them to pick on and take a deep dive into topics of interest.
As for professionals with decades of experience, the book serves as a reminder to revisit the tenets of an effective strategy. It reiterates many facets of management that are sometimes forgotten amid routine activities. It is like a mirror — pause often, reflect, and “make-over” when the need arises.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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book review books Magazine 28 April 2018

Ajay Aggarwal

Aggarwal is President and CFO, Cyient

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