Don’t chase Lakshmi, embrace Mahalakshmi

Posted on: March 1, 2022 | By: Ameet S Kishorpuria, Head of Business Strategy, Narnolia Financial Services Ltd.

Average age and lifespan of businesses is drastically coming down. It used to be 20 odd years till 2020 and courtesy covid and the VUCA (highly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world we live in, it has come down to even further lower levels and this trend of the average age going down is simply accelerating. Similarly, family businesses also hardly survive the 3rd generation and in the current turbulent times, it is highly likely that the longevity and lifespan of family businesses are going to decline further. However, those businesses who truly embrace and imbibe the spirit of collaboration, as symbolised by Mahalakshmi, would be able to succeed and live longer.

To emphasise the importance of Collaboration and its different aspects, let us discuss the business of film-making first so that we all could relate better. As we all know that the movie business is much more uncertain and difficult to succeed than any usual business as the chances of success in this industry are very low. Only those films succeed wherein this collaborative energy of Mahalakshmi is truly imbibed and applied upon. As per the Hindu theology, three Goddesses namely Saraswati, Kali and Lakshmi are collectively called Mahalakshmi. For those who do not believe in Gods/Goddesses, can for the time being treat them as different Energy Forms and these different energies have different unique powers and attributes.

The idol of Saraswati has different props and unique attributes and in the parlance of film-making, one can relate these to the different energies or powers she has. In my humble interpretation, the book in her hand denotes the energy of Script , the Veena in her hand denotes the energy of music and the calmness, composure and contemplation which she portrays denote the energy of visualisation & direction which is needed for filmmaking.

Kali signifies Vigour & Vitality. She has a very fiery temperament too. Acting requires lot of power as the actor infuses life and vitality in to the script and this energy of action is a significant power of Kali. Another power which Kali signifies in the context of film-making is the energy of Karishma or Star-pull-power one has. This is the goodwill and connect which actors have enjoyed because of their past roles which gives them the power to pull the audience for their future work when it is released.

Lakshmi, the most sought after Goddess, her very name is made up of Lakshya and mi. For making films, the energy of money which the producer brings on the table is one very important power which she has but the other most significant power which she brings on the table is hidden in her name itself, i.e. the energy to focus on the Lakshya, which is the audience. It is the constant and continuous work of the Lakshmi energy to keep its focus on its target and understand it deeply.

When all the above energies and their variants are assimilated in the right manner and right mix, the resultant is Mahalakshmi or the attainment of maha-lakshya, i.e. higher success.

Like the seven notes of music, the above 7 powers are essential for making a wholesome entertaining successful film namely script, music, direction, actor, star value of the actor, money and understanding of audience.
Out of 150 odd hindi films which get released in a year, hardly 10 succeed because the right mix of the above seven elements is not put in. The equation is highly flawed and tilted in favour of Kali and Lakshmi. Film-makers in general think that getting a Star i.e. a part Kali and pumping in the money i.e. a part Lakshmi, will get them the success, but this is only partially true.

The utmost super-critical element of the whole equation is ‘the script’ which is at the root of the entire process but gets ignored the most. Unless, there is uniqueness in the story and the script, it is bound to fail but the script writer is the most neglected and underpaid in the entire ecosystem. Kamlesh Pandey, writer of the popular movies like Rang de Basanti and Delhi-6, goes on to record saying , “In our industry writers are like condoms – you use it and then throw it or hide in a place where nobody can see it. We writers don’t get our due.” A Saraswati energy in the form of a script-writer gets 20 lacs but the Kali in the form of a star gets 20 crores but people fail to realize that it is the Saraswati which gives birth to the Kali and not the other way around.

Like in the field of investing, maximum returns are made due to the right allocation and not just by asset selection. Allocation in the right proportion to different assets or sub-assets is the real reason behind superior returns. Similarly, the right allocation or assignment of weights to the 7 different above powers is the key. One cannot have undue allocation to one at the cost of the other. Out of the seven powers, the two most critical are script and target understanding.

The differentiator in the script is brought about only when some serious focus and intensity is put behind every part and scene of the story and that too from the angle of the audience as to what the target group will like and appreciate. One has to always remember that what is getting made is not for self consumption but for someone else and that someone else has to be understood deeply also. When successful cult films like 3 idiots get made, the core reason for its stupendous success is the true collaboration between the different energies. The film director Raju Hirani collaborated on the story with Abhijat Joshi and had already a base of the book written by Chetan Bhagat as the starting point. Apart from this, the story team also involved Aamir Khan, the Kali, from the very beginning and when one truly works towards bringing out a differentiated product, the audience cannot but truly love it.

In the corporate parlance, strategy is a very abused word. In my limited understanding, if I were to define what a strategy is, it again would be like the script which is nothing but creating a differentiator in all the facets of the business whether it’s a differentiated product, unique processes or a unique team one builds. To stand out in the marketplace, one has to do lot of contemplation and innovation and for that the energy of Saraswati is paramount and super- critical.

Now coming to the family businesses, in most cases one would find that the family member who is more aggressive, flamboyant or has a charismatic personality gets precedence over the other members when meaningful roles are assigned or decision powers are allocated. It’s good that the Kali or aggressive energy is respected but should not be at the cost of the calm and sober Saraswati energy or at the cost of Lakshya focused Lakshmi energy. There are many business owners and promoters who would buy a 50 crore machinery without much thought but will not hire a talent at 1 crore per annum salary. They respect the machine which is Kali but forget that it’s the Saraswati of the right talent which will be the catalyst to get the maximum output from that machine.

At the family board level, the main focus should be to clearly differentiate these different 7 powers as discussed in the parlance of film making and see who is good in what and accordingly allocate the roles and responsibilities for the right outcome to achieve. As music is a very powerful energy which is needed for the success of films, culture is music of the business organisation. The right kind of culture can be truly built when right kind of due respect is given to all which is substance and not just the form and appearance.

While deploying funds and managing the investment portfolio also, one can see and feel the interplay of all these three Energies. Right strategy or Saraswati energy of script and visualisation requires in-depth thinking and contemplation in terms of allocation and manager selection which is the core script for the overall outcome. While focusing on the right outcome or Lakshmi energy, one has to deeply understand the investor in terms of his/her needs, risk appetite, time horizon and most importantly the temperament and behavioural aspects. The role of Kali or the Fund manager or say performer would be the right asset selection, right mix and timing.

Right collaboration and true respect to each of the respective energies would be the real puja, tribute or offering to the Goddesses one can make to have their Grace and blessings in terms of true happiness, wealth and prosperity.