Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Dog Eat Dog-Food World by C.Suresh

And so I am finally done doing what I should have, more than a year ago.
Reason for delay, you ask?
Well, aside from the on-and-off relationship there seems to be going between me and ‘reading’ these last few months, let’s just say I am quite intimidated by books that fit easily into my pocket but are NOT books that are written by or written keeping in mind simple-minded folk.
Not convinced, you say?
Give you another example, you want me to?
Try Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. (96 pages, that too double spaced!)
Only difference being, after reading Conrad’s peculiar little pocket dynamite, I was as scared and intimidated as I was before I picked it up.
But having finished reading C. Suresh’s peculiar little pocket dynamite, aptly titled A Dog Eat Dog-Food World, I must confess that far from being as intimidated as I was before starting to read, I am now overcome by a most singular smugness, a smugness that comes out in me when I feel I am able to identify with something, like no one else might.
Unlike what the synopsis on the back cover of the book claims, A Dog Eat Dog-Food World, atleast for me, did not come across as a pseudo-history of marketing management that bears no resemblance to the actual history.
Infact, it may well be one of those rare books that, in trying to capture the history of marketing management- metaphorically or otherwise- cuts so right to the chase that it ends up coming closer to the ‘actual’ history than most other tomes written on the subject by knowledgeable experts ever might.
The book begins with an explanation by the author on how history, in the form that is available to us, may or may not be the real deal, considering what gets recorded and what survives the passage of time is but a list of achievements of the few who either achieved something that required them to be ‘active’ or achieved something lesser but still ensured that what they achieved was ‘actively’ promoted.
As in History, so in pseudo-history, concludes the little prologue which I found overall to be humorous but agreeable, and also strangely informative.
(I use ‘strangely’ here because it IS strange when a chapter that has no graphs, no charts, and no details whatsoever of the chronological order of events or incidents that collectively form the term ‘History’, is able to impart- and is also able to convince the reader that what is being imparted is- historical information.)
From there we proceed to meet, one by one, the five main characters of the story, each of whom is introduced at different stages of the telling, perhaps so we, the audience, can enjoy better their standalone idiosyncrasies first before the story advances into more complex territory and pits them against one another even as the grand scheme of things becomes clearer with each passing page.
The premise is Dog and Cat Foods manufacturing, with Spike Fortune, his nephew Jerry Fortune and their Head of Marketing Tyke playing the masterminds behind the former, and Tom Rich with his nephew Jasper Rich forming the reluctant rivals who mastermind the latter. Fortune starts the business because he wants to lose all his money before he dies and doesn’t know how to, and Rich enters the race as prime competitor, because he has never been second to Tom at anything since school days.
The rest as they say is history.
Sounds simple, no? Of course it does.
And simple it is, but only if I am to think of it in one way- that this is but a simplified version of actual history, not just of marketing management but of the entire world of commerce as we see it in present day.
For, as much as I believe that stats and official records have their place of importance and cannot be refuted for a piece of satire that talks in Dog and Cat Foods metaphors, I cannot imagine the history of marketing management (and commerce in general) without a Spike, a Jerry and a Tyke in every place of business that received a mention in the factual history records, and- more so- a Tom and a Jasper in every competing place of business that perhaps didn’t receive a mention on account of it coming second.
Afterall, can it not be said that it requires some level of madness- some form of physical or mental disorder, to the conservative eye atleast- for a person to become an entrepreneur and then a competitive businessman?
And if that is acceptable, then can it also not be said that the men (and women) who made this History of commerce happen will most-certainly have been as- if not more- idiosyncratic as the five characters portrayed in this novella?
Now THAT is what the official records will never tell you. Which is still fine, as I know and acknowledge that functional academics are no place to read about the idiosyncrasies of highly successful people.
But THAT is also exactly what makes A Dog Eat Dog-Food World such a rare book.
Because, once it is stripped of its circuitous albeit lyrical writing, of its light tone, of its laugh-out-loud moments, and of its effective use of a narrative style that most authors would find hard to execute, A Dog Eat Dog-Food World is a narration of these unrecorded facts that are the reason behind everything that is wrong with commerce today.
It is about the sickening condition of today’s corporate environment where employees create invisible fires and douse them noisily to receive recognition and reward without having to do any credible work.
It is about the saddening advent of cellphones and how a piece of plastic and metal gets constantly shoved into our faces as an essential fifth limb that no human can survive without.
It is about 24/7 news channels who, in their need for one-upmanship, have graduated from impartially presenting current affairs to producing useless noise.
And most of all, it is about us, the consumers, the silent protagonists of both History and this story, who allow men of ambition to not just affect our needs and desires, but to outright decide and dictate them for us.
In conclusion, this is one novella I would urge any and every person to read, understand and laugh, then read and understand some more, and smile knowingly.
On a scale of one to five, I will rate this book a solid four, one point being deducted for making me chew on my words from the earlier paragraph where I mentioned that I was far from feeling scared after finishing the book.
For, now that I am done with the review and have read it back to myself, as a modern day consumer, I am suitably petrified.
To order the book click here.

3 comments:

Percy Slacker said...

A magnificent review of a book that deserves a magnificent review.

Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

Thanks Ravi! Trust you to get below the overlay of humor :)

Usha Sri V said...

A wonderful review. It was joy to read it and the book of course. That is one book (in the tons I read)that I wanted my friends and family to read along with promoting good books. I bought 10 copies and presented them. And, one book I read back-to-back on the same day. :)
Oh, on history... Agreed there is nothing pseudo about the story or how it evolved, it is repeated just the same way, every single time. They say, history repeats itself. Did you ever wonder why? Because we don't learn from it and so today and tomorrow we'll see Toms and Spikes everywhere in the world. :)
Thanks for the review. You should write more. :)