Review by the Editor of BusinessWorld:

SELECTION10 Nov 2012
The Right Fixer Mix
Ranjeev C. Dubey dissects a number of issues to come up with their 'Bullshit Quotient'

Prosenjit Datta

Bullshit Quotient: Decoding India’s Corporate, Social And Legal Fineprint By Ranjeev C. Dubey Hachette India Pages: 256 Price: Rs 350

Towards the end of the introduction titled ‘Of Bullshit Basics And Holy Cows’, Ranjeev C. Dubey mentions some sage advice his lawyer guru and intellectual mentor P.S. Dasgupta gave him. “Never call a spade a spade,” Dasgupta apparently told him. “Call it a golden toothpick.” While writing this book, Dubey decided to ignore that advice — and instead call the spade a bx*%$y shovel.

Dubey, a corporate lawyer, has written an interesting book — and there is a fair amount of truth in many of the issues he picks up and dissects to come up with their Bullshit Quotient. That said, one suspects that the central tenet of the book — that Indians have an extra credulity quotient and that they have an appetite for swallowing bullshit built into their genetic blue print — is not really true. There are very few people, for example, who would really believe that healthcare is not a business in most cases. Or that the small shareholder actually has any real rights or powers, or that independent directors are really independent. 

Similarly, while many people in the current generation admire successful businessmen and entrepreneurs, few are under any illusions that one can become enormously successful without persuading some politician or the government to give him some land cheaply or similar favours.

Having got that out of the way, the great virtue of this book is that Dubey takes a merciless look at a host of subjects that are often not discussed very openly. Whether it involves looking at just how enforceable a contract really is, or debunking the argument that development and industrial progress is good for the population of the country in general, he makes his points forcefully and pithily. Also, just in case you are too confused at the end of the chapter to remember all his points, Dubey helpfully summarises everything in a short paragraph.

Consider, for example, the chapter called ‘Nothing Succeeds Like Sleaze’. Dubey discusses the Lalit Modi and Indian Premier League scandal, the Nira Radia case, the rise to prominence of Amar Singh at one point, and many similar instances to discuss how the ability to “fix” things is the most important attribute for a modern businessman to have. At the end of the chapter, Dubey helpfully sums up the issues — business continues to be heavily dependent on government, and relations with the government depends on one’s ability to find the right fixer mix. Sleaze is the grease that lubricates the world of business.

Dubey, obviously, feels very strongly about each of the topics he picks up. But what really adds a lot of zing to the book — which could have just lapsed into a rant about his pet topics — is the colourful prose he uses from time to time. Consider the first sentence of chapter two: “Of all the bibulous ballyhoo that emerges from the loquacious lips of corporate kookaburras, the weirdest is the idea that the business of a company is delivery of value to its customers.” One can almost imagine Dubey as a modern-day Captain Haddock (of Tintin fame) cursing at the billions of blistering barnacles...

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 19-11-2012)