In the early 2000s Maruti Suzuki was under attack from some really aggressive competition. The company had withstood the onslaught of the US majors such as GM (Opel) and Ford. But the new lot were a lot more agile. There was Hyundai with its Santro, Tata Motors with its Indica and Indigo and Daewoo with its Matiz. Car buyers were changing and those who were loyal customers of Maruti, buying a new Maruti 800 every five years, were looking at options. The company needed to go out and smell the air.

The head of manufacturing of Maruti Suzuki told the tale at a CII Summit some years ago. The company decided that all the employees of the company (in a supervisory capacity) needed to be out in the market. It was mandated that everyone, from all departments, purchase, development, finance, quality and manufacturing had to spend a day in a car dealership and sell a car or at least see a car being sold. The exercise was carried out through the year and everyone got to spend a day during the year, selling a car.

This led to a new awakening within the company. Everyone was now aware that it was no longer a monopoly market for Maruti Suzuki to rule over. We all know what happened soon after. The company shook off its old beliefs and decided to launch new vehicles with an alarming frequency. Cars like Swift and Dzire, new diesel engines, higher-end models were all launched in quick succession. Maruti Suzuki did not get back to its glory days market share, but market share erosion was stopped, or at least minimised.

I was reminded of this story when I was reading Tata Play MD & CEO, Harit Nagpal’s new book Adapt – To Thrive not Just Survive. Nagpal is a marketing veteran having worked in companies like Lakme, Marico, Pepsi, Shoppers Stop and Vodafone. He has also had the opportunity of working across the globe. He could have written a book about the lessons that he had learnt. Instead he has taken a rather unique path. Nagpal has presented 10 disruptive business stories, each from a different sector, set in a different part of the universe. All the stories are fictitious and present real-life problems that have to do with issues that face companies, how to understand customers, how to segment the market, how to develop a proposition, and so on. Given the fact that Nagpal has worked in diverse sectors, the stories are also not from the same sector.

What are the ten challenges presented in the book? Navigating targeted segments; listening to the customer (Maruti Suzuki could have featured here); crafting a compelling proposition; aiming for low failure, faster recovery; reaching customers effectively and efficiently; creating a brand that connects; growing the industry and your share of it; using focused reviews to create and drive agenda; creating a productive work culture; staying relevant and growing margins. The stories are drawn from sectors like retail, B2B finance, internet service, housing, apparel, air conditioners, bamboo products, newspaper and packaged foods.

Since Nagpal has worked across geographies, he has set these stories in a diverse set of countries like Thailand, the UK, New Zealand, Pakistan, Ghana, Malaysia, Jamaica, Italy and Bangladesh. My favourite was the story set in Europa, one of the 95 moons of Jupiter, some 400 million miles from earth. This story is set in the year 2081, when humans would have perfected Star Trek style teleporting, at least in Nagpal’s fertile imagination.

Nagpal has added 10 questions at the end of each chapter for you to verify how well versed you or your company staff are in that particular dimension. The tests include competencies like customer segmentation, voice of the customer, compelling proposition, service strategy, distribution strategy, brand management, effective scaling, collaborative culture and organisational culture.

It is great that busy senior executives like Nagpal are able to take time out to write a book. It is admirable that instead of falling into the trap of writing a book about one’s personal achievement, Nagpal decided to take a less trodden path. While he has tried to separate the stories into silos, there are many common elements across some of the stories; getting close to the customer, becoming agile, building a culture, to name just three. Many of the concepts may be familiar to the readers of this paper, but the way they are presented are indeed unique. That sets this book apart. As Tata Play’s jingle says, Yeh laga tho Jingalala… you could say the same about the book, Yeh pada tho Jingalala!

(The reviewer, Ambi Parameswaran, is a best-selling author of eleven books covering topics like personal branding, consumer behaviour, advertising and self-development)

Adapt: To Thrive Not Just Survive
Harit Nagpal
Publisher: Westland Business
Pages 224 Price: Rs 599

Check out the book on Amazon here