Tabla has always been an important part of my life," says Deepak Joshi, as his fingers tap out a staccato rhythm on the conference room table. His passion for the art is evident as he holds forth on his days as a disciple and key influences that have shaped his talent. "My father was a keen Tabla player and my initial inspiration came from him. But it was at the age of 13 when I first heard a solo recital by Tabla legend, Ustad Zakir Hussain that I decided to take up the instrument seriously," he says as he reminisces about his early years.

This resolution was followed by 14 years of study with Gurus like Shri Jaywant Utpat, a disciple of Ustad Allarakha and Pandit Bhau Gokhale, who helped the young boy achieve technical and artistic excellence. It was this discipline, which led to an epiphany for the Business Excellence Manager many years later. "As a part of the BE team, I facilitate various business processes, including manufacturing, sourcing, CDMM, product development, overseas operations, etc., to achieve their business goals through a structured method. When I began this process, I realised that there were several parallels with the art of Tabla. Both require a certain degree of dexterity and precision, without which one cannot achieve the required level of excellence," says Deepak.

Building the momentum

"For instance, if you consider Peshkar, which is a composition played at the beginning of a solo performance, it begins with a slow tempo and then picks up pace as one improvises and add elements to it. In the same way, if you think of a manufacturing assembly line, components like the chassis, fuel line, engine, gear box, etc. are added at each stage, resulting in the creation of a product. The momentum slowly builds till you finally have a vehicle."

Stick to the theme

“Similarly in Kayda – a composition with certain rules governing it -, one can only improvise with various permutations and combinations of notes within the main theme. This is akin to manufacturing where you can produce only a single model on a particular platform or variants of that model but not another product altogether,” he continues.

Maintaining quality

Beyond the assembly line, elements of Tabla also find resonance in concepts of Quality. “When it comes to manufacturing, process centrality is of utmost importance to ensure production of a good quality product. In the same way, when playing the Tabla, you need to be mindful of the fact that each note has a certain defined place.,” says Deepak as he draws parallels between his passion and his work.

Staying nimble

In 2006, when Mahindra joined hands with Renault to manufacture the Logan, the concept of dexterity gained importance. “We were taught exactly how to hold a bolt and fit it into a vehicle, else we could end up with a defective product. Similarly, in Tabla you are taught dexterity right from the beginning, in terms of placement of fingers, positioning of forearms, etc. Ultimately, it’s all about delivery management to achieve excellence through proper dexterity,” he says.


Deepak believes that playing the Tabla can also teach one to stay a step ahead of the game and achieve success. in a Jugalbandi, for instance, a musician should be able to anticipate what the main artist will play and similarly in business one must be able to predict movement of the market and of your competitors.
Lastly, he elucidates that to achieve greatness in Tabla one needs to master four aspects:

He explains, “One cannot achieve Kala, unless one has a sound understanding of the first three. It’s the same in business. You cannot achieve objectives like revenue and sales targets without complete knowledge of the business and the industry. Mastery - in both music and work - requires a judicious combination of discipline, skill, hard work and creativity.”

So, what next for Deepak and his prodigious talent? “I find this a great way to engage with an audience that may not know much about Tabla. My mission is to spread this knowledge among as many people as possible, both within and outside Mahindra, including B Schools,” says the passionate advocate for Quality as his fingers absent-mindedly tap out yet another beat on the table. Tabla, like excellence, clearly runs through his veins.