Wharton management gurus sing India’s success mantra

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : A uniquely ‘India way of doing business’, which has fuelled an economy that even in perilous global times remains a dynamo, is essentially based on a simple philosophy – “think in English and act in Indian”, say four US professors.

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The professors of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania have made the suggestion after a two-year study of some of India’s largest firms, of businesses that have played a leading role in the country’s rapid development.

The essence of the India way is best expressed by those business leaders themselves, say Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, Jitendra Singh and Michael Useem, co-authors of “The India Way: How India’s Top Business Leaders Are Revolutionizing Management”.

“We ‘think in English and act in Indian’,” R. Gopalakrishnan, the executive director of Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, is quoted as saying in an article drawn from the book by Forbes.com.

“For the Indian manager,” Gopalakrishnan explained, “his intellectual tradition, his y-axis is Anglo-American, and his action vector, his x-axis, is in the Indian ethos.

“Many foreigners come to India, they talk to Indian managers and they find them very articulate, very analytical, very smart, very intelligent – and they can’t for the life of them figure out why the Indian manager can’t do what is prescribed by the analysis,” he told the four.

The Wharton professors say they found from their study of Indian business leaders that their “x-axis” is defined by four distinctive elements of managing:

1. Holistic engagement with employees. Indian business leaders see their firms as organic enterprises, where sustaining employee morale and building company culture are critical obligations and the very foundations of their success. People are viewed as assets to be developed, not costs to be reduced.

2. Improvization and adaptability are also at the heart of the India way. In a complex often volatile environment with few resources and maddening red tape, business leaders learn to rely on their wits to circumvent the innumerable hurdles they recurrently confront.

3. Creative value propositions. Given the enormous and intensely competitive domestic market and the country’s discerning customers, most of them of modest means, Indian business leaders have of necessity learned to be highly creative in developing their value propositions, delivering entirely new products and services with extreme efficiency.

4. Broad mission and purpose. Indian business leaders place special emphasis on personal values and on having a vision of growth and strategic thinking. In addition to serving the needs of their stockholders, like CEOs everywhere, they also stress broader purpose.

They take pride in enterprise success but also in family prosperity, regional advancement and national renaissance.

Bundled together, these principles constitute a distinctly Indian way of conducting business, one very different from other countries, especially the US, where the blend centers more on delivering shareholder value, the professsors say.

Company managers in the West can usefully learn from India’s example, the professors concluded.