MADE IN IN­DIA

A new book sug­gests that high pres­sure on stu­dents and long term fam­ily sup­port in a mul­ti­cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment makes the adult In­dian man­ager adept at rock­ing the boat with­out sink­ing it. An ex­cerpt

Hindustan Times (Ranchi) - - Read - R Gopalakr­ish­nan and Ran­jan Ban­er­jee let­ters@htlive.com ■

On 1 au­gust 2011, Time mag­a­zine pub­lished a story ti­tled ‘In­dia’s Lead­ing Ex­port: CEOs’ by Carla Power. Fea­tur­ing Vindi Banga of Unilever and Ajay Banga of Master­Card, Pow­ers’s ar­ti­cle asked a dra­matic ques­tion: ‘What on earth did the Banga broth­ers’ mother feed them for break­fast?’ The story went on to chron­i­cle the rise of sev­eral In­dian man­agers on the global stage, in­clud­ing Vikram Pan­dit at Citibank, In­dra Nooyi at Pep­siCo, San­jay Jha at Mo­torola, Dean Nitin Nohria at Har­vard Busi­ness School and Dean Di­pak Jain at INSEAD. In their 2011 Global Lead­er­ship Sur­vey, the ex­ec­u­tive search firm Egon Zehn­der… found that In­di­ans led more S&P 500 com­pa­nies than peo­ple of any other na­tion­al­ity apart from Amer­i­can…

Do In­dia-born man­agers re­ally achieve more suc­cess abroad than other im­mi­grants? If so, why? What re­ally sets them apart? The late CK Pra­ha­lad ex­pressed the view that, ‘Grow­ing up in In­dia is an ex­tra­or­di­nary prepa­ra­tion for man­age­ment.’ This state­ment is de­bat­able and con­tentious and at the same time ex­presses a thought worth re­flect­ing upon. .. Con­sider this: Snails are a del­i­cacy for gourmets, and it is al­ways a chal­lengeto pro­cure large and juicy snails. Left in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, snails only grow to a cer­tain size. But when the same snails are placed in a tank with a lob­ster, a nat­u­ral preda­tor, they work in­cred­i­bly hard to stay alive, and they grow big­ger and juicier…

Man­age­ment as a pro­fes­sion is largely about un­der­stand­ing a prob­lem, find­ing mul­ti­ple ways of solv­ing it, and ex­e­cut­ing the cho­sen ap­proach… The more the prob­lems faced and over­come, the more ver­sa­tile the man­ager be­comes. A per­son grow­ing up in In­dia, whether he or she works in man­age­ment or in any other field, has a large num­ber of di­verse chal­lenges to over­come from a rel­a­tively young age. Yet, the in­ten­sity of com­pe­ti­tion to get into schools and col­leges, the has­sles of daily liv­ing, in­ad­e­quate fi­nan­cial re­sources and in­fra­struc­ture are com­pen­sated by a sup­port­ive fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment, the strong in­flu­ence of val­ues in­stilled by el­ders and an in­her­ently spir­i­tual bent of mind. There are many na­tions in the world that have one or other con­di­tion sim­i­lar to In­dia’s… But the com­bi­na­tion of chal­lenges in In­dia is quite distinc­tive. Nav­i­gat­ing those chal­lenges while grow­ing up en­dows distinc­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties in made-in-In­dia man­agers…

In­dia has over 4,000 man­age­ment in­sti­tutes – though, ad­mit­tedly, only a hand­ful of th­ese qual­ify as providers of su­perla­tive man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion – and ev­ery year, over 1,00,000 stu­dents gain a diploma or de­gree in man­age­ment. Such a vol­ume of man­age­rial out­put is com­pa­ra­ble only to the US and far ex­ceeds that of ev­ery other coun­try. How and why In­dia de­vel­oped an ac­tive man­age­rial cul­ture com­pared to other de­vel­op­ing economies makes for an in­ter­est­ing story. Al­though our first prime min­is­ter, Jawa­har­lal Nehru, be­lieved that pro­mot­ing busi­ness and think­ing about prof­its should not be in­de­pen­dent In­dia’s pri­mary con­cern, the rest of the coun­try did not nec­es­sar­ily fol­low his path…

A num­ber of fac­tors con­verged be­fore and af­ter In­de­pen­dence to en­able a ‘man­ager’ to ac­quire the sta­tus of a pro­fes­sional in In­dia. The rail­ways, the Army and the civil ser­vice were all set up dur­ing the colo­nial era to en­able the Bri­tish agenda in In­dia. As a con­se­quence, long be­fore In­de­pen­dence, th­ese in­sti­tu­tions gave rise to a pro­fes­sional work­force… A flour­ish­ing, cor­po­rate form of pro­fes­sional man­age­ment emerged by the time In­dia be­came in­de­pen­dent... How­ever, af­ter 1947, In­dian aca­demics grap­pled with the prob­lem of how to con­sider man­age­ment as a pro­fes­sion in the ab­sence of aca­demic train­ing. Thus, aca­demics in the so­cial sci­ences and prac­ti­tion­ers in emerg­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions came to­gether to de­velop a ped­a­gogy to train pro­fes­sion­als in the field. In Jamshed­pur, the Xavier Labour Re­la­tions In­sti­tute (later XLRI) was set up in 1949, fol­lowed by the In­dian In­sti­tute of So­cial Wel­fare in Cal­cutta in 1954. The In­dian govern­ment started set­ting up the In­dian In­sti­tutes of Man­age­ment (IIMs) and, by the late 1950s, iconic In­dian man­agers like Prakash Tan­don, the frst In­dian chair­man of Hin­dus­tan Lever Ltd (HLL) of the time; KS Basu and KT Chandy, also of HLL; and stal­warts of man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion such as Ish­war Dayal teamed up with aca­demics to help set up and run th­ese man­age­ment schools…

In our view, In­dia-born man­agers are prod­ucts of a set of four unique cir­cum­stances… Life for a stu­dent in In­dia re­quires enor­mous abil­ity and de­ter­mi­na­tion to over­come ad­verse sit­u­a­tions: com­mut­ing in chaotic cities, in­ad­e­quate pri­vacy and space to study at home, poor sports and li­brary fa­cil­i­ties and the crush­ing bur­den of ex­ams… Suc­cess is not only about be­ing am­bi­tious, it is also about over­com­ing road­blocks, some­times through sheer per­sis­tence. In­dian chil­dren learn this early on… For­tu­nately, parental in­flu­ence and sup­port through the In­dian fam­ily sys­tem is pro­longed and more sig­nif­i­cant than in most other so­ci­eties…

Th­ese cir­cum­stances come to­gether in var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions to pro­duce a suf­fi­cient num­ber of highly com­pet­i­tive, cre­ative and com­pe­tent po­ten­tial man­agers. Made-in-In­dia man­agers are, thus, not only cul­tur­ally and so­cially trained to be ef­fec­tive in In­dian con­di­tions, which are highly vari­able and kalei­do­scopic, but can hit the ground run­ning in any over­seas em­ploy­ment. Far more in­stinc­tively than their counterparts else­where, made-in-In­dia man­agers as­sess a pro­fes­sional land­scape, the soft fac­tors around an is­sue, and act in a man­ner in which they rock the boat with­out any risk of sink­ing it…

■ Au­thors R Gopalakr­ish­nan (L) and Ran­jan Ban­er­jee

COUR­TESY HA­CHETTE

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