This is the first of our series on “Globalizing Indian Thought” – theme of the 2nd Pan IIM World Management Conference being hosted by IIMK during November 5-8, 2014. We invite you to join the debate.
Hunting for the elusive Indian Thought
By Prof Sumit Mitra
Indian way of doing things has been claimed to be 5000 years old. However in that period there had been developments from the chariot to the limousine and from the bow and arrow to the rocket. Importantly none of these have been Indian discoveries in the modern scientific sense. Therefore the Indian social and cultural space had to accommodate these, thus becoming more indistinct in nature objectively- whatever else you say about globalization, melting pot of civilizations etc. The same is true for Indian business and the fitting of western business models to it. This is not warranted. This wasn’t the case in the west. While the US adopted the market economy model, most of mainland Europe built on the welfare state model just as Russia and China adopted to a changing socialist, community model. Most of this happened through the intellectual route as academics and policy makers expressed their preferences in writing. Lot of these writings tried explaining the existing situation, backed by data and the debates were picked up by Presidents and Prime Ministers whether that be Churchill and the Webbs1 or Blair and Giddens in UK or Kennedy and Samuelson like Friedman and Carter in the US or even Russians and Joan Robinson.
Even in business, India stands at the doorsteps of such challenge. India needs to have its own debate on routes to business excellence and management principles such that the extent of accommodation that Indian culture and society has to do to achieve the same helps it become objectively distinct and acceptable as a model. While it is true that only a prospering manufacturing industry can sustain an economy the size of India and not just ITES, how this is to be achieved may not come entirely from a western or Chinese model, it has to be unique to India. To the extent that Pan IIM 2nd World Conference participants, both scholars and policy makers construct and participate in the debate, there will emerge a unique Indian model to reckon with. There first has to be a tested and successful Indian way of doing things before that can be globalized. For that we at Pan IIM have to agree to disagree that there is a universal western model to adopt into India and instead look to create the model for India. We can hope to succeed only based on such a unique model which we may then like to use for ‘globalizing Indian thought’.
Prof. Sumit Mitra is an Associate Professor of Strategy at IIM Kozhikode