Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, Feb. 22, 2013
I read that you are coming out with a book on Indian management. I run a company that’s rapidly globalising. Currently my company is an Indian company that’s morphing into a MNC and I would like it grow into a true MNC in terms of people, geography, culture, and even capital. But on second thought, a Indian model might also work. Do you think thats it’s possible to grow a company that’s “Indian” in values and culture to a truly global MNC?
The ‘global’ model of business that has been at work for the past century has its roots in Europe and America. It is based on goals. It is based on objectivity. It is based on processes. Much like Greek mythology and biblical mythology. In Greek mythology, the hero struggles against the odds to be extraordinary and achieves a place in Elysium, heaven of heroes. From this paradigm come notions like out-of-the-box and innovators. In biblical mythology, the prophet struggles to ensure that everyone aligns to the vision and complies with the processes to reach the Promised Land, the paradise of the faithful. From this paradigm comes notions like leadership. They have served the world well, but at a cost.
Focusing on increasing the wealth of the shareholder means that employees, vendors, society at large, even customers, are simply means to an end. No matter what the PR department may say, ultimately, the bean-counter is interested if quarter-by-quarter, the results delivered makes the shareholder smile. The investor invests to get high return on investment. The promoter promotes to make a killing when he sells his start-up organization. The employee is trained to be a professional, cut out emotions, and do as he is told, perform the tasks and achieve the target. Work becomes a battlefield, a rana-bhoomi, where we are constantly fighting competition, regulators, unions, even civil society. Today, for many, corporations are embodiments of evil – that was never the idea.
The very Indian approach is based on ideas found in Jain, Buddhist and Hindu mythologies. It is called ‘very’ Indian as it does not try to force fit Indian ideas into a Western template, as is the trend. For example, equating dharma with ethics, or charity with daan, which misses the point completely. The very Indian approach reveals that an Indian idea needs, and has, a template of its own, that is flexible enough to include Western ideas.
The very Indian approach is not goal-based; it is gaze-based. It does not exclude the Western model; it includes it, with the assertion that the purpose of an organization is to work towards happiness. While the Western model restricts itself to economic growth only. The very Indian happiness follows economic, emotional and intellectual growth. It seeks growth not as regardless-of-people growth but because-of-people growth. Customer, or shareholder, is not the only God (a very monotheistic approach). Everyone from investor, through employee and vendor, to customer and regulator is a god, demanding satisfaction, and seeking growth. The organization is not a set of tasks or targets but a set of people. The point of the organization is to create an ecosystem where everyone grows.
This is difficult if one seeks a single point of control; or if one simply decentralizes things. But this is possible if one thinks ‘fractals’ where every unit behaves just like the whole, where every grama-devata and kula-devata functions just like the bhagavan, but in a restricted domain, knowing fully well that growth at another’s cost is cancer.