Friday, April 8, 2016

Tagore and Indian Management Thought: Insights on Tagore from a Top MBA College in Greater Noida

At the top MBA College in Greater Noida, Ishan Institute of Management & Technology, the academicians of the faculty of business administration have engaged in researching on new frontiers of management. Over the last twenty-one years of running the most successful PGDM and MBA courses in Delhi NCR we have seen the world of management evolve. Evolution never stops so watching it happen does not suffice when it is not backed by application of insights into business. Over the years the academicians of one of the top MBA Colleges in Delhi NCR have realized by virtue of corporate interface, alumni interactions, academic and business research that India does not have a management school of its own. This piece is dedicated to the man who first laid the seeds for an Indian school of management thought.

Civis Britannicus Sum. Management thought in its present avatar is essentially a brainchild of the Anglo-Saxon civilization. The raisson d attire behind this is twofold. First, industrialization as an economic, technological and social process originated in the womb of Great Britain. The phenomenon that Professor Arnold Toynbee has referred to as the “industrial revolution” owes its birth to British technocrats, entrepreneurs and innovations. The second reason is that while globalization has been in vogue since the dawn of human civilization, the process has gathered maximum momentum since the days of the Raj and now that we live in a unipolar world after the demise of the Gulliver’s giant that USSR was, it is only modest to anticipate that for the next 100 years United States of America will continue to be the sheet anchor of globalization. The centre periphery argument, the north south debate and theses of Syed Amin, Gunnar Myrdal and others who have followed capitalism closely all agree to the fact that globalization has always revolved around the economy of a super power and smaller economies have consistently endeavoured to gain by rowing their boats towards the super power. Sanjeev Sanyal, the chief economist of Deustche Bank has coined this as “Triffin’s Dilemma.” Now that emerging economies are leaving no stone unturned to rewrite the rules of the new international economic order, questions will arise on India’s contribution to management. It is not mere jingoistic nationalism that leads the author to investigate into this case. The merit of this case is established on the premise of the paradigm that globalization as an economic growth process has been a liberation to some, as a social reform process it has been benevolent to some but as a gold standard of economic development has lacked scalability. The truth is as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen have argued, there has to be a domain of local management thought within which innovations and solutions to business issues and beyond have to be searched for. To cut a long story short a failure to develop a local management approach directly shall translate into a failure of globalization in the concerned country.

“Country”-the term is both ambiguous and half baked. A country stands at the cross road between a nation and a market. A nation is not a nation without sovereignty and a market is only a market sans considerations of statehood and idealism. In the context of management thought then, management gurus shall have to first define the lens through which they see India. Is India a market or a nation? Does India have a management thought of its own or do we still live in the cloud cuckoo land where anything that suits Anglo-Saxon taste buds is believed to be fine with India?

There are important footnotes in India’s business history and the most celebrated of all is the establishment of India’s first IIM at Calcutta. Interestingly India’s first business school-Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM) also came up in Calcutta. In 1961 another leaf was added with the establishment of what is now the best business school in India- IIM Ahmadabad. None of this is incorrect but the facts overshadow earliest developments in Indian management thought and education. If the author be allowed the opportunity to play devil’s advocate he shall exhibit the audacity of calling business historians, post colonial idiots seeped in Macaulayism.

To put the question of defining India as a nation or a market in perspective, management academicians and students must recognize that India became a nation in 1947 and was a market at best during the days of the British Raj. Before the advent of the British era India was neither a nation nor a market. The author shall leave the task of defining what India was before the Raj to historians.

“Tagore and Management Education”- a book written by Prof. Mohit Chakraborty of Vishwabharti University points to the first attempt of an Indian academician to crystallize India as both a nation and a market. Prof. Chakroborty points to Rabindranath Tagore. The first attempt to draw a framework encompassing profits, people and planet had led to the idea of a hamlet called Shantiniketan. The first attempt to distinguish between India and Bharat and thus recognize the scope and necessity to study and implement rural management led to the Sriniketan experiment. The first attempt to conceive of a rural industrial fair of a global scale was a challenge indeed. Even today many management gurus of the Havard School would question if the words “rural” and “global” could go hand in hand. The “Poush Mela” at Shantiniketan has over the years blossomed into what naysayers had said “impossible”- a rural fair that attracts local artisans like painters, weavers, sculptors, cobblers, photo artistes, singers and blue chip corporate houses on the same footing. These are just some of the few firsts that Gurudev has to his name. The rest of his contribution to Indian management thought is covered under the establishment of Vishwabharati University.

It is common knowledge that globalization has many dimensions-economic, social, political, linguistic and cultural. While it is fashionable for academicians in top MBA Colleges in Delhi NCR to present globalization as a process with possibilities, the challenge for business leaders and executives is to premise globalization as a paradigm for a viable business model. Who else other than Nagavara Rao Narayana Murthy (N.R. Narayana Murthy) of Infosys fame can be more befitting to draw reference for the afore said purpose. The founders of Infosys including Murthy himself had in the infancy stages of the company envisaged the now legendary Global Delivery Model (GDM). While there is literature abound on GDM, it always makes sense to hear it from the horse’s mouth. N.R.Narayana Murthy’s “Better India Better World” accommodates the best possible definition and practical illustration of what is GDM, how it can be applied and why it is scalable. Going by the illustration that Murthy puts forward, i,e. procuring labour from where it is best available, procuring capital from where cost of capital is the lowest, manufacturing where operations are most economically viable and selling in markets where margins are highest following the concept of arbitrage and speculation in international finance, the first successful experiment on GDM is the establishment of Vishwabharati University. Yes, the archives substantiate the premise. The schools of language came up with aid and knowledge resources for Japan and China. The corpus of ready to invest capital was procured by means of crowd funding from Great Britain and France. The university got its first official vice chancellor in independent India in the form of Rathindranath Tagore- a US educated scientist. And yes Americans were generous enough to share lab equipment and transfer scientific know how in setting up the departments of zoology, botany and chemistry. More over the study of Sanskrit was initiated at the Vishwabharti University on the advice given by the great son and social reformer of India- Swami Dayanand Saraswati to Maharishi Devendranath Tagore during the former’s visit to Bengal thus lending the university its strong Indian roots.

Despite some of these great achievements, Indian management gurus have not recognized Tagore as a management guru. The obsession with Anglo-Saxon and American management thought has unfortunately deprived India of the same footing as the Japanese, the Germans and the South Koreans who all have developed local management thoughts to make globalization work better in country specific contexts. At Ishan Institute of Management & Technology, one of the top PGDM Colleges in Delhi NCR, we have designed an academic curriculum that has India roots and can scale global heights.