Rebuilding India 17

Develop Indian Management Theories

Management courses are still considered the most prestigious ones in our country, though the glamour is slowly coming down during the recent years. The proliferation of management institutes and the departments of management offering graduate and post-graduate degrees have increased manifold during the past two decades. It is not that easy to get seats in the prestigious institutions even today.  

Management degrees from the top institutions usually command a very high respect in the West, such as the US. The opportunities for climbing up fast in the corporate ladder and chances for earning millions of dollars as income are many times more for the management graduates. The spread of multinational companies across the world and the idea of globalization increased the demand for MBAs across different countries.

The concept of “modern management” began in Europe. The industrialization process and the consequent developments led to the birth of scientific management techniques. Management theories of the West started emerging in Europe and America from the final decades of the nineteenth century.

Practicing managers such as Taylor and Henry Fayol and social scientists such as Mayo and McGregor had contributed to the earliest western theories.  Later it was the academicians and the management consultants- mostly from the US- who have been predominantly contributing.

As the rest of the world was largely under the   dominance and influence of Europe, and later the American thinking, their concepts of management came to be adopted in other parts of the world. After the US began to dominate the global economic scene, they began popularizing their theories. As a result, their theories came to be accepted by the universities and higher institutions in different countries, including India.

But the developments in the western management field, particularly the US, led to the questioning of the popular management beliefs from the first decade of the twenty first century. Experts began to point out the serious flaws in the western management system.

Too much of individualism at the top,   maximization of profits as the only objective and   little concern for values were some of the flaws that are repeatedly mentioned. The well-known management guru Peter Drucker lamented: “Today, I believe it is socially and morally unforgivable when managers reap huge profits for themselves, but fire workers. As societies we will pay a heavy price for the contempt this generates among the middle class managers and workers.”  ( Managing in the Next Society, Oxford, 2003)

Beginning from 2005, the international bodies and the multilateral agencies such as the World Bank openly admitted that the western economic models were no longer universal. It implied that the business and management models are also different for different countries, as the management systems are the products of the larger business and economic systems.

Field studies in India indicate unique management models functioning at the ground level. The little- studied non-corporate sector follows a completely different system based on Indian ethos and realities. Entrepreneurs in different industrial centres proudly note that they groom future entrepreneurs in their work places, without being worried that those people would enter the same field and set up businesses mostly in their own localities.  They feel proud of the fact they are creating many more entrepreneurs. But our modern management theories teach that any one entering the field is a competitor.

The well-known Dhabbawalas of Mumbai are known for their very successful native management system. There are community-run business enterprises and they run them for the benefit of the people based on higher values. There is a village called Palamedu in Madurai district. The Nadar community of that village runs a very successful diary, saloon, toilets and even a cinema theatre.

On one of the days, a few from some other communities in the village, noticed a few obscene scenes in a movie. They go and point out the fact to   the management.  The management immediately withdraws the movie from the screen. Not only that, they immediately appoint a committee of persons to pre-view the movies so that they would allow only the ‘decent’ movies for screening. 

Even at the corporate level, many companies follow distinct systems reflecting the unique foundations of our country. There are companies that give higher monthly incentives for women employees who keep their parents in-law with their families.

During the recent years, the western universities and research bodies are showing interest to study the Indian management practices. Harvard institutions from the US were here in India during the previous Kumbh Mela to study the Indian methods and practices.

Even though the western universities  take up only a few limited aspects of Indian business and management, they reveal the unique Indian methods adopted here. For example, the study by four US professors on leadership practices note that Indian corporates follow superior systems than those followed in the US. 

But it is unfortunate that the management education system in India refuses to see the realities and develop suitable theories. Besides, we still teach many failed western theories in different fields of management, wasting the time of millions of students who spend so much money to get degrees.

The noted management expert Chakraborty asks: “  …. have we Indians ever thought of challenging its (US) wholesale transmission to our students and managers? Could it be that post-independent Indian culture has been so characterless, and our intellectual spinelessness so shameful, that the well intentioned Americans have never really faced a solid and genuine challenge to review the intellectual wares they have brought over to do us good?” (Management by Values – Towards Cultural Congruence, OUP, 1991)

India has emerged as the fastest growing economy during last year. Besides, she is expected to become a major force and powerful player in the years to come. Her economic and business systems are slowly getting recognized the world over.

This is time for the management experts and the management institutes to develop theories based on the functioning Indian systems. It is already late; hence this task has to be taken up urgently. Then only we can develop management graduates who understand the Indian realities. 

(Yuva Bharathi, Vivekananda Kendra, Chennai, April 2016)