The India Way: How India's Top Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management

Pramila Rao (School of Business, Marymount University, Arlington, VA, USA)

South Asian Journal of Global Business Research

ISSN: 2045-4457

Article publication date: 2 March 2012



Rao, P. (2012), "The India Way: How India's Top Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management", South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 143-145.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Is the “Indian way” the new answer?

This review complements the main theme of this journal “Does South Asia matter” as it details the management practices of an important economy in Asia. In today's dynamic and globalized business world, multinational leaders are constantly examining innovative management models in order to successfully tap new markets and enhance their ability to generate profits. For instance, the automobile manufacturing world embraced “Toyotaism” decades ago with its lean and just‐in‐time (JIT) manufacturing strategies (p. 115). Similarly, “The India way” might be the answer for multinationals looking for ingenious and fresh methods of doing business amidst financial crisis and corporate scandals.

The research for this book was conducted from 2007 to 2009 by a group of professors from Wharton University. They interviewed the highest levels of business leaders from 98 Indian organizations representing a diverse range of industries. The profile of the authors’ background demonstrates an excellent cultural blend as two of the authors spent their early years in India. In addition, all authors have travelled to India on various consulting and academic assignments and hence appear to be aware of the local culture and business trends.

A majority of management books tend to focus upon western management models. As a consequence, business practices from other countries are relatively unknown. In particular, there seems to be a paucity of research on management models of emerging countries. This book addresses that gap. Hence I believe the most important contribution of this book is that it showcases a new management model from a leading South Asian economy.

“The India way” includes investing in people management, creating a tacit bond with the customers, integrating social goals into those of the corporate and improvising to any unpredictable business trends. The resource‐based view resonates with the current Indian model as sampled organizations consider people management their primary source of competitive advantage. Indian organizations also cater to their customers’ demands in an unusual way – the manufacturing of the Tata Nano, an automobile, priced almost 75 percent below the lowest priced car is a good example. Tata Nano demonstrates frugal innovation, with a focus upon making cars affordable to even the economically disadvantaged customers.

The Indian model also echoes themes of “creative capitalism” suggested by Bill Gates (p. 200). Gates emphasizes equity in wealth distribution and states that a true capitalistic model may be inherently flawed. The Indian model also incorporates a primary theme that scholar C.K. Prahalad identified in his book titled, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid that it is important for organizations to reach out to the underprivileged (pp. 83, 143). For instance, Hindustan Lever, a consumer goods company, created an outreach initiative, Project Shakti, that provided training opportunities for rural women to encourage them to become local entrepreneurs in selling the company's products. This project championed the deprived and at the same time increased the company's profits and its sales workforce.

I find this book noteworthy for several reasons. First, it reflects the result of rigorous research including both qualitative (interviews) and quantitative surveys. The authors’ arguments are further strengthened by including verbatim perspectives of Indian business leaders on various aspects of people management. A leading business executive's comment, “We think in English and act in Indian” (p. 10), makes a compelling point to readers on integration of global and local values.

Second, the authors have also done an excellent job in identifying specific human resource management (HRM) practices from leading Indian companies. For instance, Infosys, the IT leader in India, provides 14 weeks of training for their entry‐level employees in a training center that mimics an environment of a college campus.

Third, I believe that this book cuts across many subject lines. It will, henceforth, benefit scholars teaching HRM, strategic management, cross‐cultural management or international management/business. Fourth, chapters included within the book provide information in a case‐study format on various Indian companies. For instance, authors discuss why Bukhara is the number one in restaurant management. Why did Bharti Airtel adopt reverse outsourcing in India? Such excerpts provide valuable material for engaging class discussions.

Fifth, the authors provide a realistic picture of doing business in India. They identify a recent study of the World Bank on 181 nations that ranked India 122 in terms of criteria for doing business. This suggests that in spite of such economic progress, there is still room for improvement. Many Indian leaders have commented that bureaucracy and corruption are predominant at both the government and corporate levels. They also added that the objectivity of management practices are so often blurred as business leaders hire and promote their own kith and kin.

Readers will also gather knowledge related to Indian leadership. For example, the book shows that Indian business leaders are not overly concerned with quarterly business profits. The authors explain that Indian culture emphasizes a long‐term perspective, which is typical of the oriental cultures. Indian leaders also demonstrate resilience to withstand shocks and setbacks as their environment is quite uncertain. They have therefore developed expertise in strategizing and improvising to any business situations. This quality makes them flexible and responsive to their customers as well as their employees.

Finally, the book has a wealth of interesting comparative statistics. For instance, the Indian retailer, Pantaloon, provides almost 11 weeks of training to their frontline employees. In contrast, the USA retailer, Wal‐Mart, provides its frontline employees only a week's training. Comparative information allows readers to grasp a much better understanding of both the etic (universal) and emic (local) management perspectives.

Although the book is an excellent read, readers may feel some questions remain unanswered. The India way is a reflection of the best practices in India. What management practices do the average, medium and small Indian companies implement? Are they able to offer the same HRM practices outlined in the book? The authors suggest that progressive Indian companies have ignored traditional Indian practices and adopted an egalitarian culture. For example, HCL, a leading IT company, developed a bold mission statement, “Employees first, customers second,” to revolutionize people management in a traditional hierarchical society. It is not clear how Indian companies that have been entrenched in deferential behavior accepted these new values. Are these practices the norms or the outliers?

It might also occur to researchers and practitioners as to how other countries can copy “The India way” which reflects a strong altruistic and collectivist orientation. The Indian culture can be largely attributed for their organizations adopting a benevolent approach to a management model. How easy is it going to be to transfer this model to societies that endorse individual achievement? Will it be lost in translation? Without doubt, the local Indian business leaders have contributed to creating a vibrant and energizing business environment. Only time will tell if other international business leaders can achieve the same success.

About the reviewer

Pramila Rao is an Associate Professor of Human Resource Management (HRM) at Marymount University, USA. Her research interests include: cross‐cultural management (especially HRM practices in India and Mexico); role of culture on e‐HRM practices; debates as a method to enhance student learning; and learning challenges of an international student audience. She received her PhD from The George Washington University, USA. Pramila Rao can be contacted at:

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