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History Matters*

Mira Wilkins (Florida International University, Florida, USA)

International Business in Times of Crisis: Tribute Volume to Geoffrey Jones

ISBN: 978-1-80262-164-8, eISBN: 978-1-80262-163-1

Publication date: 14 March 2022


Business history can cast light on current topics in international business. With that in mind, the author asked herself how she as a business historian might contribute an invited brief essay to a volume on international business in times of crisis. What were the relevant methods of business historians, including archival research? After discussing such methods, the author turns to a current crisis. News from India in May–June 2021 (as the author was writing this chapter) told of the devastating destruction caused by the virus, Covid-19. How, the author asked herself, was it that an Indian company, reported to be the largest producer of vaccines in the world, was unable to meet its home country’s demand in this crisis? The company is Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd., a multinational enterprise founded in 1966 by Indian entrepreneur Cyrus Poonawalla. Was its inability to meet India’s needs a case of failed Indian state policies, or, did the difficulty lie in failed corporate strategy? Was the answer more nuanced? Probably. What did the research methods of business historians contribute? What could be learned by following a path suggested by this international business historian? The application of a business history approach puts the Indian story in an international context. The chapter is an experiment. Ideas and questions are posed without being pursued. Background information of this business historian is added. The chapter does not give answers to the questions that arose from preliminary investigations. It pushes the reader to research more thoroughly the business history of this particular multinational enterprise and to consider the complexities in decision making as viewed from what turn out to be different home and host perspectives. Business is perceived as a separate actor, a constrained decision maker. The chapter draws on the existing fragmentary but related knowledge of this business historian and indicates possible routes for others to uncover answers to the many unanswered questions generated by preliminary investigations. The answers (to be provided by others) will hopefully generate informed policy making.



Wilkins, M. (2022), "History Matters*", van Tulder, R., Verbeke, A., Piscitello, L. and Puck, J. (Ed.) International Business in Times of Crisis: Tribute Volume to Geoffrey Jones (Progress in International Business Research, Vol. 16), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 55-59.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Mira Wilkins