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The Global Manager From India

The book introduces the reader to an interesting concept of “cultural legacies of a colloidal society”

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The made-in-India drive has been a dream project for the government.  And the seeds are being sown. The initiative is expected to provide a major boost to the Indian manufacturing and the services sector. In their book, authors R. Gopalakrishnan and Ranjan Banerjee, two highly acclaimed professionals, have given a new twist to the term by listing the traits of Indian manager.

Comfortably straddling corporate and academia, and having worked across multiple geographies, complexities and environments provide the duo the sentience and license to explore the interesting question of what factors go into making a made-in-India manager excel on the global stage. Gopalakrishnan particularly stands tall as a leader, an intellectual and a writer. His previous works are major influencers. One of his books in the R.K. Narayan genre, Comma In A Sentence, is guaranteed to send the reader scrambling and digging into one’s genealogy! Banerjee, a renowned academic, is Dean and Professor, Marketing, at S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research.

Going beyond mere products and services, The Made-In-India Manager  explores the factors behind the successful export of a made-in-India manager.  The authors make a case for how the ecosystem of the Indian manager’s formative years prepare him/ her for the challenges and ambiguities of the global workplace. The  authors have addressed a vast array of variables in shaping the toughness of the made-in-India global manager.

In a departure from what is now more-or-less accepted as the norm, the book bats for the existing system of Indian education. Gopalakrishnan and Banerjee give us to understand that the extreme competition and the system prepare the students for the global challenges from early on. A relief to parents struggling to reconcile themselves to the present schooling and teaching methods!

The book also introduces the reader to an interesting concept of  “cultural legacies of a colloidal society”. The multiplicity of religions, ethnicities and many other diversities stay suspended in the cultural milieu of Indian society.  The colloidal nature of the Indians makes them more adaptive and compatible, as compared to most other societies and cultures.

Interestingly, the importance of the family structure and the support of the family in shaping the foundations of the Indian managers is dealt with in detail.  In fact, there is now renewed interest at a global level on how culture, background and family largely shape human behaviour.

It is particularly heartening to see discussions in mainstream writing on old Tamil and the Sangam era.  The deep South guards her mysteries jealously, with the result that not many are aware of the richness or depth of the history of South-India.  In discussing the trading gene, reference is drawn to the Sangam era and ancient Tamil trading locations and practices.  

I would have considered it an excellent opportunity to discuss the thalassocrat kingdoms who probably pioneered the export of outstanding made-in-India managers to the distant shores of south-east Asia.

Similarly, passing reference is made of the Tamil Chettiar community in terms of the olden career paths, in what may be considered a tangential deviation to the subject of the book.  They have been among the finest of Indian trading communities, evolved highly advanced accounting systems and understood to have largely influenced the establishment of formal trading and financing systems in Singapore, and connected regions.  It is puzzling as to why this attribute in the light of export of the made-in-India global manager has been overlooked.  

Perhaps, the restriction to the relationship of the Indian students and professionals with the US, as indicated in the Introduction of the book, finds the authors struggling to stay within an unnecessary narrow realm.  Instances such as this also indicate lost opportunities to build narrative, while staying true to the title.

The epigraph in the Introduction, attributed to the scholar Hu Shih states, ‘India conquered and dominated China culturally for twenty centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her borders’.  It could be argued that proficiency in English might not necessarily have facilitated this domination. However, in the book, the authors emphasise on the fluency in English as a dominant trait for the successful made-in-India global manager.  

Again, such issues could have been better addressed, had the authors chosen not to restrict themselves to a narrow focus.  The book is structured to permit an easy and casual read  – acceptable given the undisputed caliber of the authors.  The reader though, might have preferred the authors to walk that extra mile of deeper research.  One such instance is reflected in the following line from the chapter  ‘A Lesson in Humility’, where the authors note that managers can see themselves as having the potential to positively impact the lives of employees who work with them.  Where this is not true, positional power can lead to arrogance, isolation from reality and ultimate fall from grace. In this, the authors quote an example of Vijay Mallya.  Now, those in the know would probably argue that, prior to the Kingfisher Airlines fiasco, the Vijay Mallya-led family business is said to have enjoyed considerable employee and stakeholder contentment.

Still, I would tend to agree with the authors that more work needs to be undertaken before establishing definitive conclusions on what factors really create and drive the made-in-India global manager.  Those indicated by the authors are a definite lead to build on.  It will certainly be a matter of interest to wait and see whether the subject gets taken up for further research.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Karthik Krishnan

The author is a finance professional with eclectic interests that range from finance to farming

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