IIM – Has the time come ?

Pardon me if I led you to believe that this piece is on the B school brand. I will leave that to the erudite.  The “Indian Instincts of Management” is what I am trying to figure out here.  For years, one has been fed with theories and stories about the American Way and the Japanese style of management.  The success of American brands in the post capitalist era and the Post war economic miracle in Japan made the world sit up and notice and assiduously look at the reasons for their success.  Thereby emerged the distinct management styles being adopted by American and Japanese companies.   At a time when we are the 3rd largest economy and poised to overtake Japan in terms of GDP by 2032, do we have a distinct Desi Management style which can be touted as our success mantra?

To answer this question, I would like to quickly re-cap the salient aspects of the American and Japanese styles of management.


  • Highly capitalistic
  • Innovation driven
  • Time is essence – Quick decision-making
  • It’s all about marketing and packaging baby!
  • Contract culture – Hire, Fire, Hire and again fire
  • High risk appetite
  • Flexible
  • Outsource and Outsource ( and coin new words – Shanghaied, Bangalored…! )
  • Long term one is sold or dead, let’s discuss about this quarter!
  • Quick to embrace anything new


  • Low Risk Appetite, Risk mitigation key in any decision-making
  • Go for the long haul, Short term profit can wait
  • Lifelong employment
  • Slow but methodical decision-making
  • Product spec, Quality and price is everything, emotional connect? – wrong number
  • Flexibility is a disease
  • Continuous Improvement
  • My Japan, My Japanese – is the best
  • Logical to the core

Post liberalization India is now home to many multinational subsidiaries. But for the sake of this discussion, we are looking at the home-grown successful Indian companies and how they manage their business to see if a pattern of a distinct management style emerges.

So here we go:

Desi (Indian):

  • Business is a family. Employees are like family members. Firing doesn’t come easily.
  • In business, relationships matter.  Building trust becomes critical to build relationships.
  • Decision making may not be logical but most practical.  Again decision-making may not be methodical but largely instinctive
  • We are most flexible. Being flexible in our approach prevents us from getting overwhelmed by any serious business situation or challenge.
  • We Plan. We Execute. But execution may not be as per the plan.  So cost over-runs, delays in completion, Quality compromises, mid-course changes are all part and parcel of our execution.
  • Tom Peters in his seminal management work “In Search of Excellence” talked of “Stick to the knitting” as one of the 8 themes which is – staying with the business you know. Our own management guru the late C.K.Prahalad goaded organizations to develop their “Core competency”. However if you see the cream of Indian corporations from Tata, Birla, Godrej, Reliance, TVS and now to the new kids in the block like Adani, Sahara, .. their core competency is “Not sticking to the knitting” and they have all been mighty successful!  This I feel is an important aspect of Indian Management which shows that we have very high risk profiles, quick learners, flexible and very pragmatic in decision-making.
  • Crisis management comes natural to us.  Added to it is the skill of working in adversities, navigating our way through complex situations,.. I’ve to mention here about the new entrant in the Oxford dictionary namely “Jugaad” – which loosely means “the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources”.( Courtesy : HBR Blog network )
  • What others see as complex issues – we handle it with our left hand. Things like taxation provisions, governmental procedures,.. which spins the head of other nationalities are like kindergarten stuff for us!
  • Indian companies’ attitude towards Ethics reflects their flexible outlook and pragmatism which I’ve outlined above. For most Indian companies, following ethical practices is borne out of convenience rather than conviction.  Follow ethics if you have to or when you will get caught!
  • Though I’m not too sure of this but I would like to mention this here about Innovation and Indian companies.  My two cents on this is that Indian companies at the outset are skeptical about innovation.
  • Marketing is not our forte, but we are not bad either.  We are yet to throw globally recognizable brands except a few like may be “IIT”, “Yoga”, “God’s Own country”, ..But we are getting there.

Having said all this, has the “IIM” arrived?  I guess not yet. But it’s not too far either.  For Desi style of Management to get into the case studies of Harvard or IIM, it’s vital for the Indian corporations to emerge visibly successful in the global arena. That’s why it’s imperative for the NANO to be a “big” hit or Arcelor Mittal to stay solid or for that matter Aditya Birla to “shine” worldwide.

Incidentally I just read today that the “5th P of Marketing” – Philip Kotler on a visit to India yesterday says, “The World awaits Indian dream” !!

I can only say “Amen”.