You'd need to have been on a different planet not to notice the rise of India as a global business giant over the last 10 years but few of us can provide the answers to questions like ‘why India?' and ‘why now?'.
Over dinner parties, we might express the opinion that the new Indians are well educated and provide lower-cost products and services than those of the well-known commercial centres; we might add the vague notion of the advantages of being able to ‘follow the sun', but we tend not to be able to name more than a handful of companies or even know that India is not just about ICT services and outsourcing. This book aims to correct that ignorance.
Nirmalya Kumar, a professor of marketing who was born in India, studied in the US and has worked in Europe and London, is a plain-spoken guide to the new India but he is not an obsessive apologist for his country of birth, seeing India as part of a wave of change in globalisation, alongside China in particular. His access to many of today's movers and shakers, together with his knowledge of other business economies, has given him a level of insight and breadth of reference that is highly valuable and well employed in this book.
The text begins with a look at the fascinating history of the Indian business model from independence in 1947 through liberalisation in 1991 and the restructuring that followed, right through to the rapid expansion of Indian firms to the multinational acquisition vehicles and conglomerates of today.
Kumar then segues into case studies, taking a close-up look at the rising stars of the sub-continent. These include such familiar names as Tata Group and Arcelor-Mittal, the latter owned by Lakshmi Mittal who is an ever-present on UK rich lists as well as part owner of Queens Park Rangers Football Club, a reminder that India may have thrown off the shackles of empire but Britain is still intertwined with the new business phenomenon.
The book shows that India's portfolio is broader than one might assume. Profiles include companies in forging (Bharat Forge), laminated tubes (Essel Propack), aluminium (Hindalco), tractor manufacturing (Mahindra & Mahindra), spirits (United Breweries Group), luggage (VIP) and even specialists in hair dye and coconut oil.
The entrepreneurial flood shows no sign of being stemmed and Kumar points to entrants like Suzlon that operates in the wind energy sector. As the author notes, India has the power to grow because it is many times the size of previous boom nations like Japan, Korea or Germany. He has collated hard research into how pioneers made their money and where the Indian bulls are going next.
The book was prepared too late to cover the Satyam scandal and it would be interesting to see some assessment of how firms will handle the latest challenges to corporate governance or questions as to employer ethics. What is clear is that the story of Indian business is still in its early chapters.
New dreams and energy from Corporate India
Excerpt from India's Global Powerhouses
Coming off a flight from London to India, one is struck by the obvious enormous infrastructure challenges. Yet one feels invigorated by the country's uplifting burst of energy and new dreams. India is of course not alone in this enthusiasm; it can also be observed in China, Dubai, Moscow and Vietnam. We are at a historical inflection point. We cannot visualise the specific changes, but these places will be unrecognisable in a decade, and they will help remake the global political and economic landscape.
It is sometimes frustrating to explain these changes to many Americans and Europeans, who are usually unable to see them through their now obsolete lens on the world. Imagine in 1900 having to stand in front of a British audience and predict that the world was entering the American century. The audience would have considered such a prognosis mad, and probably countered with comments such as: "Do you know the vastness of the British Empire?" and "Have you ever been to America and seen the problems they have?". In the seventeenth century, China and India accounted for more than half the world's economic output. After a pause the pendulum is swinging back to them at a speed the West has not yet grasped. Despite the countries' many challenges, this is going to be the China and India century.
How do you explain the gloomy feeling at the board meeting of an Indian company where annual revenues had grown by only 35 per cent!
The concepts, the constructs, and the mindset that have prevailed over the past century in companies and countries need to transform as a new future with India and China as dominant powers comes into play.
India’s Global Powerhouses at Amazon
How They Are Taking On the World
by Nirmalya Kumar with Pradipta K. Mohapatra
and Suj Chandrasekhar (Harvard Business Press)