With so much talk about the Asian Century, many Australian organisations are increasingly looking to India for growth opportunities.
What these organisations are finding is that capital, systems and a huge labour force are not the only factors behind India’s growing business advancements – the real secret of its success can be found in the mindsets of its business leaders.
This is the view of Stephen Manallack, author of Soft Skills for a Flat World, who has spent over a decade dealing with India.
Among the mindsets Manallack has identified in India’s business leaders is an acceptance of change as well as an ability to live in the moment, which makes for very adaptable and opportunistic leaders.
“This mindset shows up in small ways – arrive in Mumbai with an idea and no appointments, and pretty soon you will be seeing the people at the top. Rarely does this flexibility happen in the West, where lead times are long and appointment secretaries plan years ahead – not so in India.”
While too many measure successful leadership in the West just by the share price, Manallack says Indian business leaders build generosity into their personal and business life.
As Ratan Tata, former chairman of the Tata Group, notes: “Some foreign investors accuse us of being unfair to shareholders by using our resources for community development. Yes, this is money that could have made for dividend payouts, but it also is money that’s uplifting and improving the quality of life of people in the rural areas where we operate and work. We owe them that.”
Manallack says Indian business leaders also believe in having patience, not anger. One of the great texts of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita, sums it up like this: “Delusion arises from anger. The mind is bewildered by delusion. Reasoning is destroyed when the mind is bewildered. One falls down when reasoning is destroyed.”
“The Indian thought process enables good leaders to focus on their reaction to events, which they see as more important than the events themselves,” says Manallack.
While many believe India is held back by corruption, particularly at government level, Manallack says the companies having global success are remarkable for their corporate governance. Many also see problems as a gift.
As Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon, states: “My philosophy in life is that every failure can be converted into a success. As somebody said, defeat is temporary but giving up is permanent. The way I approached it was that I am going to be just not brainwashed by perceptions. I thought let me do it my way.”
Manallack says: “While the West strives for simplicity and certainty, Indian business leaders know that life is like trying to find your way through a spider web – where does it begin, where does it lead, who can tell?”
He adds that India’s business elite lead by not conforming.
“Thinking of others rather than ‘profits first’ is one way Indian leaders do not conform. The wisdom of this was pointed out by the guru Paramahansa Yogananda who said: ‘Business life need not be a material life. Business ambition can be spiritualised. Business is nothing but serving others materially in the best possible way.’
“India’s non-conformity is supported by a ‘can do’ belief – Tagore is the inspiration to action: ‘You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water’,” says Manallack.
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