Monday 8 February 2010

All you have to do is read this book

Prof Douglas Lamont’s online notes on international marketing has a longish passage on India, from which I quote (emphasis mine): “Is there a viable alternative to market capitalism that can bring forth prosperity and equity to the world’s masses? In the West, such fads as Fabian socialism, the admiration of Soviet central planning, the small-is-beautiful movement, and Third World dependency were researched, written up and offered as consulting solutions by university professors. In India, ‘tragically, they were translated into policies, with poverty-stricken peoples as guinea pigs.’

Singapore and Thailand that welcomed outside capital and developed export industries vaulted its people out of poverty into economic Tigers and middle-income countries.

India insisted on self-sufficiency, and its state-enterprises produced shoddy goods—that is, goods which could not be sold in export markets. India didn’t want its firms to make money so they could invest in jobs that would raise Indians out of poverty. Not until 1990 under the pressure of the IMF did India change its economy policies. Today, it has become a dynamic hub of software, Internet, pharmaceutical, and media firms. The Information Age is triggering the start of an economic takeoff towards long-term sustainable economic development.

Problem: Is IT another fad? If the IT and revolutions are over, should India invest in world-class manufacturing. Why cede this powerful engine of economic growth to China?”

Ok. Now the source of this wisdom. Gurcharan Das, India Unbound, (New York: Knopf, 2001).

Ah, and who’s Mr Das? A graduate in philosophy and Sanskrit from Harvard; who later ‘attended Harvard Business School (AMP), where he is featured in three case studies’; CEO of P&G India; MD, P&G Worldwide (Strategic Planning); author since taking early retirement in 1995; on the boards of a number of companies; regular speaker to the top managements of the world’s largest corporations.

Most impressive, but not omniscient.

Surely, there are others who don’t think the Indian government was quite so ruinous, and the post-IMF story has been quite so rosy.

So why not let students have a little of those views too?

If they’re not going to do business in India, one source is one too many. But if they are, one point of view is fatally dangerous.

Which reminds me. The famed Hofstede Dimensions of Culture counts all Arab countries, from Qatar to Mauritania, as one Arab World. And has some place called West Africa and another called Eastern Africa. But it dutifully takes Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland separately.  

Now, I’m not for a moment suggesting that those Scandinavian counties should be clubbed. I’m wondering how useful it may be to bunch together Arab and African nations, especially to someone who has to deal with Arabs or Africans.


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