India Means Business

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A look at the economic history of India and how it has shaped the way we do business here

MOST WITH an interest in economics are rather put off by the thought of reading economic history. Given the 15-page bibliography, a casual reader intrigued by the title may well feel tempted to put India Means Business How the Elephant Earned its Stripes back on the bookshelf. But ignore the rather text-bookish package, and the 339 pages in hardback make for an interesting read. Chartered accountant-researchers-authors Kshama V. Kaushik and Kaushik Dutta have done an exemplary job as economic historians setting the context of Indian business. As India opens up to the world, the book becomes a collector’s edition for any company wanting to do business here. It takes on a cultural-commercial journey of discovery of India down the ages and in the process unravels the way Indian business ethos was formed. What we learn in the process is that India has always meant business. The story starts at the beginning of the 18th century when the Indian subcontinent had a flourishing overseas trade. The painstaking research of the authors is obvious but nowhere does it interfere in the narrative to make it a dull piece of history. So we learn about Zaveris of Ahmedabad who still continue in ancestral jewellery trade, Travadis of Surat and Hiranand Sahu of Patna who were Sahukars or moneylenders. The Elephant called India was trumpeting high. But the advent of the British traders on its shores changed all that. Hundi and arbitrage go back to the 18th century and if it were not were the House of Jagat Seths founded by Hiranand Sahu the British perhaps would not have succeeded in setting up their empire. The conspiracy of Seths led to the Battle of Plassey and the victory of the English. It is such interesting tidbits that make the book interesting. India’s multi-format business has its root in its history as we learn from the book and also that ASSOCHAM, FICCI, CII are but modern and evolved versions of srenis or nigamas of ancient times. The authors’ insights into Indian family business and their knack for survival through the rough and tumble of politics is interesting. Right from the time of the nationalist movement, business families in India have avoided confrontational politics and their “biggest advantage…is their ability to adjust to prevalent political dispensation”. The cynics amongst us may perhaps find this “ability” an euphemism for some harsher adjectives especially in the current scenario where neither are cutting a very ethical picture.

Read 58767 timesLast modified on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 14:20
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