Producing Global Managers from India: Lessons from Dr Pankaj Ghemawat

One of the foremost thinkers and expert on Globalization, Dr. Pankaj Ghemawat, is a well-known expert on what is called Semi-Globalization. He has written many books but his excellent article in the Smart Manager is sufficient to understand the concept of producing Global Managers from India and effectively utilizing them. Some of his ideas are discussed in this article.


From time to time, there are several new concepts that make one sit and take notice. The concept of semi-globalization is one such. There have been several controversies on whether Globalization itself is good or bad. Nevertheless, Dr Pankaj Ghemawat, a scholar with Indian roots, has forcefully written many articles and books on the subject, most important of which is his classic, "World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It."

Dr Ghemawat has written a very good article, in The Smart Manager, Jan-Feb 2012, pages 36-41. In this article, he argues that the world is still far away from what he calls as "globaloney", as distances and differences that separate countries still matter a great deal. The flows that bridge them are still incomplete. To this day, this concept is even more relevant. The increasing waves of protectionism around the world, the declining hegemony of the USA in world economic affairs, the rise of China and the US Vs China trade war, that literally seeks to emphasize the growing importance of one world power over the other ( for example, the number of learners who know the English language so well is so huge in China as compared to Japan, and this has even made it simpler for Chinese expansionism) , have all made it very difficult for complete globalization to flourish. The tendency of USA to stem the growth of developing countries like India, by imposing Visa regulations and making it tougher to access Western technologies is a recent case in point.

Be that as it may, this article is an attempt to focus on some key points. The quotes will be taken up for discussion in the Indian context, with some well-known examples. They pertain to a) Management Education in India with a global focus b) Managing diversity of global workforces c) Increasing innovation within India and d) Preparing the ground for the global take off

Management Education in India with a global focus

Dr. Pankaj Ghemawat, makes his points very clear. What is lacking in Indian Management education is clearly explained. Consider this gem: "The most important -- and surprisingly overlooked -- area to focus on is building appropriate content into curricula to teach about cross-country differences and their business implications"

To the great relief of so many students, the aforesaid very important skill has been made part of the learning at the IIMA, the ISB, the Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, and a host of other Top Institutes. In fact, the number of engineer-MBAs employed with the global major IT giants like IBM, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Honeywell and the like is so huge that it has now prompted a sort of protectionism in the USA, to save their jobs.

We still have a long way to go, but 2019 is different from 2012, and in the past five years, the Indian IT industry, for example, has had a reputation for world-class quality, even when the likes of Mahindra and Mahindra, the ICICI Bank, BHEL, L&T, the entire TVS group, the Tata group, and the Aditya Birla group, among others, are now marching ahead with establishing plants abroad or their offices abroad to offer solutions that match the world-class standards. Dr. Ghemawat emphasizes globalization-related knowledge, that should include:-

* " a handle on levels of and changes in the cross-border integration of markets of various types"
* "an understanding of how differences between countries can influence cross-border interactions --and how to look at them at the industry level"
* "an awareness of the benefits at additional cross-border integration, and some perspective on the problems it is alleged to produce" (page 40)

To be fair to the top B schools in India, and even to the next twenty B schools, that includes the likes of the Great Lakes of Management, Chennai, the Christ University, Chennai, the LIBA, Chennai, and the TA Manipal Institute, Manipal, there has been a consistent effort to address the very same pockets of global knowledge mentioned above.

Managing diversity of global workforces

Dr. Ghemawat does advise Management of Indian Corporations to post their Senior executives abroad. "My advice to companies is to reconsider expatriation, especially for their high-potential managers".

This has already happened in the case of Asian Paints, several units of the TVS group, the M&M group, the Tatas and other major Indian corporations. The giant Unilever India has many of its high-potential managers posted abroad. They are managing a big multitude of managers of various nationalities. Since 2012, when the aforesaid article was published, the range of Indian companies that have now diversified their global reach and have successfully trained their Indian Managers to be very effective in the USA and other European countries is now far greater than what it used to be some years ago. For example, the TCS is now such a big global corporation that it has teams of Indian Managers, managers offering the best of world-class IT services. In fact, TCS is India's first truly global Indian multinational that is growing by leaps and bounds. This is bound to continue.

Increasing innovation within India

One sure way of doing this, is to bring foreign students to study in Indian campuses. The IITs and the IIMs are doing it to some extent. But, as Dr. Ghemawat says, India is way down in the global ranking. It is ranked as 84th out of 89 countries on the proportion of foreign students in its universities. He even advocates the recruitment of foreign faculty. To some extent, the Indian School of Business (ISB) is able to do this to some extent and it reportedly has many world-class professors talking to them through video conferencing. This is probably why the level of exposure is very high for ISB students, and it is even better than the IIMs. Still, we have a long way to go. Our IITs may be very good, but they should produce breakthrough research that will find applications in many walks of human endeavor. For example, we still do not have a single IT company that can rival the likes of Apple Computers. With such a large base of highly qualified manpower, it is prudent to ask as to whether we are continuously losing the best of Indian Manpower to the global IT giants. If yes, why not we have legislation that makes it compulsory for Indian professionals from IITs and IIMs, who actually get the support from the Government of India in terms of subsidized education, to stay back and work in India? It should not be merely working for major companies. It should be a contribution to really solid research or cutting-edge management practices. Only such world-class environments in our educational institutions can bring about a big change in the quality of our global managers. We can only then attract global talent in the form of teachers.

One is afraid that at the moment, the global experts are busy teaching their managers in so many countries worldwide, the art of entering and sustaining the "huge" Indian market. The best of global MNCs always eye only the size of the Indian market. They then milk the market with the highest prices. Since Indian Managers get to work only in India, we are perhaps losing out on the number of highly qualified Indian Managers who could possibly be very effective in foreign environs. This situation should immediately change. How we are going to get this done is a challenge by itself.

Preparing the ground for the global take off

This is one dimension that needs to be immediately addressed. For instance, Dr. Ghemawat does talk about the barriers to be surpassed to take Indian innovations global. In this context, he does talk about the fact that even the best of global corporations had to innovate in terms of making their offerings acceptable to the Indian masses. The futility of the one-size-fits-all approach was there for all to see.

However, coming back to our challenges, he has this to say. " With a greater appreciation for the world's diversity, something Indians can relate to their own domestic context, India can surely develop the smart managers it requires to spot which of its innovations have potential in foreign markets and tailor them to respect the differences that make other countries just as unique as India". This is a highly profound statement. It does mean that Indian managers need a lot more understanding of global markets and what it takes to be successful there. The markets out there are as unique as what we have in India. Hence, given the fact that the Indian market itself is so diverse in terms of whatever it takes to sell to different sets of millions of customers, one has to just extrapolate this learning to understand the nuances of foreign markets and the diversity and uniqueness that obtain in them. This is the biggest challenge for Indian companies. We better be prepared for this take off stage.


The export potential for India's products is very high. The need to develop global Indian managers who can manage diverse environments in foreign countries is as important as anything else, in terms of an agenda. Dr. Ghemawat's observations have enough food for thought in this direction.

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