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Samanvaya workshop on 'The Indian Way'

Samanvaya Workshop on the Indian System of Management, "The Indian Way" -

A 4 day workshop that presents a comprehensive introduction and experience of the Indian System of Management through lectures, practical tips and case studies. The workshop is aimed for practicing managers who are working with Indian situation and challenges in their daily work life. 

The workshop is slated for 28th Feb & 1st March and 14,15 March at the Arkay Convention Centre, Mylapore.

Registrations are limited to the first 15 participants and close on the 26th Feb, wednesday. The fee per candidates is Rs. 20,000/- for the entire duration. Concessional fares are provided for civil society and student members. Write to for further details.


An Interview with Ram, Chief, Samanvaya and the faculty of 'The Indian Way' -

What is the ‘Indian Way’?

Way, Path or Route are all words used traditionally by philosophers to indicate a certain of several paths that are available to reach a destination or a goal. There is nothing greater or lesser about these and all are equally relevant. We choose the path or way that is best suited for us.
Indian Way is a method of managing ourselves that we Indians may be most comfortable with. It is basically a aggregation of several theories, practices and principles through which Indians have managed and continue to manage their affairs effectively.

Why ‘Indian Way’, isn’t it exclusive to call something as an ‘Indian’ management style?

Management is a multi-disciplinary academic course that has emerged with the developments in many other social sciences – sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy, history all have had a role in shaping management body of knowledge. As an applied science it has emerged in the last two centuries and even more vigorously in the last 100 years. This is also the period of great political and knowledge subjugation across the world and hence it has followed the political discourse and preferences of all other academic disciplines that have shaped it.  The problem starts here. Many of these sciences have their roots either in Europe or America and have assumed the conditions as applicable universally. They are not, people everywhere are different and they have different ways of managing themselves and prefer to work differently and all are equally valid. So, the application of these theories in the Indian context has meant tweaking these theories here and there as we Indians are prone to do, we do band aid work with others’ theories and make them our own all the time knowing that perhaps somewhere deep down in the Indian society, we must have our own collective wisdom, knowledge and theory. The ‘Indian Way’ is an attempt to articulate what works best in our conditions, there is nothing ‘exclusive’ about it, nor an attempt to romanticize what we do, just a statement of what is best suited for our mental makeup and priorities.

But, hasn’t our lifestyle become more universal now? After all most of us lead a life that seems to be universal western way of life everywhere, what is wrong with adopting the western management style as well?

Our problem starts with confusing between ‘universal’ and ‘globalized’, sometimes we use these terms synonymously, which is wrong. Our way of life is ‘globalized’ and not intentionally, it is without choice. If you are an Indian living in a city today, it is difficult for you to find a tailor who can stitch customized shirts for you or a shoe maker who can make a customized shoe for you, these service providers have been eliminated from the urban landscape and replaced by readymade ‘globalized’ lifestyle dictating brands, which means, you stick to a certain types of shirts and shoes, not something that you want. So, most of us pick and choose from a limited choice given to us and be satisfied. This is the impact of a mindless globalization. Where we lose freedom to gain limited choice and get told that this is the way the world lives and we ought to be happy with it.

So, self coloured cotton that was crafted by superior skilled hands all the way through has been replaced with plastic polyster shirts in most men’s wardrobe in India. Amazing leather crafted shoes are only seen in the museums of Maharaja’s of colonial times and their wealthy descendents.  Our lifestyle is dictated by a globalized market, which is not the same as our life decisions. We still haven’t completely become ‘western’ in our thinking and personal decisions, it comes out in the way we choose life partners, choice of food, how we teach and nurture our children and many more very personal decisions.
Western management style has evolved not with the Indian space in mind, that is why western managers coming to India are given a ‘cultural lesson’ in management for Indian situations and Indian way of thinking. This hasn’t changed in centuries, during the colonial times, they were made to read a specific ‘Indian method of thinking and working’ book put together as a way of understanding. However, we don’t have such a text for us Indians, partly because we think we already know, but, wouldn’t dare articulate it and partly because we don’t pay attention to our own needs and specific demands. So, we have frustrated Indian managers who often complain about how theory x or theory y doesn’t work as we Indians don’t understand these amazing theories. The ‘Indian way’ turns this argument on its head and claims that the theories are not applicable in India and says that there are other theories that are  equally applicable here towards the same ends.

We often see that there are books on ‘Chanakya style of Management’, ‘Thirukkural Management’, ‘Indian Case Studies’, coming up in the market, don’t such books end up romanticizing some of the Indian weaknesses?

These books have always been there and perhaps become more visible now in the last two decades they have grown quite a bit with more confidence and articulation by Indian managers. It is a good trend and needs to be encouraged, every nation and society at some point in its evolution articulates its strength. Yes, there is a danger of romanticizing or legitimizing some weaknesses as strengths as well, but, better that we articulate them and resolve them ourselves to evolve something better than to borrow something and suffer forever.

For instance, doesn’t these scriptures also legitimize social malaise such as caste system that are deeply rooted in Indian way and are fundamentally founded in false premise of people being in-equal? Why continue to perpetuate such systems, what is wrong in replacing them with a more evolved western system?

Replacing wrong ‘systems’ with better ones is a systemic approach that has its own fundamental flaws, it may work for computers, it doesn’t work for societies. Because we replace a system with another, we cannot change a society, societies change at the speed of its weakest persons, their perceptions, capacities and potentials and how they find strength to change is what determines changes in society. Take the caste problem, despite several changes since Independence, we haven’t had the opportunity to change the caste system but incrementally and only in some pockets. Worse newer forms of caste systems and more rigorous forms of inequality have come to dominate our society today. Is it wisdom that dictates that in ridding ourselves of a prevailing problem we acquire more sinister and varied forms of the same problem?

We need to root out these inequalities, but, that will not happen by transplanting an alien system, which like an alien species can only become a week of a more dangerous dimension. For reviving our soil health and better returns, we need to remove our weeds, but, plant our own trees, plants and crops that are most suitable for our conditions and that can revive and best use the soil conditions, so also, our systems.  

But, isn’t the contrary also true? Aren’t there systems and ideas in India that do have an universal appeal? Why then call it the ‘Indian Way’?
That may be so. If we start to look at our wisdom and see its application for all over the world without adequate understanding of the rest of the world, then we will fall in the same trap as the western thinkers of simplistic understanding of the world, when they declared what was good for them must be good for the rest of the world and ignored or ridiculed all those  facts that form part of the non-western world.

If there is something Universal in the Indian Way, that is for the rest of the world to find that out. I am neither competent nor care to prescribe something to the rest of the world. I know my part of the world best, I have some experience and knowledge that is based on what happens here and what I have learnt from here, so, that is all I can talk for.

So, what is so different about the ‘Indian Way’? How can someone benefit from it?
For that you have to attend the workshop. Please do come with an open mind and with your own problems and challenges at work, it is not trying to prove a point or a perspective, that is not the ‘Indian Way’, it is a gentle reminder of what is possible, what was accomplished and what stands to be accomplished, the potential, prospect and power that is deeply Indian.

Who is this programme meant for?
Primarily for practicing managers and entrepreneurs. People who already know parts of the Indian Way, but, haven’t had time to either articulate it to themselves or examine the day to day challenges in its light.

Isn’t  4 day rather long for a management workshop?
Lets it is too short if it changes the way of thinking and poses serious challenges to fundamental understanding of management that you so far have. People spend more than 2 years in B-Schools understanding management, they spend perhaps twice as many years learning what was wrong with what they learnt in the B-Schools and equal amount of time getting rid of it, so, 4 days is just a beginning for the rest of their life.

Do you intend to do these programmes often?

We have done this during my Corporate days, that was almost 15 yrs ago, our last programme on this subject was about a decade ago, since then, we have been busy with other things and couldn't give time or attention to this area of work. We are now starting with Chennai, we would like to do this in other parts of India as well in due course depending on time and interest. 


Roop Sen said…
What cannot simply be understated is - 'replacing one corrupt or malfunctioning system with another one, imported from other context or culture, cannot work for societies'. Societies are not computers, programmed uniformly everywhere. This is so relevant for the developmental sector, and so necessary for Indian organisations to understand and prove, with evidence, how globalisation of developmental policies of donor organisations, instruments, often end up doing the same.