WASHINGTON: Corporate America is embracing Indian philosophy in a big way.
Suddenly, says Business Week magazine in its latest issue, phrases from ancient Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita are popping up in management tomes and on websites of consultants. Top business schools have introduced ?self-mastery? classes that use Indian methods to help managers boost their leadership skills and find inner peace in lives dominated by work.
BW calls its ?Karma Capitalism? ? a gentler, more empathetic ethos that resonates in the post-tech-bubble, post-Enron zeitgeist. And where it used to be hip in management circles to quote from the sixth century B.C. Chinese classic The Art of War, it says, the trendy ancient Eastern text today is the more introspective Bhagavad Gita .
In an episode recounted by BW , young executives from corporate American gather in a suburban New Jersey home to hear Swami Parthasarathy, one of India'sbest-selling authors on Vedanta, speak about secrets to business success ? ?concentration, consistency, and cooperation.?
The 80-year-old Indian guru is on a whistlestop tour of the US, counselling executives on the central message of the Gita ? to put purpose before self. He has addressed meetings in b-schools such as Wharton and in financial schools such as Lehmann Brothers, advising fund managers and venture capitalists about balancing the compulsion to amass wealth with the desire for inner happiness.
In one incident, a young investment banker seeks advice on dealing with nasty colleagues. Banish them from your mind, he is told. ?You are the architect of your misfortune. You are the architect of your fortune.?
BW attributes the sudden interest in Indian philosophy to the sizeable presence of Indian teachers in American B-Schools. About 10 per cent of teachers at places such as Harvard Business School, Northwestern'sKellogg School of Business, and the University of Michigan'sRoss School of Business are of Indian descent ? a far higher percentage than other ethnic groups.
Indians also head some half dozen business schools in the US, including Kellogg.
More important, says BW, Indian-born strategists also are helping transform corporations. Academics and consultants such as C. K. Prahlad, Ram Charan, and Vijay Govindrajan are among the world'shottest business gurus, advising some of the top US companies.
Indian theorists, says the journal, have a wide range of backgrounds and philosophies. But many of the most influential acknowledge that common themes pervade their work. One is the conviction that executives should be motivated by a broader purpose than money.
?The best way to describe it is inclusive capitalism,? C.K.Prahlad, who ranked third in a recent Times of London poll about the world'smost influential business thinkers told the magazine. ?It'sthe idea that corporations can simultaneously create value and social justice.?
?The key point,? adds Ram Charan, a coach to CEOs such as General Electric Co.'s(GE ) Jeffrey R. Immelt, ?is to put purpose before self. This is absolutely applicable to corporate leadership today.?
BW says Indian business teachers such as Michigan'sPrahlad, Harvard'sRakesh Khurana, Tuck'sGovindrajan, and Kellogg'sJain, are linking some of their theories or deriving them Hindu philosophy.
?Marketing has tended to use the language of conquest,? Kellogg'sMohanbir Sawhney, a Sikh who discusses the relevance of the Bhagavad Gita to business on his website, tells BW. Now the focus is on using customer input to dream up new products, Sawhney says, which ?requires a symbiotic relationship with those around us.?
(Courtesy The Times of India)