YES : Indian Style of Management -Theory ‘i’ Management

The need to have an Indian Style of Management – Arindam Chaudhuri

How often has one heard of an American organization adopting the Japanese management style to surge ahead? How often has one heard of the reverse? Probably never. However, I do remember reading somewhere that when IBM-USA was making losses while IBM-Japan was making profits, IBM-USA tried to adopt the Japanese management style to turn around. The result was increased losses.  

Predictable? Should be. It is most likely that a style that is successful in Japan would not be as successful in the US and vice versa. People are different, the cultures are different and so is the life-style. That is the reason why Japan has developed its own management style and the US its own.

Thus, when they enter into their job lives and see a management culture prevalent, which is contractual in nature with hire and fire style of management, they don’t get disturbed. In fact, this motivates them to work harder and a typical American would say, “we are tough guys and as long as we are good the company keeps us, else we go out”. The bottom line is that the fine-tuning between the cultures at home and at job works wonders and enhances productivity and motivation.

Looking at the Japanese companies one finds concepts of lifetime employment working wonders out there. A Japanese finds a bonded culture in his organisation, unlike the American contract culture. If we look into the Japanese life style and culture we would find the importance of bonds being very high. The Japanese have strong family ties and a strong sense of community.

From such an upbringing, they feel at home when they see a bonded style of management on the job. The typical Japanese would say, “I am a Honda man (and not that I work for Honda)” displaying the bond that he shares with his company. The point that gets highlighted again is that a management style, which flows out of your own culture and roots would any day, motivates your people much more than one, which is adopted from somewhere else.

The basics of “Theory ‘i’ Management”

Like Theory ‘X’ which tried to define a worker in its own manner as a mindless lazy rascal who loves shirking responsibilities and the Theory “Y” which tried to define the worker as an ambitious responsible citizen looking for the right environment to contribute constructively, Theory ‘I’ is an attempt to understand and define the Indian worker just like the Japanese had tried to do with their Theory “Z”.

In spite of India having some of the best management schools of the world and the best reservoir of skilled human talent, our organizations have not been able to do well. Amongst other reasons one of the most important reasons for the failure of Indian management has been our failure to develop an indigenous management style, which revolves around our cultural roots and upbringing.

An Indian grows up in a system, where family ties and a sense of belongingness get an absolute top priority. Coming from this environment, he gets a shock, when he sees the job environment practicing American philosophies of contractual style of management. He is not able to adjust productively to this cultural mismatch and thus, very often, fails to be as productive as his Japanese or American counterpart.

An Indian worker is perhaps looking at a system without ruthless management practices and inhuman work pressure even if the job security is a little less. Instead of the system (specially in PSU’s) giving them near 100% job security, it could give them some fear of job security, since Indians culturally like to take life easy and tend to become complacent in such situations.

While, the job security aspect could be reduced the human touch in managing them could be increased. They should be made to feel that the company cares for them through regular training programmes, family welfare schemes etc. They should be made to feel that they matter in the organization through programmes, which involve them directly or indirectly into various decision-making processes. This would increase their level of commitment for the organizations and perhaps tomorrow we would also see people telling, “I am a Bajaj man” instead of “I am working for Bajaj scooters”.

In one of my workshops Sr. Manager – Corporate Planning of NTPC, P. Purukayastha could not agree more and cited two beautiful examples. The first related to NTPC spending up to Rs. 5 crore on the medical expenses in US for one of its drivers and his wife who were affected by incurable diseases. This incident of humanity has been a motivating factor for all employees for years.

The second related to his own experience where he made flexi timing for one of his workers whose wife was ill. This not only removed the troubled look from his face but also made him one of the most motivated workers who was always ready to give more than 100% to his job once his wife became alright.

These two incidents can explain how human touch can do wonders on an average Indian psyche. I would even go up to the extent of suggesting that professional studies could be made a part of on the job training like in Japan and not that people first get trained and then wander around for jobs like in the US.

It has to be kept in mind that the Japanese without a single business school of repute have produced some of the most successful corporations in the last 50 years, while with so many reputed management schools the US has not been able to stop the entry of one after another of the Japanese organisations into the Fortune 500 list.

Again out here I might add that Mr. Purakayastha himself went through a training program after which the company, based upon the results of the test, decided to shift him from industrial relations to corporate planning which has been one of the most motivating aspects of his job.The idea that I want to suggest is that it is high time Indian companies thought sincerely about their people and developed “Indian – people friendly management” practices.

They might have some American touch or some Japanese touch but the thought essentially has to be given on what will suit the Indians. The sad part is that successful Indian managers who have developed indigenous styles of management don’t end up theoreotising their styles and propagating them through books or articles. In the US almost every semi-successful manager ends up writing a book and thus, today one does know how IBM is managed, but one doesn’t know about how an Indian corporation like, may be, the Reliance Group is managed. So, when it comes to learning management the only option is to refer to foreign books and learn foreign management styles.

The Principles of “Theory ‘i’ Management”

  • Most Indians value bonds emotions and long-term relationships.
  • Most Indians value growth opportunities and commitment.
  • Our cultural roots (of tolerance etc.) often make us complacent.
  • Lack of patriotism at a macro level leaves us aimless.

What do these principles prove?

These principles have been arrived at after a thorough research that we conducted on more than 3000 managers across the country. The managers were asked to talk about their colleagues across functions and levels. The most important revelation from this survey is about the uniqueness of today’s Indian psyche.

On one hand as expected, the first two points go on to prove our cultural values and a lot of similarities can be drawn with the Japanese value systems. On the other hand when faced with the fact that everything Indian is so cool outside India, Bhangra and Indipop find place in the US pop charts, the global IT revolution has been fuelled by homegrown geeks, in Ohio the Wright State University College of Business and Administration gets renamed after an NRI businessman, our B-school graduates are becoming global leaders, NASA has top Indian scientists, yet Indians have time and again failed to perform in India ; Indian’s like to blame it on complacency, a characteristic that they like attributing to our culture ! It seems Indian’s look for the first opportunity to become complacent; something that they are unable to become in the western world of competition and hire and fire system.

Not only this, when faced with the question about the lack of patriotic instincts and decaying values; they love to blame it on their leaders. Somebody says if our Prime Minister can be bribed Rs 1 crore by a stock broker, what’s wrong in taking bribes; somebody else says if my general manager can take a bribe from the company’s travel agent what’s wrong if I get some account through corrupt practices? One might argue that even in
Japan there is corruption.

The reality however is that in Japan corruption doesn’t touch everyday human existence the way it does in India and moreover they have a more effective judicial system, which even their presidents can’t escape. The other day I read that in Uttar Pradesh fire brigade people have started to ask for bribes before starting to put off the fire! Criminalization of daily life is to such an extent that every individual is actually being turned into a criminal.

The socio – cultural and geo-political environment in India has today resulted into a mixed breed of Indians who on one hand retain family values and a longing for emotional touch and on the other hand are complacent (given the first opportunity to be) and unashamed of being morally bankrupt.

Thus, Indians need an India centric management theory.

Macro aspects Micro aspects

 Macro aspects of Theory ‘i’ Management

 Micro aspects of “Theory ‘i’ Management

Kindly Link:

Author : Arvindam Chaudhari


Dear Friends,Link for understanding:

– Ajay Singh Niranjan


26 Responses to “YES : Indian Style of Management -Theory ‘i’ Management”

  1. Kannan Says:

    Dear Sir ,

    I wonder as to when this article was written . So many of the entries are here from different timelines , almost all anecdotes are from 30 year period – too short to draw any theory of any sort , and is written in typical populistic way .

    The writer says that a study was carried out wherein 3000 managers were interviewed . These are the typical workers in the corporates . What about managers outside the corporate arena ? Now based on thes people a proven principle emerges that Most Indians ( Not most Indian Managers ) value bonds emotions and long term relationships. Ho hum

    Actually what today is being called as Indian Management is hotchpotch of English teaching , American following and Chinese stinginess and Russian equality in poverty put together .

    Regards ,


  2. johnnie Says:

    I am an American adult University student majoring in HR and Project Management, and am pursuing a career in global HR.
    I find this article fascinating. This is my first exposure to Theory “i”, and I admire India as she seeks to establish her business culture and transform the nation. I found this article as I was seeking information on Indian culture and business for a research project described below.

    As part of my elective curriculum I am taking an Intercultural Communication class because I feel it will be helpful to my career field. In this class, I have to pick a culture other than my own, and then a topic for a final research assignment.

    I have long been interested in how ALL outsourced jobs (call centers as well as business units) have greatly contributed to the growth in India’s economy. The research I am trying to gather is to see if people living or working in India would offer their insights on any cultural changes they have observed or experienced as a result of outsourcing.

    What was their culture like before the push to outsource in India? What has happened as a result? Have there been significant changes? Do the changes apply to the overall economy and benefit everyone? Or do just a “few” benefit? What would you like to see occur? What would you like to eliminate?

    These cultural changes can be positive, negative, neutral; personal opinions are fine. Any data that I can gather firsthand from those who live it would be very valuable to me.

    Also, I am hoping to find thoughts from perhaps middle age or older Indians that might be happy with the financial resources this “boom” has brought, but are worried about the effect on nationalistic culture and loss of tradition. In articles I’ve read, I’ve seen comments on how globalism is taking away nationalistic identities and culture and replacing it with consumerism/materialism as a world wide identity.

    These thoughts about changing the culture might be truer in the city versus the villages. However, I recently read that as bandwidth increases, some of the outsourced work is being brought into the villages because there, one finds committed loyal workers.

    If you are able to send comments on social cultural change as a result of all this, they would be greatly treasured.


  3. r kannan Says:

    I feel this theory is a cross breed of Japanese management (Theory Z) and the Y theory. Yes- the emotional enablement is the real motivator-But how far? There can be stray cases of personalised success, but can you do it for a whole cadre since every one has his own problems and the magnitude is of very high order as perceived by each individual. Overall a good attempt to wake up the ‘heartless-crude’ managers.

  4. Arun Suraj Dadhich Says:

    The article was really good. I firmly believe that the management idiology that an organisation carries has ultimately the bearings of the value system of its promoter or promoters. Everybody would like to carry his cart his own way, in his own directions & everybody necessarily should be free to to that.

    As Indians, We strongly believe in value systems, and companies like Infosys, dose prove that there is no limit to what can be acheived if we move out with right attitudes with not only personal concerns but overall concerns.

    Any work, idea, intent based on good & great value system, having prospective perspective for customers, employees, society is sure to be a long run success. Ultimately the essence of life is to service ourselves, our families, society, nation & the world at large. Everybody loves to work & contribute his share as it gives the ultimate satisfaction. hence the liberal & family style of management is sure to work anywhere in the world, UNDOUBTEDLY.

    Arun Suraj Dadhich.

  5. mary verghese Says:

    Yes, the management style is changing,There is an urgency in Indian minds to awake quickly to the fact that to start a Real Change Process, first of all we must overcome complacency,increase accountability,face brutal facts that everything is perfect is just an illusion…good can become better and better can be turned into best…till we discover new methods and avenues.Job jumping is no longer considered a risk…it is the need of the hour….retention has become for HR a pain in the neck….who is looking for security?One unchanged factor is ..”Yes Indian work force can be touched emotionally …and the return from this aspect is still high.

  6. Ranjith Menon Says:

    How can we integrate this theory with the “immigrant” mentality…. ? What I mean is that these are not applicable once we are out of the comfort zones… Which is why we mostly find Indians outside India, more successful than the ones inside… Again this is true with in India as well, when someone from South, goes to work in North and makes a better career….

    Some of my thoughts…

  7. suresh chari Says:

    Most Indians value bonds emotions and long-term relationships.
    Most Indians value growth opportunities and commitment.
    Our cultural roots (of tolerance etc.) often make us complacent.
    Lack of patriotism at a macro level leaves us aimless.

    How true. the theory is exciting no doubt. My constant interaction with youth in many training programs makes me think if these would be applicable to the managers 10 years form today? Indian youth today places emotion as a value much below accomplishment and success and personal growth. His tolerance is growth related. He is in a hurry to conqure the world and Yes patriotisim is returning with the visible progress the country is making. Good study and fine reading.

  8. Devangi Says:

    Thought provoking.
    Thank you.

  9. Antonio Attias Says:

    Excellent article… It is incredible all the similitude with our own culture in Venezuela (South America)…

    As a former manager in the Oil Industry, I was always an Emotional Leader instead of an American Leader (Following my convictions, my hearth and my values instead of the American way on leadership). Following always the Venezuelan own roots and feelings… And that was a success…

    As a teacher (Postgraduate course in Business) I mention it to my pupils: You do not need this MBA to be a good Manager… you only need to be, think and act as a Human Been to be an EXCELLENT MANAGER.

    Right now, I am working as an consultant in Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Colombia in this incredible subject: Leadership as we have to understand it!

    I agree with you and think that it is time for India to show all the potential your people have in the managerial arena!

    Antonio Attias
    Leadership and Motivational Issues Consultant

  10. Venkatesh Says:

    Dear sir,

    I cannot open and read the Micro / Macro asptects of Theory ‘i’. I feel this is one of the area our corporates has to be look into. Please make available of these theories to me.

    it is one of the good article.



  11. Pradeep Says:

    Thought provoking.

    However the principles of “Theory ‘i’ Management” does not seem to reflect today’s entire Indian psyche.It is not exhastive. May be some more thoughts on Diversity, Social Structure, Economic abilities , Sense on accomplishment etc… need to be given in relation to “Theory ‘i’ Management” . India itself is so diverse that you will find both American psyche and Japanese psyche within India.

    One thing I totally agree is that Indian managers who have developed indigenous styles of management don’t end up theoreotising their styles and propagating them through books or articles. It is very important to document sucessful and best practices.

  12. Vijay Says:

    >> It has to be kept in mind that the Japanese without a single business school of repute have produced some of the most successful corporations in the last 50 years, while with so many reputed management schools the US has not been able to stop the entry of one after another of the Japanese organisations into the Fortune 500 list.

    This is not the right way to hint on what is intended. The quote “Managers are not always born, sometimes are made” holds right, but at the same time, it does not rule out the fact that sometimes managers are born. I would not miss citing Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani as an example. He had a vision, and he managed to achieve it.

    The post is excellent to read, minus the strong inclination that basically overshadows the intention of having written it.

  13. Srinivasan Says:

    A nice article on the reality of the Management practitioners in Indian context.

  14. Bhavik Says:

    Dear sir ,

    i m a student of New Zealand Business Diploma , Auckalnd. New Zealand. I Have read your theroy its amzing. sir if u dont mind i need your guidance regarding pursuing the further carrer in management or accounting. so pls. let ,me know the possible outcomes of pursuing these carrers and the fun and carrer path linked with these carrers. Thank You.

  15. Indianeering: A New Management Tool in Manufacturing « The Grey Chronicles Says:

    […] Being an innovative race, not to be outdone by its archrival[1], Indians expats introduced a breakthrough: “Indianeering”, an amalgamation of engineering [science], management [art] and reasoning [logic]. This school of thought, moreover, might run counter to Arindam Chaudhuri’s proposed Theory “i” Management. […]

  16. bhattathiri Says:

    Excellent article. The Western idea of management centers on making the worker (and the manager) more efficient and more productive. Companies offer workers more to work more, produce more, sell more and to stick to the organization without looking for alternatives. The sole aim of extracting better and more work from the worker is to improve the bottom-line of the enterprise. The worker has become a hirable commodity, which can be used, replaced and discarded at will.
    Thus, workers have been reduced to the state of a mercantile product. In such a state, it should come as no surprise to us that workers start using strikes ( gheraos) sit-ins, (dharnas) go-slows, work-to-rule etc. to get maximum benefit for themselves from the organizations. Society-at-large is damaged. Thus we reach a situation in which management and workers become separate and contradictory entities with conflicting interests. There is no common goal or understanding. This, predictably, leads to suspicion, friction, disillusion and mistrust, with managers and workers at cross purposes. The absence of human values and erosion of human touch in the organizational structure has resulted in a crisis of confidence.
    Western management philosophy may have created prosperity – for some people some of the time at least – but it has failed in the aim of ensuring betterment of individual life and social welfare. It has remained by and large a soulless edifice and an oasis of plenty for a few in the midst of poor quality of life for many.
    Hence, there is an urgent need to re-examine prevailing management disciplines – their objectives, scope and content. Management should be redefined to underline the development of the worker as a person, as a human being, and not as a mere wage-earner. With this changed perspective, management can become an instrument in the process of social, and indeed national, development.
    Now let us re-examine some of the modern management concepts in the light of the Bhagavad-Gita which is a primer of management-by-values.
    Utilization of available resources
    The first lesson of management science is to choose wisely and utilize scarce resources optimally. During the curtain raiser before the Mahabharata War, Duryodhana chose Sri Krishna’s large army for his help while Arjuna selected Sri Krishna’s wisdom for his support. This episode gives us a clue as to the nature of the effective manager – the former chose numbers, the latter, wisdom.

  17. Ravi Kushappanavar Says:

    Nice Article………Arindam.

  18. Anindita Chatterjee Says:

    Beautiful article. Hope i could meet u.

  19. thileeban Says:

    I am a first year MBA student. I found this article really useful to future managers like me. I am observing that all the case studies, class discussions, examples for lectures in our college are from American perspective. As mentioned in theory i, this situation should be changed and Indian B schools should start teaching Indian style of management.

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  21. anbanandan Says:

    I think blindly not applicable all western bound theories into Indian context, our culture is different and climate is different, so may be some changes have made in the theories then suit for our environment.
    anbanandan, chennai

  22. Shashi Kadapa Says:

    I really doubt abt these concepts and thoughts. Is Mr. Choudhary speaking of localisation or glocalisation? In the increasingly globalised world, I dont know how we can have a Indian centric model. You really think Toyota, McDonald, MS, Oracle, Google want a location specific HRM model? No Sir, they want a uniform policy that will train people to work anywhere without the burden of a national culture. Hofestede is no more valid. We have 28 or more states, 18+ languages, many religions. There is nothing like a typical Indian. No offense, but this is Taylorism!

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