Monday, June 28, 2010

Final Blog Reflections

Wow, what a journey! Up until the last moment this trip has been educational, challenging, and an absolute blast.

India is different and similar to how I imagined it all at the same time. This may not make sense, but if you spend sometime in India, you will understand that it actually does make sense. It is a place full of dichotomy and juxtapositions. Business and technology is growing by the minute, but there are still only 100,000 million internet users (out of 1.2 billion people). There is a growing middle class, but 75% of the country still lives in poverty. Expensive high rise apartments are built next to slums. I was expecting both rich and poor, but I didn't realize they would exist so close to each other.

Our business visits were extremely valuable and educational. We visited 14 companies and we learned something unique at every stop. From clothing manufacturing, to construction, to telecom, to marketing, every company and industry was growing, building, and excited. The offices were all clean, air-conditioned, and hospitable, much like you would expect from the offices of New York City (although I think Indian hospitality trumps American by far!). We were always greeted with warm smiles, tea and cookies, and thoughtful answers to our questions and queries.

I think there are a few things that Westerners can take from Indian business practice, and that I plan on taking away myself. The first is to be unconditionally hospitable. The friendliness, openness, and patience was really striking. In America it seems we move so quickly and are so busy, we may not make the time necessary to make connections. Second, is to realize that there is opportunity in everything. Indians are creating new and exciting businesses and markets everyday. Rather than look at their lower classes as a burden or a lost cause, they are creating products and shifting industry standards to cater to all people. The last business practice that the West could benefit from, is the amazing work ethic in India. From the people that seek out recycling in trash, to the top executives, all of them work hard. There is no laziness here. The city streets are in motion constantly.

There was an overwhelming vibe of growth and change, and pride about India and it's future. People want to talk about the change, share their personal experiences with India's growth, and encourage you to participate in it as well. All the companies we visited, and all the people we met, mentioned the changes that happening. And every single one was proud - the energy could be felt.

My journey with the Cal Poly program is complete, but my journey in India is not. I will continue to explore different areas of the country for the next 6 weeks. A classmate said in the meeting this morning, the more we learn about India, the less we realize we know. If this is the case, I hope that I come back to America feeling like I know less than I do now. Let the learning continue!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Quarter Book Report


Nicki Grihault’s Essential Guide to Customs and Culture is comprehensive, lucid, and encouraging. The book gives an over view of many major aspects of the Indian way of life. After reading it I feel confident and at ease about visiting this foreign and exotic land. I also feel excited and ready to explore all the cultural diversity that India has to offer.


Most Americans seem to have a misunderstanding of Karma. Many people believe that Karma means, “What goes around, comes around.” They believe that Karma states that if you do something good, something good will come back to you. I was taught in my yoga practice that Karma isn’t so selfish. I always thought it to mean that if you do something good, then there is positive energy in the universe, and that positive energy will find someone. What goes around comes around – to the global community. So while a person may do good things and despite this still have bad things happen to them, their good deeds get to someone in the world.

Grihault describes Karma according to India as something different from both of these theories. According to the Guide, the Indian belief in Karma has to do with reincarnation. Reincarnation states that when a person dies, there soul is reborn in another. Their Karma and actions from the past life carry into their present and future lives. If a person was evil in past life, they will be born poor or destitute. If a person comes back as a price, or wealthy, they must have great karma from their past life. It is in this belief in Karma that the caste system makes perfect sense.

According to Wikipedia, Karma, "in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist philosophies.” This is a much broader view of Karma and factors in all the religions and the general concept that what goes around comes around. Wikipedia also states that, “Some traditions (i.e., the Vedanta), believe that a Supreme Being plays some kind of role, for example, as the dispenser of the 'fruits' of karma or as exercising the option to change one's karma in rare instances. In general, followers of the Buddhism and many followers of Hinduism traditions consider the natural laws of causation sufficient to explain the effects of karma. Another view holds that a Sadguru, acting on a god's behalf, can mitigate or work out some of the karma of the disciple. And according to the Jainism perspective, neither a god nor a guru have any role in a person's karma - the individual is considered to be the sole doer and enjoyer of his karmas and their 'fruits'.”

It appears that Karma goes much deeper than Grihault discusses. Though the book cannot be solely on one topic, I believe Grihault should have touched on the different beliefs and applications of Karma. It is a huge part of many different religions and applies differently to many people in India.

Women in India

Grihault discusses some of the plights of women in India. The two aspects that jumped out at me are the tragic traditions of “dowry death” and the attitudes toward widows. I researched dowry death for my spring blog post and CNN stated that 2500 women per year are killed via bride burning. Grihault states the even more offensive number of one woman every one hundred minutes. This calculates to over five thousand-two hundred women per year.

Grihault also discusses the attitudes toward widows. They are seen as bad omens and husband killers. Even child brides are punished for their husband’s deaths. Many places still require the widowed women to shave their heads and stay unmarried for the rest of their lives.

The reason I address the issue of women’s role in India, is not to criticize the culture or focus on human rights. I bring it up because the role/hardships of women in India illustrates the point that India is a place full of contradictions. Women can work and get MBA’s and they are also murdered for not being “worth” enough. As is true in many developing countries, and even so here in America, city life varies greatly from rural areas. Though in America, I believe the variance isn’t as high.

Grihault does an excellent job of describing sensitive issues and illustrating the cultural differences in India.

Business Briefing

I found the Business Briefing section of Customs and Culture particularly helpful. Since we will be attending India formally in the Business setting, a background on Indian business practices will be necessary to fully embrace and learn from our experience.

Grihault describes the Indian business culture as relationship-based. This means that questions about personal life and family are applicable and appropriate in a business setting. Contrarily, it is possible to have a very meaningful and prolonged business relationship in America and know very little about the person you are dealing with. Of course, there is small talk and pleasantries, but unless forming a personal friendship, American business conversation is generally kept sterile and formal.

One thing that is of particular interest to me is the notion that people in India, “would rather tell you a lie than upset you or disagree with you” (Grihault, page 144). This is fascinating to me. Rather than end a negotiation or say something difficult to hear, Indians will attempt to save face for themselves and those around them by lying. I am glad that this was brought to my attention before I went to India. I always believe in business, that while certain things should be delivered lightly, it is better to be brutally honest and straightforward than to be allusive.


Our trip is India is based on business and exposing us to the business practices of different countries. However, what interests me most about India is the culture, the languages, the history, and the food. These are the reasons I love to travel. Grihault’s Essential Guide to Customs and Culture was the first real knowledge I have gained about these things in this course. I am happy to have a general background on these topics before entering the country. I am also going to bring the book with me to reference along the way. Grihault’s book was informative, easy to read, and useful.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Quarter Book Report

Lindsay Leaver
Winter Book Report
January 1, 2010

The Elephant and the Dragon
By Robyn Meredith


The Elephant and the Dragon is an in depth look at the newly globalized India and China, and what their participation in the world economy means for America. It is a well-written, lucid, easy to follow book on a very complex topic. Meredith did an excellent job painting the pictures of both India and China before their leap on to the world stage, and describing the changes that have come to both countries.

The Rise of India and China is not necessarily something to be feared, but it is something to pay attention to and adapt to. The world economy is no longer dominated by America, as many Americans have become accustomed to.


Meredith gives a detailed and hard to stomach description of China’s past. Under the rule of Chairman Mao, the Chinese people suffered extreme poverty and civil rights abuses. There were massive food shortages throughout China that turned people in to skeletons. Some people began a practice called “yi zi er shi.” They traded one their own children to a neighbor for the neighbor’s child, and then killed and ate the youngster, knowing all the time the same thing was happening to their child next door. This practice shocked and sickened me. To imagine that people could be so desperate as to eat their own family, was horrifying.

Not only did Mao starve his people, he killed many of them as well. In 1966 he began the “Cultural Revolution” and murdered the intellectuals and pro capitalist thinkers. During this time he also burned books, destroyed art and temples, closed universities, and cut off contact with the rest of the world. These moves still haunt China today, especially the closing of Universities. Mao tried to create a nation of non-thinkers in order for a more absolute power.

Luckily for the Chinese people, Mao died in 1976 and Deng Xiaoping, an economic reformer, came into power. He began to shift China towards a market economy. He distributed land and let the families sell the extra crops for a profit. Though Xiaoping controlled the prices, the rural Chinese saw their incomes rise by 15% a year between 1978 and 1984. In 1984 China began to interact with the global economy by selling its factory goods abroad. Now, China is a world leader in factory production, has a large pool of college graduates, and is willing to do the work of Americans at a third of the price. Look out westerners, China has emerged.


While China was busy industrializing and increasing their infrastructure, India was still stuck in post-colonial poverty. India had been closed off to outside investment since 1947 when they gained political freedom and was flat broke in 1991. In July of 1991, restrictions on imports were lifted, the currency devalued, and the anti-monopoly limits eliminated, thus spurring the fastest economic growth in the decades of independence.

With the opening up of India in 1991, major globalization began. India has a huge advantage over China – education. The work force in India is highly educated and also willing to work for a third of an American worker. Also, India had many elite business families that have been operating since the 1800s. The 1991 reformations empowered the already existing moguls to expand further and become leaders in the world and the fortune 500.

Though India has an educational advantage over China, China has an edge on infrastructure. India vowed to spend $150 billion between 2005 and 2010 on roads, power plants, and telecommunications, which is a staggering amount. However, it is no match for China, who put $200 billion in 2005 alone.


What does this rise of China and India mean for America? It means job loss to outsourcing and sharing the superpower title that has been bestowed on America for the last 60 years. However, it also means a chance for reinvention.

In many ways, Meredith’s ideas are similar to Thomas Freidman’s in “The World is Flat.” Both authors agree that just because American companies are outsourcing jobs, doesn’t mean that Americans will lose out. Yes, the job losses will affect the individuals who were previously in the positions, but as a whole, this is a chance for America to get creative and emerge in a new industry and as a new work force.

The key to this emergence is Education. Both Freidman and Meredith agree that America needs to go back to the basics of education and focus on what made us world leaders in the first place, the most educated and skilled workforce in the world. Many test scores show that Americans are falling behind where we used to be, but we are not too far gone yet. With a little shift in focus, we can regain the loses we have suffered in the last thirty years.


Personally, I think a shift from America being the only superpower would be a positive thing, as long as it is peaceful for all countries involved. Being the world’s superpower has its advantages, but it comes with great responsibility. Maybe it would be nice to peacefully share these responsibilities with China and India. We should welcome the help and change, and embrace the opportunity to work together.

It is also important to remember that while changes in India and China are happening quickly, there is still a long way to go. In both India and China, the sanitary conditions need billions of dollars of work. The militaries, though both becoming powerful, are nowhere close to Americas arsenal. And the education at the University level is still below what is offered in America. Rapid changes are around the corner, but if we have the foresight to change with the world, the changes will not be detrimental.

“The Elephant and the Dragon,” brings up some scary issues for Americans in this ever-emerging globalized world, however similar to “The World is Flat” it brings up hope as well. Rather than blame people, point fingers, or just assume we are screwed, let’s rise up with India and China. Let’s uses this as an opportunity to help ourselves get back into the competition. Let’s reinvent ourselves once again and emerge as innovative and proud.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter Quarter Blog

Lindsay Leaver
Winter Quarter
Surrogacy Blog
December 29, 2009

Every year my family goes to Seattle for Christmas and stays at my Grandmother’s beach house. My grandmother is no longer with us, but many of her old books, papers, and magazines still are. Christmas morning I was anxiously awaiting our family ritual of breakfast and presents when I flipped open a Marie Claire Magazine from August 2007. In it I found an article entitled “Womb for Rent,” which highlighted a growing fad of outsourcing pregnancy to India. Read whole article here:

My initial reaction was that outsourcing had gone too far and that this is just one more way to exploit women in developing countries, however after reading further, this does not appear to be the case. A Doctor named Nanya Patel in the 150,000 person village of Anand in India’s Western State of Gujarat, has single handedly set up a surrogacy clinic in this rural, dairy community. Want-to-be mothers from all over the world come to the clinic to have a local Indian woman carry their child for the bargain price of $25,000-$30,000. This covers a fee for the surrogate, all doctor’s bills, flights, and excellent prenatal care for the surrogate in her months of pregnancy. In America the surrogacy process costs upwards of $70,000.

At the time of the article, Dr. Patel has had 45 successful births and is very picky about both her clients and her carriers. She will only take couples that are married and have tried to have children themselves. The women are ovulating and producing eggs normally, but had problems with their uterus, so carrying a child is out of the question. The surrogates must have all had children before so they know what to expect, and be willing themselves to carry another (not pressured by their husbands or in-laws). The carriers receive a fee of $5,500 or more (more than many could earn in 10 years) for the use of their uterus, and that money is held for them until they are ready to put it towards whatever they choose. Education for their children and a new home that won’t corrode during the monsoon season are among the most common uses of the surrogacy money.

It sounds ok right? Women helping women conceive children and women helping women raise the standard of living for children. So far, at Dr. Patel’s clinic, it is ok; however there are very few governmental restrictions/regulations regarding surrogacy in India and Dr. Patel believes this is a problem. While she has harbored a safe and empowering environment for the mothers and carriers at her clinic, in a growing industry many other doctors may not. There could very well be clinics that will offer poor and unsafe conditions and take advantage of both parties involved.

The New York Times also covered Dr. Patel’s clinic in a March 2008 article that discusses many of the same sentiments and concerns for the surrogates.

With an increasing amount of surrogate pregnancies in India, should there be more regulation to ensure protection for the surrogates? Is it currently exploiting Indian women? If it continues to grow is there a chance that it could exploit Indian women? Is this an abuse of power and money, or a way to create a mutually beneficial relationship?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Story of India

Lindsay Leaver
December 21, 2009
Story of India Assignment
20 questions

1. Why has boat building been such an important part of India’s history?
On the Southwest coast of India, they still build ocean-going ships with designs that were brought by the Romans over 2000 years ago, when trade first began in India. They build them completely by eye, with no written or drawn sketch. They Greeks and Romans developed a special way of making ships, creating the skin first. They are particularly strong for heavy seas. This enabled the trade routes to India to really open up and thus changed the course of the Indian trade market forever.

2. What does the connection between Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages imply? Why was this a significant historical development in the 18th century?
The connection between the Sanskrit and Indo-European languages implies that the Aryans who spoke Greek/Latin brought the Sanskrit language to India. It implies that all three languages originated in the same place, Turkey, and then traveled through Central Asia with the Aryans. It was a major historical development because it connects the origin of language.

3. India’s history is full of migrations and invasions from outside the subcontinent. How did the Aryan migration into India impact the region’s culture?
The Aryan’s did not influence the genes of the Indian people, but it did influence the language and the culture. The Aryans imposed their speech and values on the people of India. Mahabharata is the greatest myth ever told in India. It is the story of Aryan tribes fighting each other and has become the story of India. It binds all of India together and has become their own history.

4. How are Hinduism and the caste system connected? While India outlawed the caste system at independence, why do problems persist?
The caste system is built into the Hindu religion. The people are born into, marry within, and die within their caste. It divides people from birth. Problems persist because it is a mutually sustaining system that is interconnected with the religion. Everyone has a place and everyone needs someone else from the other castes.

5. What did the Romans trade with Tamil Nadu?
The Romans traded gold for spices.

6. What purpose did the Ashokan pillars play during Asoka’s rule? Why do you think they would have been effective?
The pillars contained Ashoka’s ideas on reason and morality. It took politics away from religion and magic and made it more concrete and this worldly. He spread his ideas on animal rights, the environment, and moral codes. They were effective because they allowed this information to be public and obtainable to all people. It also acted as a presence of the law even when he wasn’t there.

7. How did the possible meeting between Alexander the Great and a young Chandragupta influence the development of the Mauryan Empire?
When Alexander the Great arrived in India Chandragupta was a small boy. Chandra was wildly impressed with Alexander the Great and approached him without fear. Chandra eventually pushed out Alexander and conquered, for the first time, what is known as modern India. His kingdom became a template for modern India and he served with secular authority, as a universal king.

8. What teachings of the Buddha are most relevant in today’s world?
Buddha’s main teaching is that suffering is the nature of the human condition. It is caused by human desire and attachment. In order to free ourselves and reach enlightenment, we must detach from all desires. I believe this is relevant today because now, perhaps more than ever in history, material possessions and consumerism have become a major part of our culture. People judge happiness on money and success rather than from within.

9. Why has India been an important center of trade?
Simply put because of food. India had spices native to South India and the spices craze was all about food. Sharing meals and tasty food is important to all cultures.

10. How did Indians preserve their literature and customs over the centuries? In modern times, how do we ensure our records will be preserved for years to come?
Indians preserved their literature, customs, stories, and songs all through spoken word. It was memorized and passed down from teacher to pupil and father to son. In modern times we no longer use spoken word, but rather written word to preserve history. Even more modern, things are now being done electronically.

11. What impressive lineage did Babur bring with him to India?
Babur was a descendent of Ganges Kahn.

12. Why did so much gold flow into India during trade with the Roman Empire? How did the Indian use of gold differ from the Roman use?
Although it was mainly about spices, the Indians had many things the Romans wanted. They took gemstones, peacocks, and silk. They gave gold in exchange for these items, however little of the gold made it into circulation. The Indians decorated themselves and made jewelry out of the coins.

13. How has art of the Kushan Empire influenced some modern representations of the Buddha?
The Kushan Empire was rich on profits from the Silk Road. They sponsored the flowering of the arts and put a lot of money into it. When they got to India, they adopted Buddhism as their religion and therefore fostered Buddhist culture and art.

14. Why is a secular constitution so important to the stability of India? Do you think that Indian stability would have been threatened with a religion-based government?
Secularism is important in India because there are so many religions that have a strong presence in India. All these religions have been there for thousands, or at least hundreds of years and no one religion has more claims to the land than the other. It must be a place where they can all exist equally and worship freely. Stability would have been threatened if it were a religious government because many different groups would have been left out and angry, possibly leading to revolts.

15. Why were India’s advancements in mathematics important? What aspects of math taught today in school originated in India?
The math of the Gupta scientists was way ahead of the world at that time. They pioneered the use of the value zero, which is the foundation for all modern mathematics. They also came up with the concept of pie (3.14…), which is used in math taught today. Lastly, they predicted the earth’s circumference almost exactly accurately, which is just cool!

16. What traits does Sikhism draw from Hinduism? Islam?
Sikhism draws their ideas about charity from Hinduism and one god from Islam.

17. What was the Taj Mahal built to represent?
The common belief is that it was built as a monument for love. King Jahan built it as a tomb for his favorite wife as a teardrop on the face of time. However, more recent findings believe that it could be a mystic map of the judgment day build by Sufi saints. On one side are the fields of paradise and on the other, the path to get there.

18. In wanting to create a secular constitution, what deep challenges did Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian National Congress face?
Nehru and Gandhi wanted one great secular nation, but there was a belief that Hindu and Muslim people could not live together. This religious conflict went much deeper than modern politics.

19. Why did Jinnah fight for an independent Pakistan? Based upon the violent history between India and Pakistan since independence, were Jinnah’s fears justified or did the partition help create the tensions?
They tried to have separate Hindu/Muslim states under one overall ruler, but it didn’t work because neither side trusted each other. Jinnah pushed for a separate Muslim state with the idea that after the dust settled, the two nations could come together. There was always tension between the two religions, but now it is worse with the two countries. Even if the people and religions forgive each other, there is a whole added element of political conflict.

20. Why are pilgrimages important in India? What is the importance of the pilgrimage sites in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism?
Pilgrimage is important in India because it gave a sense of cultural identity to India, long before it achieved its political independence. It created a sense of India as a holy land. The sites in each of the religions are places where the leaders went and prayed themselves. The tree where Buddha sat to reach enlightenment is still preserved and used for meditation today.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Family Research Report

Lindsay Leaver
Indian Family Business
Make-up Research Paper
December 10. 2009

Family Owned Business In India
History and Present Day

When an American hears the words, “family run business,” or “family owned business,” it elicits feelings of nostalgia and brings up imagery of a typical 1950s “mom and pop” shop. The cute downtown convenience store owned by husband and wife, the mechanic’s shop passed from father to son, or the diner inherited by cousins. There is a widely spread thought that America has seen the end of family owned business and the warm, friendly environment, has been replaced with cold and impersonal chains. This could not be further from the truth. “In many of our most productive countries, like the United States, Germany, Spain, and China, to name just a few, families control up to 90 percent of the businesses and contribute more than 50 percent of the gross domestic product” ( The family businesses may not be small anymore, but they are still around and they playing a large role in the world economy.

In India, this holds even more truth than in other places. The phrase “family run business,” induces an entirely different response than in America. Family run businesses are synonymous with big business, as well as small and mid size business, and mostly synonymous with success. “Family-run businesses currently account for a whopping 95 per cent of all Indian companies… The Indian economy, currently in a state of rapid development, is burgeoning with innumerable small and medium-sized family-run enterprises” ( It seems logical that with a growing economy and a rising GDP, most the businesses being started would be started within the family. Indian people keep their extended families very close. “The close-knit structure of families, which fosters teamwork combined with respect to family values and family elders, has been the key to success of many family businesses” (

The family-run companies in India are not just your typical mom and pop businesses or corner stores. In addition to the small and mid size businesses, the big publicly traded companies are family run as well. The BSE Sensex is the major Bombay stock exchange in India. “About half the top 30 companies on the BSE Sensex are controlled by their founding families” (

Family-run business has a specific role in India’s history. “The Indian family business dates back to the latter half of the 19th century, which also marks the beginning of business in India. Family businesses in India initially started in the 1890s as a means to promote import substitution and attain economic freedom from the British. These enterprises were an integral part of India’s freedom struggle, and as part of the Swadeshi movement, got special treatment and subsidies from the government. The businesses consolidated their positions as near monopolies under the protective environment of the license Raj and their inefficiencies did not get exposed to the indefatigable market realities” ( The idea of Indian family-run business has always been revered, respected, and protected in India.

As we enter the new century, the age of prosperity for traditional family-run big businesses is coming to a close. There have been several major events that have forced change among family-run businesses in India. They are fraud, opening of India’s markets to the outside world, unwillingness to diversify, and loyalty to family over smart business practice.

“An admission of fraud by the chairman of Satyam Computer Services has rocked a deep-rooted faith in the family-run businesses which still dominate much of India's corporate landscape. That respect took a beating on Wednesday when B. Ramalinga Raju quit and said profits of India's fourth-biggest software exporter had been inflated over several years. India's family-run firms have held sway for more than a century, with conglomerates such as Tata, Birla and Reliance dominating industries from steel to telecoms. ‘We've deified our companies and their chiefs, confused our sense of national pride and given up a healthy skepticism for a don't-ask-don't-tell policy because no one wanted their bubble (to) burst,’ said Anantha Nageswaran, chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific at Bank Julius Baer in Singapore” (

It is not just the claims of fraud that are uprooting the traditional family run businesses in India. According to a report done by the National Center for Rural Development, when India’s markets opened to the outside world, the Indian family businesses took a large hit. Many companies were unwilling or unable to adapt to the new market. “In 1991, India’s forex reserves dwindled rapidly and the IMF extended help but at a price, forcing India to open its markets to the outside world. With the protection gone, the family business had to face stiff competition from both new domestic players and well-established international players who were better equipped both technologically and managerially and were backed by much deeper pockets. The business scenario was changing and a new breed of businesses emerged in the 1990s, with the focus now shifting from the manufacturing to the service sector with IT and consulting being the buzzwords. The successful family businesses were able to adjust and make managerial changes and began to compete with and exist within a global market. The service sector exposed the business directly to the customer and it needed to be efficient and nimble in order to succeed. With the exception of the Tata's, who with TCS made a foray into the service industry, no other top family business enterprise ventured into this sector for a long period. At this time of change, many big Indian business houses faced a crisis situation; either to change or perish. A handful of companies adapted well to the pressures of the new economic policy, while a greater share couldn’t cope up to the challenges of the competitive environment and struggled.”

Lastly, the family run business was historically just that, “family” run. There was little outside help or expertise brought in to assist or sit on boards. “For years, the owners of businesses had kept the top management positions either to themselves or at least within the family to exercise further control over the corporation. What they didn’t realise was that running a corporation is a professional’s business and qualified intellectuals should be hired for the purpose instead of confining it to the family. Quite often the top board and management position were controlled by the same person and without a proper distinction of duties the whole object of separating the two got defeated. Even if professionals were hired they were meant to be loyalists, who even though performing to the best of their abilities, never got the expertise of a well-qualified and independent board. During the process of change most businesses which had a specialised management force in place sailed through, while many family managed businesses suffered the fate of their improvidence” (

Major changes have taken root in India’s economy, and many of the family-run businesses, have changed with the times. They have made the change from a family company to a corporate family. Following are ten families who have been able to transform their family businesses into globally competitive firms.

Perhaps the most powerful and well-known family in India is the Tata’s. “Originally a priestly family in Navsari, they have been active in industry and philanthropy since the nineteenth century. The Tata Group, founded by Jamsetji Tata, is one of the largest private employers in India… The beginnings of the Tata Group can be traced back to 1868, when Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata established a trading company dealing in Opium in Bombay. This was followed by the installation of Empress Mills in Nagpur in 1877. Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay was opened for business in 1903. Sir Dorab Tata, the eldest son of Jamsetji became the chairman of the group after his father’s death in 1904. Under him, the group ventured into steel production (1905) and hydroelectric power generation (1910). After the death of Dorab Tata in 1934, Nowroji Saklatwala headed the group till 1938. He was succeeded by JRD Tata. The group expanded significantly under him with the establishment of Tata Chemicals (1939), Tata Motors and Tata Industries (both 1945), Voltas (1954), Tata Tea (1962), Tata Consultancy Services (1968) and Titan Industries (1984). Ratan Tata, the incumbent chairman of the group succeeded JRD Tata in 1991” ( Some of the companies they currently operate are: Tata Steel, Corus Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Technologies, Tata Tea, Titan Industries, Tata Power, Tata Communications, Tata Teleservices, Tata AutoComp Systems Limited and the Taj Hotels.

As mentioned on the previous pages, the Tata Family was one of the first to embrace changes in the 20th century. They were among the only families to enter the service industry with Tata Consultancy Services in 1968. Also, they diversified their businesses and they adapted their family to the business, rather than their business to the family. "The Tatas are a reconstructed family who adopt and cobble together people to make a family. That way they do promote talent rather than blood relations” ( The current CEO of the Tata Group is Ratan Tata. He is set to retire in 2012, when he reaches the age of 75. “The chairman has always advocated that the best person should get his job. He says ‘theoretically’ his successor does not have even to be an Indian” ( Through their willingness to diversify and their willingness to use talent over family, the Tata’s have managed to grow into a major global conglomerate.

The second highly successful family is the Mittals. They own and operate The Mittal Steel Company. Founded in 1976, the Mittal Steel Company has enjoyed huge success throughout its short tenure. They have bought and merged with several companies. “Mittal Steel Company N.V. was one of the world's largest steel producers by volume, and also one of the largest in turnover. The company is now part of ArcelorMittal. CEO Lakshmi Mittal's family owned 88% of the company. Mittal Steel was based in Rotterdam but managed from London by Mittal and his son Aditya. It was formed when Ispat International N.V. acquired LNM Holdings N.V. (both were already controlled by Lakshmi Mittal) and merged with International Steel Group Inc. (the remnants of Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel and LTV Steel) in 2004. On 25 June 2006, Mittal Steel decided to merge with Arcelor, with the new company to be called Arcelor Mittal” (

The Mittals owe much of their success to the fact that they do not operate like an old-fashioned family business. They have been open to mergers and changes in their business. Also, Adtiyda Mittal Lakshmi’s son, though in the family, actually possesses the business skills and knowledge to participate and contribute to the Steel Company. He was educated at the Wharton School of Business and was a key leader in the newest Mittal merger.

The third Indian family is the Ambanis. Time Magazine Asia highlighted the Ambani family in 2004. “The 56-hectare Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City on the outskirts of Bombay is one of the showcases of India's high-tech sector. There, some 8,000 employees of Reliance Group, the country's largest private conglomerate, operate 24-hour call centers, monitor the company's fiber-optic network on giant video screens, and update data services provided to mobile-phone subscribers. Many wouldn't associate the gleaming campus with Reliance, which blossomed under legendary founder Dhirubhai Ambani in old-world industries such as textile production and petrochemicals. But Knowledge City is evidence that a new generation of the Ambani family is reinventing India's most powerful business enterprise” (

Mukesh and Anil Ambani are making the necessary changes in the family company in order to continue to grow in the global market. “After Dhirubhai died in July 2002, his sons, Mukesh and Anil (estimated net worth for both: $2.8 billion), took control. They've been on an expansion tear ever since, successfully bolstering Reliance's presence in power generation, oil exploration, finance and biotech, and consolidating the company's position as a leading player in India's fast-growing telecom sector. Last year, with revenues of $16.8 billion, Reliance accounted for 3.5% of India's GDP. So confidant are wealthier Indians in the future of the firm that one out of every four stock-owning citizens possesses shares in it” (

The fourth Indian family is the Premjis. Azim Premji is the CEO of Wipro, one of India’s largest software companies. “Premji was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, to a Gujarati Muslim family. His father M. H. Premji owned the Western India Vegetable Product Company (which later became Wipro Ltd.), which made hydrogenated vegetable oils and fats. While he completed his initial education at St. Mary's School, Mumbai, Premji was forced to leave his studies in electrical engineering from Stanford University, California, USA at the age of 21 to take over the family business when his father suddenly died in 1966” (

When Azim Premji inherited the responsibility of running the family business, he began to make major changes. Wipro, which stands for Western India Palm Refined Oils, began its expansion immediately. “He [Azim Premji] repositioned it and transformed Wipro (Western India Vegetable Products Ltd) into a consumer goods company that produced hydrogenated cooking oils/fat company, laundry soap, wax and tin containers and later set up Wipro Fluid Power to manufacture hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders in 1975. In 1977, when IBM was asked to leave India, Wipro entered the information technology sector. In 1979, Wipro began developing its own computers and in 1981, started selling the finished product. This was the first in a string of products that would make Wipro one of India's first computer makers. The company licensed technology from Sentinel Computers in the United States and began building India's first mini-computers. Wipro hired managers who were computer savvy, and strong on business experience” ( Wipro diversified as it found new opportunities, and brought in objective outside management to assist in their growth.

One of the oldest family run companies in India is the Birla Group. The Birla group was founded by industrialist and freedom fighter, Baldeo Das Birla, in the late nineteenth century. Currently the chairman of the Birla group is Kumar Mangalam Birla. It is made up of many different industries and companies. “Aditya Birla is organized into various subsidiaries that operate across different sectors. Among these are viscose staple fiber, non-ferrous metals, cement, viscose filament yarn, branded apparel, carbon black, chemicals, Retail (under the 'More' brand of supermarkets), fertilizers, chemicals, insulators, financial services, telecom, BPO and IT services. The Group consists of four main companies, which operate in various industry sectors through subsidiaries, joint ventures, etc. These are Hindalco, Grasim, Aditya Birla Nuvo, and UltraTech Cement” ( The Birla group has expanded to include a wide range of companies, which are all essentially run separately in order to maximize profits and knowledge in each industry.

The next Indian business family is the Mahindras. “Mahindra & Mohammed was originally incorporated in 1945 by KC Mahindra and Ghulam Mohammad as a manufacturer under license of the famous Willys Jeep. Following the Partition of India in 1947, Ghulam Mohammad left the company and emigrated to Pakistan, becoming the first finance minister of the new state. In 1948, KC Mahindra changed the name to Mahindra & Mahindra, and building on his expertise in the steel industry began trading steel with UK suppliers. By 1956, the company was listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, and by 1969 the company had entered the world market as an exporter of utility vehicles and spare parts” ( However, by 1994 the company had become bloated and bogged down. Anand G. Mahindra the action vice chairman, took control and reorganized his family business and by 2000 launched a new logo to complete the renovation.

“Anand G. Mahindra (Mahindra), vice chairman and managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. (M&M) is credited for turning around his inherited family business into a highly focused, professionalised multinational firm operating in diversified business segments. He has transformed M&M from a farm equipment manufacturer into a Utility Vehicle (UV) manufacturer. By 2008, M&M was the market leader in the UV segment of India. Mahindra’s strategies resulted in the creation of ‘Scorpio’ – M&M’s Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), which has been the company’s claim to fame in the national and international arena. M&M is now venturing into all the segments of the automotive industry” ( Anand was able to professionalize his family business to become a real player in the global business community.

The seventh family is the Jindals. “The Jindal group is a US $8 billion conglomerate, which over the last three decades has emerged as one of India's most dynamic business groups. Founded in 1952 by O.P. Jindal, a first-generation entrepreneur, it is today a leading steel producer, with interests spanning across the spectrum, from mining iron ore, to manufacturing value-added steel products. Om Prakash Jindal, the group founder, started off in a small village in Haryana by trading in steel pipes. He established a manufacturing plant near Kolkata in 1952, producing steel pipes, bends and sockets” (

Throughout his life, OP Jindal expanded his family business to include many endeavors and since his death in 2005, his four sons own and operate the four sectors of the Jindal group. “Today, the Jindal group is a multi-billion-dollar, multi-location, multi-product business empire. From mining iron ore, the group produces hot-rolled and cold-rolled steel products, high-grade pipes and value-added galvanized items. It has also diversified into a foray of core sector businesses. The Jindal Group has manufacturing outfits across India, US and Indonesia offices across the globe. The core team of the Group comprises the four sons of the founder. Jindal SAW Limited is led by Prithviraj Jindal. Sajjan Jindal has promoted the JSW Group of Companies. Ratan Jindal leads Jindal Stainless Ltd, while Naveen Jindal is at the helm of affairs at Jindal Steel & Power Ltd” (

The eighth family is the Murugappas who began specializing in banking. “The business has its origins in 1900, when Dewan Bahadur A M Murugappa Chettiar established a money-lending and banking business in Burma (now Myanmar), which then spread to Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Vietnam” ( After world war two the company essentially had to start over and decided to expand beyond their banking roots. “Starting with a sandpaper plant, the Group forayed into making steel safes, and then into manufacturing. It set up an insurance company, and bought a rubber plantation; making a small but significant beginning” (

Through out the second half of the twentieth century, the Murugappa Group has expanded even further. “Murugappa Group is a business conglomerate of India with interests in cycles, engineering, abrasives, fertilisers, financial services, sanitary ware, bio-products and plantations. Headquartered in Chennai, India, the $ 3 billion conglomerate has 29 companies under its umbrella, of which eight are listed and actively traded on the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange. Together, it has over 32,000 employees” ( The Murugappa group is yet another example of diversity and expansion among Indian family businesses.

The next family is the Godrejs. The Godrej Group is another old, established family in India’s business community. Founded by Ardeshir and Pirojsha Godrej in1897, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd was established as a manufacturing company. In 1918, they began their first diversification into the soap making business. Now perhaps one of the most diverse Indian family companies, they are involved in a variety of industries. “Godrej Group is one of the largest conglomerates in India involved in various industries that include appliances, precision equipment, machine tools, furniture, healthcare, interior solutions, office equipment, food-processing, security, materials handling and industrial storage solutions, construction and information technology. Its products include security Systems and Safes, Typewriters and Word processors, Rocket Launchers, Refrigerators and Furniture, Outsourcing Services, Machine Tools and Process Equipment, Cosmetics and Detergents, Engineering Workstations, Medical Diagnostics and Aerospace Equipment, Edible Oils and Chemical, Mosquito Repellents, Car perfumes, Chicken and Agri-products, Material Handling Equipments Like FORKLIFT Trucks, Stackers, Tyre handlers, Sweeping machines, access equipments etc. The Group is headed by Mr. Adi Godrej & Mr. Jamshyd Godrej” (

One thing that distinguishes the Godrej family from other Indian business families is that they are the largest private landowners in Mumbai. They own land that is worth US $16 billion dollars and are the envy of many other Indian conglomerates. The group contains two major holdings that operate completely separately.

The last family is the Kirloskars. One of the oldest group of companies in India, they specialize in engineering and construction and currently export to over 70 countries. Established in 1888, “The Kirloskar group of companies was one of the earliest industrial groups which made a mark in the engineering industry in India. The group produces pumps, engines, compressors, lathes and electrical equipments like motors, transformers and generators (it is the worlds largest genset manufacturer). While Laxmanrao Kirloskar established the group, his son S. L. Kirloskar played a major role in its rapid growth” ( The Kirloskar Group consists of the following companies: Kirloskar Brothers Limited, Kirloskar Oil Engines, Kirloskar Ferrous Industries, Kirloskar Pneumatic Company, Kirloskar Ebara Pumps Ltd, Kirloskar Construction And Engineers Ltd, SPP Pumps (UK), Gondwana Engineers Ltd, and The Kolhapur Steels Ltd.

Laxmanrao’s first business was a bike repair shop, but shortly thereafter he began to manufacture iron ploughs, the first of many Kirloskar manufacturing ventures. His son SL Kirloskar was among the first Indians to graduate from MIT in Massachusetts. “After the end of World War II, the Kirloskar Group grew rapidly under the leadership of S. L. Kirloskar. In 1946, he established Kirloskar Electric Company and Kirloskar Oil Engines Limited at Bangalore and Pune respectively. He is credited with developing the manufacture of diesel engine indigenously as an import substitute after India attained independence. He created a business empire that enjoyed one of the highest growth rates in Indian history, a staggering 32,401% growth of assets from 1950-1991” (

As evidenced by the ten examples given, the family-run companies that are currently successful in India, are those who expanded beyond their original industries, showed vision, ability to adapt, willingness to expand, and became truly professional on the global scale. The families are highly educated and focused, and use their family ties and trust to build their empires.

Though many of the top world companies are run by families, Indian businesses have the highest percentage. A study conducted in 2003, confirms this notion. “Businessmen the world over may be handing over the reins to professionals, but for Indian entrepreneurs, retaining control over the business and passing it on to the next generation is still the driving passion. This is a key finding of a new global study on family businesses by consultancy firm Grant Thornton. The study says that as many as 46 per cent of Indian businessmen feel that their successor should come from within the family. In comparison, only 22 per cent of North Americans and 24 per cent of Europeans subscribe to this view” (

As India emerges as a leader in the global economy, the family businesses are making changes to ensure they stay successful. But one thing they are not willing to change is being a family-run business.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fall Quarter Book Report

Lindsay Leaver
India Book Review
Fall Quarter 2009
December 5, 2009

The World is Flat
By Thomas Friedman

In “The World is Flat,” Thomas Friedman gives a moving and informative history of globalization and the new world that is has emerged. His down to earth and highly specific examples and stories, paint a picture that is thought provoking, educational, and sometimes scary.

The phrase “the world is flat” or a “flat world” refers to globalization and the leveling of the global playing field. Globalization has become a buzzword that we hear all over the media, but as is the case with many buzzwords, I was unsure of the actual meaning. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines globalization as, “the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets.” Friedman’s book discusses these three aspects in great detail, and clearly outlines the history and potential futures of globalization.

Friedman summarizes the major causes of the flat world, and how they apply to business, America, developing countries, and politics. In my analysis of Friedman’s, “The World is Flat,” I will focus on my interpretation of the two most important flatteners, and how the flattened world affects journalism, the Islamic religion, and Americans.

Two of the Ten Flatteners
In Chapter two, Friedman details the historical events that came together to flatten the world. In other words, he sites ten occurrences that lead to the latest phase of globalization. I will discuss the two flatteners that I take to be the most significant. They are the fall of the Berlin Wall and outsourcing.

The first flattener discussed in chapter two was the fall of the Berlin Wall on 11/9/89. The fall of the Berlin Wall lead to the complete collapse of the Soviet Union and the complete freedom and autonomy of the many countries it had conquered. Though there are many potential factors, Friedman attributes 11/9 to the information revolution of the 1980s. Information became easier, cheaper, and faster to spread, and the Soviet Union could not keep the information out any longer. The fall of the Soviet Union may be the most important flattener of them all, if we consider the “flattening” of the world to be the leveling of the world playing field. The citizens of the Soviet Union and all the Eastern Block countries that were being oppressed by their governments, via food rationing, a warped education system, and controlled media, suddenly were allowed to emerge. This is the event that gave life to the word global, and gave credit to the belief that we could be one world. Before 11/9, the word global had little meaning because there were two sides to the world. Globalization, as it is defined in my introduction, never could have happened.

The fifth flattener Friedman focuses on is outsourcing. Because of the Y2K scare, India and America began a mutually beneficial relationship. India had the educated engineers that America needed to fix the computers, and America had the money to employee the Indian workers. From this relationship outsourcing was born. Outsourcing can be applied to any service, call center, business support operation, or knowledge work that can be digitized. Outsourcing is instantaneous and extremely efficient. Companies receive excellent customer service for an excellent price. Outsourcing made the idea of having a global business not only acceptable, but also mainstream and commonplace.

Outsourcing jobs to India, China, or anywhere in the world is a sore spot for many Americans. But those Americans don’t realize two major factors and results of outsourcing. The first is that we no longer live in a world where America dominates, so they must get used to this idea of a global marketplace. The second is that where a door shuts, a window opens. This means that though jobs may be moving overseas, this does not necessarily mean a bad thing for Americans. It means that there will be new industries and innovations. It also means that people will be forced to work up to a job that they previously were unqualified for. If Americans step up to the plate like they have in the past, this will enable our country to expand and grow further than if we kept all jobs domestic and never outsourced.

Indian Journalism in the Flat World
Towards the end of “The World is Flat” Friedman finds a school for untouchables. A man named Abraham George started a journalism school with two goals in mind. One was to prove that if given the same resources and access to technology as upper class children, untouchables could accomplish the same things. This, to me, is an important and ethical result of the flattening world. Leveling the playing field doesn’t just apply to countries getting a chance to grow, it applies to people getting the chance to grow and better their standard of living. If given access to the proper education, there is no reason a child from the untouchable class shouldn’t excel in global business.

The second goal of George’s school was to improve Indian newspapers and journalists. After spending time in America, George realized that, “without more responsible Indian newspapers and journalists, the country could never improve its governance.”

One could assume that in this increasingly flat world, the power of the press will become less and less important. With the wide access to the Internet and all the different facets of the media, people seem to get hold of more information independent of the media. However, after learning a little bit about India’s media, maybe the power of the press is just as important as ever.

An NPR report on November 17, 2009 quoted Seema Mustafa, editor of India’s Covert Magazine, in reference to the media. “It’s hysterical. I think it’s absolutely, totally unprofessional. I think the television channels have actually forgotten they are journalists.” Though journalism may be taking different forms, it seems they may have the same influence on the flat world as they did on the round one. Perhaps a downfall of India’s currently, is their lack of journalistic excellence. With the help of people like Abraham George, that will all soon change.

Friedman didn’t focus too much on journalism in his analysis of the flat world. Perhaps he would have a bias being a journalist himself. I think it is an important discussion to have and an important aspect to keep in mind when thinking about globalization because often times it is the journalists that shape the way citizens interpret events.

Islam and the Flat World
After spending two years living in an Islamic country, my interpretation of the Islamic religion is very different than most Americans. While in Kyrgyzstan, my home from 2006-2008, I discovered that Muslims are nothing like the American media says, but rather they are peaceful and hospitable. The Islamic religion doesn’t call for suicide bombers, wars, or the end of western civilization. That is just one specific and small interpretation of the Koran. As in all religions, it is the action of a few who give a reputation to many.

Friedman discusses the issue of Islamic extremism and offers an interesting explanation of why, as keeper of the second largest Muslim population in the world, India does not have any known Muslim Terrorists. The answer he offers is context. I translate that to mean culture. India has a secular and democratic government, free-market economy, and a heavy influence of Hindu tolerance. He goes on to describe that when Islam is a part of authoritarian states, it tends to become violent and extremist. However when Islam is set in democratic society, it tends to function as any other religion and the Muslim people have potential to thrive.

True there are still religious tensions in countries like India, America, or Turkey, but there far less than countries like Iraq, Pakistan, or Afghanistan. Friedman brings Islam into the flattening discussion because all the advancement and positive aspects of globalization could be significantly slowed or halted by another terrorist attack like 9/11. Friedman claims that, “Without trust, there can be no flat world, because it is trust that allows us to take down walls, remove barriers, and eliminate friction at boarders. Trust is essential for a flat world, where you have supply chains involving then, a hundred, or a thousand people, most of whom have never met face-to-face. The more open societies are exposed to indiscriminate terrorism, the more trust is removed, and the more open societies will erect walls and dig moats instead” (Page 557-558). I believe he Friedman is correct, and I also believe that Americans can do more than they do currently to encourage and promote trust in the rest of the world.

American Arrogance in the Flat World
One would think that one of the benefits of globalization is education and understanding of those different than us. It seems the rest of the world is taking advantage of learning about America, but when will we start to learn about them? Friedman’s closing comments are an attempt to inspire Americans to wake up and start caring. On page 634 he says, “The flattening of the world… has presented us with… new dangers, particularly as Americans… It is imperative that we be the best global citizens that we can be – because in a flat world, if you don’t visit a bad neighborhood, it might visit you.” The shrinking of the world could mean disaster if Americans don’t embrace the thought that they are part of a global economy and global system.

As a current MBA student, I heard him loud and clear. There are plenty of international MBA students that are more qualified than me for the jobs that I will be applying for upon completion of my degree. According to a article 120,000 graduates of Business School in India entered the job market in 2009. They speak more languages, have a better grasp of technology, and will probably work for less money than I expect.

Americans need to wake up and start listening and learning. The tenure of America as world superpower is over. This is not a bad thing, it is a new thing, and in order to grow with the shrinking world, Americans need to embrace globalization.

I saw little weakness in Friedman’s “The World is Flat.” I learned new things throughout his writing, and I thought his account of globalization was well rounded and complete. One small thing that was mildly irritating was the buzzwords that he created such as, “glocalization” or “insourcing.” It is my personal preference to avoid buzzwords and explain things in real words, however in the context of his book, I understand why he used these words.

Overall, Thomas Friedman wrote a thoughtful, analytical, and eye opening book. He gave detailed and thoughtful analysis of his research and experiences. After reading “The World is Flat,” I am now aware of the flattened world, it’s benefits, and it’s potential detriments. As an MBA student, it is crucial to have knowledge of the global marketplace and how it operates. Friedman gave a practical account of how globalization was formed and its applications from day to day.