A new research paper Management Matters: Evidence from India suggests that the average Indian company can be improved significantly with the help of modern business practices. The study involved offering free consulting to a set of mid sized companies in the textile industry. The companies that availed of the free consulting showed a significant improvement in efficiency, lower inventories and higher profits, after they implemented the recommendations. The paper is long but is an interesting read. Also read Ajay Shah’s take on it.
The first thing to ponder is if Indian business practices are less modern. They may be technologically behind the best in the world and they might suffer on account of the creaky infrastructure that supports them. But is it also true that even in the context that they find themselves in, their business practices leave much to be desired?
The paper implies that this is indeed the case. I tend to agree with its conclusion. This is not to say that there aren’t well managed Indian firms – the research focused on mid-sized family owned businesses. But I think that it is safe to say that like technological innovation, management innovation is largely centered in the western world. A lot of it is applicable even to the Indian context, but it’s penetration is not too deep.
The authors then go on to say that the reason why Indian firms are not well managed is because management is not well informed about modern management techniques. They distrust outsiders and rarely use management consultants and so leave themselves in a low information cocoon. They don’t hire business school grads and there isn’t much mobility within the industry that could disseminate best practices.
One of the recommendations of the authors is that a robust management consulting industry could solve some of these problems. The research was supported and partly financed by a management consulting firm, Accenture. So this conclusion is somewhat self-serving, but not necessarily incorrect because of that.
After employee mobility in the industry, management consulting is perhaps the most successful way of disseminating new business practices. My sense is that Indian companies are not very open to management consulting in general. The cost is perceived to be very high. The change they bring about is thought to be too disruptive. And the improvement in the business, too chancy.
Maybe its management consultants who need to look at themselves to see if they are responsible for the underuse of their services in India.