« Back to News

Indian companies can become truly global companies, says Robert Grant, Professor of Strategy at MISB Bocconi

Written by: PB Jayakumar, February 3 2016 2016: Business Today

Robert Morris Grant, Professor of Strategy at MISB Bocconi (Photo: Rachit Goswami)

Robert Morris Grant is a well-known British professor, economic strategist, author and academic. He is now Professor of Strategy at MISB Bocconi. The 67-year-old first visited India in 1970 and six times thereafter, and is a keen observer of India’s businesses, economy, culture and politics.Excerpts from an interview with Business Today.

BT: How do you compare Indian businesses with other established global companies in the world?

Grant:I have been to India many times and what amazes me is the world of chaos, traffic and flexibility on Indian roads. When I think of Indian businesses, they also have this flexibility and some ways of getting to the local market. Not many companies from India could scale up as true global companies in the world stage, where the systems and requirements are different. A TCS or Infosys can be termed global. But the Indian IT companies need to go beyond the outsourcing to real software development. Then there are many Indian companies in the pharmaceutical generic space, but they are not original drug developers. India is a low-cost destination and has huge human talent. The resources need to be optimised with technical knowledge to scale up. The view of Indian companies should be to develop products and services that are acceptable and applicable to any consumer anywhere in the world, to become true global players.

BT: Do you think Indian companies have the potential to become true global players?

Grant:Yes, why not, if you have the right strategies, resources, management and manufacturing capability and quality? If you look at history, first it was the Americans who globalised, then came the wave of Japanese companies. Look at the number of Indian CEOs heading global corporations. There are numerous promoters or co-promoters of Silicon Valley companies. A good number of SMEs in UK were founded by Indians who came from East Africa. If you look at India’s largest private company Reliance Industries, it is a home-grown company and has not looked much beyond India to my knowledge. I would rate Mahindra & Mahindra as a company that has the potential to become a true global company considering the way they are selling their commercial vehicles in global markets. Same is the case with some of the drug companies. Some Indian healthcare companies have global credentials, with doctors and systems.

BT: But most Indian companies are family run unlike professional corporations in the West. Is that a hindrance in becoming truly global?

Grant:Despite the professional management expertise, family run businesses bring in lots of management commitment. If you look at the Tata Group, it is not the family, but a set of principles and values that makes its culture over generations. Tata Group, or any other company, became global through acquisitions. They allowed the people of Jaguar and Land Rover to run the company than taking over management control. Family controlled businesses should develop systems and structures to manage such acquisitions. Even India is a crazy maze of villages, towns, different states, languages, culture, government structures. If you can manage to survive and win in this land, you can do that at the global level. I think it is the spirituality of this land that runs deep through the veins of people here – that gives the confidence and management skills to excel.

BT: Now many e-commerce barons are emerging in India. Do you think the way they do business will open up a new wave of business culture for India?

Grant:The problem with Indian e-commerce companies is that they are of imitative nature, copying a model from the west. Flipkart succeeded because they could set up Amazon’s model here before Amazon came to India. I don’t want to predict on the nature of the e-commerce model. Such companies need to develop products that identify with any consumer anywhere in the world and should harness technology.

Originally the article was published on February 3 2016: Business Today