The 10 mindsets of Indian business leaders

Indian companies are expanding globally, with icons like Jaguar and Land Rover now in Indian hands, and western business executives are going there to gain insights. The real secret of Indian success can be found in ten ways of thinking of Indian business leaders – including the leadership of Ratan Tata (pictured) who made his group a global powerhouse.

Acceptance of change

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon Ltd is one of India’s most successful and wealthiest women: “I certainly believe that everything happens with a reason. I wanted to join medical school and when that did not happen I took up biology instead. And that led me to specialise in brewing. However when I was not accepted as a brew master in India, I turned to biotechnology in a very accidental manner. In hindsight, I am grateful that the brewing doors shut on me and I set up Biocon instead!”

Live in the moment, now

Living more in the moment makes India’s business leaders very adaptable and opportunistic – arrive in Mumbai with an idea and no appointments, pretty soon you will be seeing the people at the top.


Ratan Tata epitomises the Tata Group’s success and ethics: “Some foreign investors accuse us of being unfair to shareholders by using our resources for community development. Yes, this is money that could have made for dividend payouts, but it also is money that’s uplifting and improving the quality of life of people in the rural areas where we operate and work.”

Patience, not anger

Of the great texts of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita is an influential part of the education of so many Indian business leaders: “Delusion arises from anger. The mind is bewildered by delusion. Reasoning is destroyed when the mind is bewildered.”

Ethics and respect

My exposure to this began in 2005 when the Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys, Narayana Murthy, spoke about corporate governance and morality in business: “We follow one principle – the softest pillow is a clear conscience”.

Problems are a gift

While the west has a fear of things going wrong, in India it is accepted.

The Indian born Lakshmi Mittal, head of Arcelor Mittal: “Everyone experiences tough times, it is a measure of your determination and dedication how you deal with them and how you can come through them.”

Right Words

Ratan Tata expresses his communication style this way: “What I have done is establish growth mechanisms, play down individuals and play up the team that has made the companies what they are. I, for one, am not the kind who loves dwelling on the ‘I’. If history remembers me at all, I hope it will be for this transformation.”

Leaders as gurus

TT Srinivasaraghavan is the Managing Director of Sundaram Finance, a diverse company based in Chennai. TT says that Sundaram is first a family and second, a company. Fundamental to his business is ‘trust’ and what he calls a ‘chain of faith’ that flows from people who trust each other.

Life as a spider web

Indian business leaders know that life is like trying to find your way through a spider web – where does it begin, where does it lead, who can tell? The Bhagavad Gita says: “Better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.”

Leading by not conforming

Thinking of others rather than “profits first” is one way Indian leaders do not conform. Paramahansa Yogananda: “Business life need not be a material life. Business ambition can be spiritualized. Business is nothing but serving others materially in the best possible way.”

Stephen Manallack is a Director of the EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and compiled the secrets of Indian business success and cross cultural issues while preparing his book for the Indian market, Soft Skills for a Flat World (Tata McGraw-Hill). He has led several trade missions to India and is a Cross-Cultural Trainer. He has just released Communicating Your Personal Brand (Vivid Publications)

Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

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