Sanjay Ranade

Sanjay Ranade (PhD) is Associate Professor at Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Mumbai.

Counter to the Grand Narrative of Indian Corporate Sector

Sanjay Ranade

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We have human resource ‘management’ in India and not human resource ‘development’. Management in India is translated into manipulation to one’s own end. That end could be ideological, commercial or whatever one wants it to be. In this setup instruction is from the top to the bottom and information moves from the bottom to the top. This is exactly how the political class, regardless of whether the individual is in power or not, keeps accumulating wealth exponentially year on year.

Politics and commerce have had an uneasy but mutually beneficial relationship all over the world. Politics, like elsewhere in the world, is a commercial activity in India and it is done quite efficiently if the goal of all politics is commercial and economic growth of the individual. The Indian businessmen and now the corporates have grown because of their close associations with politics. Right from the times when India was divided into many kingdoms, the close association between the commercial classes and the ruling classes has been established. Even during the struggle for Independence the commercial class took sides with the freedom fighters as well as the British. What is different in India is that the feudal legacy fuelled the caste structures that persisted for centuries. Those continue to dominate politics as well as commerce and business even today.

The caste order is also an economic order apart from being a social and political order. It is a division of labour; at first depending on the qualities and the orientation of an individual and later simply on the individual’s birth. With colonization came industries and factories and modern banking and currency. Modern processes of commerce and industry gradually made the caste order difficult to sustain as an economic and commercial order. One reason being migration and another being the kind of work involved. The latter challenged the caste order as technology came to play a bigger role and it was value neutral. Hence, as people got involved in the modern commercial world their caste orientations began to erode.

1 - CopyHowever, for a majority of people who remained on the margins of the modern economic and commercial world the moneylender was more real than the bank; the caste order continued to sustain rather than the modern business or industrial order. Even as the migrants kept pouring into the modern industries the caste order within the workers continued to sit uneasily with the emerging new economic order. The labour unions tried to work towards creating a modern idea of labour. It seemed to work for a while but gradually the older value systems crept in and among the union leaders emerged the new Brahmins and Kshatriyas, the new upper caste. The business and industrialist class egged this process on because the modern and largely Marxist idea of labour was new and scary to them. It brought everybody from the owner to the last worker on an equal footing and this was a scenario that they had never been trained for. Even the cooperative movement in some parts of India succumbed to the same pressures. Thus, among the other reasons, one reason why the trade union movement faltered in the private sector was the resurgence of the caste order among the workers and the push this received from the owners.

Management became an important device to manipulate the working classes. It was process that ensured that the commerce flourished and the social and political order remained as it was. Management as manipulation of all resources that would lead to capital formation to suit’s one’s own purpose emerged in India out of this churning of and for power in the mid 1980s.

Indian corporates are thus in reality simply managing resources and thereby monopolizing capital. The danger is that since we liberalized, globalized and privatized they have learnt to manage both public resource as well as the State, the latter willingly participating since politics and politicians have always been a part of business and commerce in India. Thus, the Indian corporates are not really corporates at all just as Indian politics only appears to be politics but in reality is business.

The Indian corporate, like the Indian State, is a social and political structure resembling the Indian joint family where the culture and behaviour is intensely communal and feudal and where, regardless of the nature of the commerce or industry, the human being is almost always managed and never developed. Loyalty is the single most important factor that influences the individual’s growth. This loyalty is not about efficiency at work. It is about loyalty to select persons within the organization. Growth in this set up stays purely at the individual level. Growth does not mean access to better and more resources or capital formation so the individual can grow out of the organization. Growth is managed such that the individual never leaves the organization and any and all growth is completely dependent on the benevolence or largesse of the organization (powerful individuals in the organisation).

2_Escape of the corporate battery by Andrew Bain - CopyThis scenario is now going to be altered. Over the past two decades our education system has produced millions of formally educated men and women with no vocational skills. The Indian private sector feels scuttled now because suddenly labour is getting expensive and of a constantly deteriorating quality. This is a paradox. We have the numbers but not the quality. Thus, we have a dangerous situation. Government data shows, we are able to provide education to just about 30 percent of our population that desires education. This leads to pressures on the formal education sector funded through public money. This pressure is reflected in very poor quality of education and therefore seriously bad quality of human resource. We have private enterprise that wants people but is neither willing to pay to provide skill at their end or put money into the education sector. Even when they put money into the education sector it is not to develop the human resource but just to manipulate and exploit the masses that have the money.

In the education sector today we have two classes of reservation. One who are historically, socially, politically, educationally backward. This has happened because of caste and communal politics. These people are not necessarily without ability. They just do not have the exposure and the resources. However, they have yet to comprehend what is implied when the State provides something ‘free’. What is free or subsidized in India is decidedly of questionable quality. It also means that the subsidy is meant not to empower but to enslave and bound the receivers of such subsidy to the political and consequently the commercial class.

There is another class of reservationists too. These are variously called ‘management’ or ‘capitation’ seats. These are decidedly those who have failed to demonstrate an ability to compete but have the resources to pay their way through. The private education sector in India is tapping into this latter ‘reserved’ class of people with the money.

Be it our public or private sector education system. They are both producing low quality human resource. The corporate and private enterprise sees no value in either research or developing human resource. It is significant that neither the State nor the Corporate in India is asking for quality and both are asking for singular loyalty to select persons. Both pay lip service to quality but when it comes to paying up for it their pockets are sealed.

All that is left then is human resource management because growth requires resources and development is a huge responsibility. Indian people are not very keen on growth or development. Indian state and the so-called Indian corporate also do not seem to care much for it. While the Indian people can be excused since half the population is still illiterate and either below or close to the poverty line, there cannot be any redemption for the Indian state or the corporate.


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