Workshop on‘Indian Ethos in Management’, at the Vivekananada International Foundation (VIF), 18-19 Sep 2019
Welcome Remarks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF

Sh S Gurumurthyji, Dr P Kanagasabapathi, Dr Rahul Varma, President SREI Foundation, Dr Shashi Prabha Kumar, Ms Gunjan Pradhan Sinha, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to today’s workshop on ‘Indian Ethos in Management’.

Sh Gurumurthyji, in his introduction to the VIF’s Annual Report 2018-19 notes that VIF is “an endeavour to initiate a paradigm shift in the national and global discourse on global strategic and geopolitical thinking”. The VIF has been making efforts to look at modern developments from an Indian perspective. We are a civilisational state. Our long heritage and old traditions provide us ample ideas and benchmarks to interpret modernity and deal with its challenges. Indians have been travelling the world for millennia as merchants, traders and pilgrims. Modernization is inevitable and cannot be wished away. Nor should it be. At the same time the winds of change can be so strong as to sweep one off one’s feet. Culture and traditions help one to remain rooted to the ground even when the whole world around on is changing so fast.

The introduction of new technologies has changed the way business is being done today. Modern business management practices are rooted in cut-throat competition, primacy of ends of over means, profit and maximization of the wealth of shareholders at any cost. They understate the issue of ethics, morality and spirituality. In today’s ethos, success is measured by the money one makes. Unfortunately, those without money are looked down upon as outcasts.

The speed of doing business has increased manifold. This has created its own problems. There is no time to reflect before momentous business decisions are taken. Algorithms instead of humans take decisions on making investments in stock exchanges. International business is being done increasingly through the vast and complex supply chains spread all over the world. Interruptions in one segment of the supply chain can cause worldwide disruptions instantly. The question of sustainable business practices, which do not harm the environment and the climate, has also become paramount. The rise of super rich companies, whose turnovers and profits exceed the GDP of many countries is a relatively new phenomenon, that distorts the global economy.

The way we do business is also impacting social structures. Incessant cut-throat competition has an adverse impact on one’s physical and mental health. Work-life balance has been adversely impacted. Modern business is often seen inseparable from greed and corruption. New technologies are raising apprehension of jobless growth, causing all round anxieties.

As a result of these changes, individual, family, social relations are in a flux. While enormous wealth has been generated, inequality in the world has also increased. Philanthropy is being discounted. The lack of fair and just wealth distribution, welfare mechanisms, nuclear families, cause many problems. The rising cost of health, education, and housing detract people from saving. Providing for old age is a huge challenge. The habit of saving itself is diminishing while consumption is over emphasised. Due to the lack of safe, secure and sustainable channels of savings, people are increasingly taking to speculative investment. This increases volatility in one’s personal life.

Not that these negative trends were not there earlier. Yet, thanks to adherence to ‘Dharma’, certain code of conduct, and recourse to spirituality, people were able to deal with uncertainties in a better way. Indian way of doing business emphasised ethics in wealth generation. Wealth was seen as being held in trust. Responsibility to future generations, to the environment and to society was accepted and fulfilled. A portion of wealth had to be spent on dana and philanthropy. Frugal living, even for the rich was appreciated. Detachment from wealth was prized. Lobha or greed was frowned upon. The purity of means of wealth creation was considered sacrosanct. This values need to be restored in the modern business practice.

Friends, the workshop on ‘Indian Ethos in Management’ is being organised to explore whether the traditional system of doing business in India, which placed emphasis on Dharma and the sanctity of the means to generate wealth and its use has any relevance in the contemporary world of business. There is urgent need for bringing harmony between material needs and spiritual objectives.

In the conceptualization of the workshop, the initiative of Dr Gunjan Pradhan Sinha, who has been teaching philosophy at Delhi University for several years is greatly appreciated. We have also benefited from the guidance of Sh S Gurumurthy, Prof P Kanagsabapathy, and Dr Shashi Prabha Kumar. We are grateful to Sh S Gurumurthyji for agreeing to deliver the inaugural address on ‘Relevance, Context on Indian Ethos in Management and Business’. Dr Rahul Varma, President SREI Foundation for delivering a keynote address on Spirituality, humanity and business management.

I hope that the workshop will be found useful. Thank you.

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