Nitin Nohria, Indian-origin dean of Harvard Business School, has delivered some home truths in his JRD Tata Memorial Lecture 2010 organised by Assocham on Sunday in Mumbai.
While it was heartening to hear that more Indian case studies are now part of the business study courses, he made some pertinent observations about the past and the future.
Looking back he explained how Americans were able to stay at the top for the whole of the 20th century. He said that from Andrew Carnegie who set up the steel mills at the turn of the century to provide ballast to American infrastructure to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who created the computer revolution towards the end of the century, the Americans remained leaders in business.
He contrasted this with Japan, which became a serious rival to the Americans in the 1980s but it failed to retain its position at the top for long.
The inference he drew was a simple one: it is not enough to reach the top but you have to remain there as well as long as you can. It was a gentle and indirect reminder to Indians that they should not be carried away by India’s rising economic power in the global markets and that it is important to sustain the clout.
He said that the 21st century will be a Global Century and pointed out as to why he was not calling it the Asian Century as many have tended to do. His reason: In future no single country will be in the leadership position as America had been in the past.
He has also warned that it would not be wise to write off Japan and Europe Union. Nohria has laid out the map of the future and that is what a good academic tries to do at all times.