Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

An Inquiry into the Characteristics of Entrepreneurship in India

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

An Inquiry into the Characteristics of Entrepreneurship in India

Article excerpt


A recent hit Hindi film, "Chak De India," about a disgraced soccer star who returns to coach a diverse group of Indian women, and inspires them to win the World Cup, captures the pulse of a new India. The term "Chak De," which means "to pick up something that is down," is rural Punjabi slang used to encourage somebody to rise from adversity--it is a term that applies to the New India. This new India, like the coach in the film, has many inspiring figures--ones that have worked hard to achieve global success. There have been several architects of this new India--with five larger-than-life entrepreneurial leaders that are particularly notable.

Narayana Murthy is the famous entrepreneur icon who shaped India's IT boom. He was one of six founders who started Infosys with a $1000 investment, and turned it into a world-class company valued at $13 billion. He leads an unpretentious lifestyle in his modest residence.

Ratan Tata is the Chairman of the Tata Group, which was founded in 1859. Tata started. As head of the group since 1991, he has expanded the global reach of his family's business, with its revenues growing over sixfold to $25 billion. He is currently leading the charge to launch a car that will only cost $2500.

Lakshminiwas Mittal heads Mittal Steel, that his father Mohan started. Mittal has grown the family business's steel making facilities to fourteen countries, employing more than 150,000 people, and controlling 10% of world's steel production. Currently, the world's fifth wealthiest person, valued at $40+ billion, his daughter Vanisha's wedding in 2004 was the world's most expensive, at $55-million.

Azim Premji heads Wipro Technologies, and has transformed his father's fledgling vegetable oil business into one of the largest software companies in India. Forbes listed Premji as the richest person in India from 1999 to 2005, and his current wealth is $15 billion. He is a champion of universal primary education in India.

Mukesh Ambani heads Reliance Industries, which was founded by his visionary father Dhiru Bhai Ambani. Mukesh Ambani is now India's wealthiest person, valued at $50 billion. In 1981, he initiated Reliance's backward integration from textiles into polyester fibers and then into petrochemicals, creating 60 new, world-class manufacturing facilities and India's largest private sector firm. He then set up Reliance Telecomm--the world's largest and most complex information and communications technology venture. With the world's largest retail initiative, he is now "planning to remake India from its farms to its stores to its biggest cities."

In 1987, India had 1 billionaire entrepreneur, in 2007, Forbes counted 36, vs. Japan's 24. India's top entrepreneurs have taken their family businesses and startup businesses to global heights, and joined the elite company of the wealthiest and most influential in the world--but they are not solely focused on their own success. Instead, these entrepreneurs work on bringing happiness and power to the grassroots level, with innovative business models. These models range from making all employees, including clerks, into millionaires by offering equity participation, to financing development initiatives in the rural areas, to developing world's cheapest cars, and to providing high quality products at street prices to the masses.

Though India's top entrepreneurs get the most ink in the international media, an even bigger story is quietly unfolding in the nooks and crannies of India. This bigger story is about grassroots and women entrepreneurs. It is a story that needs to be told, as it holds the potential to fundamentally transform the lives of the billions in this world.


Over the past fifty years, we have seen the emergence of three major entrepreneurial paradigms in Asia--Japanese, Chinese and Indian. …

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