India can leverage the heritage it has for global business.

The purpose of EABIS (European Academy of Business in Society), which has over 140 members and is an association of over 80 business schools worldwide, is to improve education and research on purposeful business in society. And the number of members is growing.

Through a series of conferences, we've tried to further discussion on wisdom and virtue through traditions (Christian, Chinese, Jewish and Islamic; and now Indian, at IIM K). The purpose is to find, through exploration of traditions, new ways to frame the global economy. What is the moral framing of the global economy — one that is principle-based rather than profit-based? And what are the virtues of various actors in that new framework?

I have been very surprised at the response we have received across the world. The project has come about because of its own impetus. We have requests from a number of companies, and several large corporations have become members — including IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Shell and Unilever. All of a sudden, we found that several publication houses were fighting for rights to our research content. The off-take for the concept has been higher of late. The truth is, capitalism is in a crisis. There have been developments impacting the global economy. The emergence of India and China is another factor. The new geo-political reality makes everything interdependent and a lot of things unstable. How do you make things more stable? There is focus on research as we look for more rooted answers to the future. Also, there is a need to evolve human consciousness from a limited to a global perspective.

Recruitment to leadership

The subject of corporate consciousness is critical not just at the recruitment stage of managers, but also in leadership development. We work with B-schools to engage in executive education and in their regular courses, to bring in this perspective and further research in the domain. The mandate is the development of managers with global consciousness who can ensure growth and stability. Corporate consciousness can draw from the spiritual capital of its people.

I used to work with the Tatas 15 to 20 years ago in Bangalore. I was greatly impressed by the multitude of traditions and strength of spirituality here, across faiths. These can have a bearing on how the economy and the corporate culture here develop. In comparison to China which has no moral framework thanks to the eradication of spiritual traditions, India has a distinct advantage. Everything was directed towards killing of religious traditions in China, and now I understand the government is desperate to re-invent Confucianism.

India can leverage the heritage it has for global business. Yes, there are controversial identity politics, but that has to be overcome.

(Gilbert Lenssen is President, EABIS. As told to The New Manager.)

(This article was published on January 15, 2012)
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