Research Trends Discussed at India and South Asia Conference

Harvard Business School recently brought together scholars to discuss the business history and current research trends in India and South Asia.
by Dina Gerdeman

Scholars from around the world discussed the history and current business trends in India and Southeast Asia at Harvard Business School.

The Business History of India and South Asia: Recent Trends in Research conference covered topics including India and the great divergence, international networks and institutions, and the post 1990s economy.

Also covered was family business, a key to understanding the evolution of the Indian economy—like that in many emerging markets. Papers were presented on Bajaj group, the Tata family, and the Haribhakti banking family-firm.

This historical perspective is important, attendees said, because after all, a glimpse at India’s past can provide a way of understanding where business is heading in the future.

Social scientists in a business school are always looking for intelligent ways to interpret data, and history provides a productive way to frame the business community, said Tarun Khanna, who is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at HBS and is also Harvard's Director of the South Asia Institute.

"History is an integrated narrative device that allows you to bring together other disciplines," he said in his concluding remarks at the conference. "(It provides) ways of building bridges. A lot of the things historians are discussing, to me as a non-historian, are all intensely interesting and easy to relate to."

“History matters. It matters to the future,” said Geoffrey G. Jones, the Isidor Straus Professor of Business History and Faculty Chair of the Business History Initiative.

For a detailed summary of the conference, read The Business History of India and South Asia: Recent Trends in Research, written by organizers Jones and Walter A. Friedman, director of the Business History Initiative.

The conference is tied to the Business History Initiative's Creating Emerging Markets project, in which business leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America discuss their experiences growing businesses amid the opportunities and uncertainties of developing markets throughout recent decades.

About the Author

Dina Gerdeman is a senior writer for Harvard Business School Working Knowledge

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