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Indian Business History: Fallacies of Interpretation

Dr. Dwijendra Tripathi


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Date: 09th October, 2007

Venue: Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai

Timing: 6.00 pm


About the Speaker

After completing his PhD on "Comparative Economic History - India & U.S." from the University of Wisconsin in 1963, Professor Dwijendra Tripathi joined the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) as Assistant Professor. In 1965, he completed a Diploma in International Teachers' Programme with specialization in Business Administration History from Harvard University and in 1969 he became a Professor, holding the Kasturbhai Lalbhai Chair at IIM-A, the post which he held till his retirement in 1990. Some of the papers he taught at IIM-A were: Indian Economic and Business History, Indian Entrepreneurship in Historical Perspective, International Business History and International Relations.


During his tenure, in 1982 he started the IIMA Seminar Series in Business History as a part of the efforts to promote historical enquiries in Indian business. Four seminars held in this series won national and international acclaim.


His efforts in the field of Business History led to the passing of a resolution in the 58th Session of Indian Historical Records Commission (Resolution VI) that recognised the need to identify and list Business Houses that may be willing to make their records available for research and/or that require help in cataloguing and preserving their holdings for easy accessibility, particularly to researchers.


Professor Tripathi has a large number of books, monographs and papers published in national and international journals, to his credit. He is the founder editor of The Journal of Entrepreneurship. His book The Oxford History of Indian Business was awarded the best book prize for the year 2004 by the Delhi Management Association.


In 1993, Professor Tripathi was instrumental in launching a new programme "Succession Planning for Entrepreneurial Continuity (SPEC)" at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI), Ahmedabad for training younger members of business families for entrepreneurial endeavours. The Economic Times termed it as a `trail blazing' initiative.


Synopsis of the talk

As business history as a field of enquiry in India is of recent origin, practically all major generalizations about the Indian business behaviour and business systems are more in the nature of impressionistic judgements than conclusions informed by empirical data. Some of the examples of such assertions are the following:


i) That peddling and not large scale business establishments was the distinctive feature of the Indian business on the eve of the European commercial penetration in India.
ii) That India's religious and cultural values and traditional social organization were responsible for arresting business developments in the pre-modern times.
iii) The development of Indian business has been the handiwork of a group of 'business communities' rather than that of a business class.
iv) The slow progress of business during the British regime was entirely due to colonial exploitation.


The lecture attempts to debunk these myths and pleads for encouraging the development of business archives, so necessary for promoting systematic research in Indian business history.


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