Business as Usual

 “Business history gave me the opportunity to look at the experiences of individuals. Individuals who built organizations; individuals who built companies, individuals who responded to situations and responded to change. Then I began to have some kind of understanding of what Indian society is like. What are the forces in the Indian society that egg people on to certain things” said Prof Dwijendra Tripathi, Kasturbhai Lalbhai professor of Business History at IIM Ahmedabad, and the founder of the discipline in India.

Like any historian, he believed that studying the past led to a better understanding of the present. Today, India wants to ‘Make in India’. It wants every graduate and school dropout to be an entrepreneur, a job creator rather than a job seeker. There cannot be a time when it is more critical to study Indian business history.

India was fortunate to have a pioneer like Prof Tripathi who laid the foundations of this discipline way back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But even today there are few Indian Business Schools which teach the subject. I wonder if there are any pure history departments which teach it at all!!!

His passing away on Sept 5 this year has led to a flurry of articles and pieces (including this one). Maybe it will also lead to serious debates on the place of the study of Business History for the development of Indian Business.

Some things change, some don’t! It is up to us to learn from the past to plan for the future.

‘Another disincentive to movement was a network of customs barriers. According to Moreland, these barriers–chowkies, as they were called-existed in 1600 and later. Most likely, they existed even earlier. As a result, the cost of transportation over a distance of 200 or 300 miles doubled the price of the commodity. The harassing and corrupt practices of the customs authorities added to the trials and tribulations of the situation’.

Indian Entrepreneurship in Historical Perspective: A Re-Interpretation Author(s): Dwijendra Tripathi Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 6, No. 22 (May 29, 1971)


For me, Prof Tripathi was a gentle presence on the IIM-A campus, a ready smile for anyone he met.

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