This blog was written by Nirved Kumar, PhD candidate, Innovation & Management in Education, Indian Institute of Management. For the 2023 UKFIET conference, 32 individuals, including Nirved, were provided with bursaries to assist them to participate and present at the conference. The researchers were asked to write a short piece about their research or experience.

British rule in India through colonial practices has contributed to intellectual imperialism. In education, intellectual colonisation has caused epistemic and cognitive injustice by rejecting the marginalised and indigenous and weakening other forms of knowledge. By presenting Western knowledge as universal, it reproduces and creates unequal power relations, leading to the continued dominance of the global north over the global south. Decolonisation is a way to reduce the prominence of Eurocentric and American hegemony in the geopolitics of knowledge.

India is a colonised country, where management education is heavily influenced by USA-centric and East-India companies’ management practices. Jammulamadaka (2017) historically documents the scholarly work on the evolution of management practices driven by colonial rule, like Taylorian specialists, which deemed Indian shop floor and labour management unpleasant, sluggish, and inefficient. This illegitimisation of practice wasn’t limited to the workplace; financial and associational patterns were affected, too. After 1860, the British enacted the Societies Act, the Trust Act, the Companies Act, the Trade Union Act, and the Industrial Disputes Act, to name a few, making many Indian business and management practices unlawful. For instance, gambling, betting, and playing with dice and cards were made illegal during the colonial regime. To curb the competition created by Marwari’s in the fictitious markets, rain gambling and hedging was termed illegal by enacting the Indian Contract Act 1872, which made such contract null and void (Birla,2009).

The growth of management education in India has been driven by the setting up of the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs). The first two IIMs, in Calcutta and Ahmedabad, were mentored by the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management, MIT, and Harvard Business School, respectively (Thakur, 2017). The planning commission had hired “George W. Robbins, the then Associate Dean of the School of Business Administration, University of California, Los Angeles,” to help envision and design management education in India (Thakur, 2017, p. 185). In the management practices of the USA, slavery, and racism are significantly rooted (Cooke, 2003), which becomes evident when, for corruption, the immediate use of the word is black money, not illegal money.

The long-term impact of colonialism in India has fostered the modernist and capitalist view, which delegitimises Indian business practices and theories in business and management disciplines. For instance, in international relations and strategy, the scholarly work of Vernon (1971), Ghoshal and Bartlett (1990), andPenrose (2009) is predominantly studied. Still, Kautilya’s Arthasastra or Chanakya Niti (strategy) has strong relevance for liaising in businesses internationally in contemporary times (Ojha & Venkateswaran, 2022), which does not find space in mainstream management literature of India. Likewise, in studying forms of organisation, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability partnerships are seen as legitimate forms of organisation, but family-owned businesses, informal and unorganised sectors. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are also doing business (D’Cruz et al., 2022; Jammulamadaka, 2017) which does not get highlighted. Similar are the arguments for resource-based perspective, bureaucracy, agency theory, performance management, and legitimate forms of business and managerial practices.

Such practices have led the powerful nations to promote mimicry and standardisation of educational and managerial procedures in India through colonising the curriculum, standardising education, demeaning and othering localised knowledge, the dominance of foreign language, and westernisation as a form of internationalisation and mimicry of the West. It resulted in silencing Indian ways of knowledge production and local management practices.

Decolonisation as a process requires the change agents to emerge as questioners, thinkers, innovators, writers, and communicators to critique modernity and deconstruct the dominant narrative. Hence, India can bring indigenous knowledge and practices to the forefront by practicing pluriversity (Mbembe, 2016), hybridity (Bhabha, 1994) and embracing the ecology of knowledge (Santos, 2014) through

  1. an active role of academicians in critiquing this curriculum,
  2. changing curriculum and pedagogy,
  3. theorising in a non-neutral way, and
  4. encouraging potential sites of bringing indigenous knowledge.

It is challenging for marginalised nations, institutions, and individuals to engage in decolonial practices when the neoliberal paradigm and neocolonial education are prevalent globally. Political complexities, resistance to legitimising indigenous knowledge, and gatekeeping through a modernist worldview make the decolonisation of management curricula truly challenging. The reflexivity and intellectual positioning of scholars engaging in decolonial practices are critical as decolonisation is a process that will always be historically, geographically, and politically situated.