Back to the Future

Back to the Future

The inside story of the journey from liberalization to the present day at India’s top business groups.

  • min read


Back to the Future

This article originally appeared on Livemint.

The list of top business groups in India has undergone a significant change since the early days of economic liberalization. If one looks at the list of the top 15 business groups in the country since 1970, only five groups have stayed in the list through the 25 years between 1990 and 2015, compared with eight groups that stayed in the list through the 20-year period between 1970 and 1990.

This outcome is not surprising. Although economic liberalization has given rise to many opportunities, it has also come with heightened volatility in the external environment (new policy regimes, greater competition from both Indian and multinational companies, demographic and consumption shifts and so on). Top business groups have differed in their ability to seize opportunities, cope with volatility, or both.

This, then, is the external story: the narrative that played out in the marketplace, in the form of earnings, returns to shareholders, market share shifts and profitable growth. This is the story that is easiest to track, and it is what most people follow.

A second, parallel story played out inside the groups. This second story was much less visible and told of building the business, expanding and retaining a quality workforce, strengthening the culture, upgrading the systems, learning from experience, adapting the business model, holding down costs and mobilizing the people to carry it all out perfectly again and again. This story is one of causes: How groups, both young and mature, overcame the predictable crises of growth and established internal conditions for external success.

At Bain & Company, we have been studying the key internal factors of sustainable growth for companies. We have observed that despite their many differences, most companies that achieve sustainable growth share a common set of motivating attitudes and behaviours that often can be traced back to a bold, ambitious founder. Such companies consider themselves insurgents, waging war on their industry on behalf of an underserved customer.

Read the full article at Livemint.

Nikhil Prasad Ojha is a partner with Bain & Company and leads Bain’s strategy practice in India. He is the co-editor of the Mint-Bain series on “25 Years of Reforms”. Dunigan O’Keeffe is a partner with the firm and leads the firm’s strategy practice in Asia-Pacific. Founder’s Mentality® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company.


Ready to talk?

We work with ambitious leaders who want to define the future, not hide from it. Together, we achieve extraordinary outcomes.