Aug 16, 2004

Pramath Sinha's Tribute to Sumantra Ghoshal

Businessworld has a touching article by Pramath Sinha (ex-Dean, ISB, and Principal Consultant McKinsey & Co.) where he touches about the late management guru's persona and principles:

You believed passionately that business be seen as a force of good (and not
with suspicion as it has been traditionally viewed around the world and in
India). You wrote: "This is a belief that business and, by implication, both
entrepreneurs and managers, are the key engines of both economic and social
progress. It is business that creates and distributes most of an economy's
wealth, that innovates, trades and raises the living standards of people. So
business is and must be a force of good..."You stressed a commitment to
pluralism: "Commitment to pluralism is more than either an international
orientation or a sensitivity to diversity. It is an acknowledgement that an
organisation as well as a society becomes a better place when diverse moral,
intellectual and ideological beliefs can flourish..."Above all, you believed in
the individual: "Recognition that the need for collective action and social
harmony does not in any way contradict the role of the individual and the power
of the human will in bringing about economic, social and cultural change. A
respect for and belief in the individual as the primary vehicle for initiative
and action-taking, and the accompanying need for individuals to develop the
courage to both act and take the consequences of such action, will be a core
value that ISB will aspire to inculcate."

But it was easy to love you. You were big-hearted. You made us all feel
very special. People you have taught even briefly tell me their lives changed
after attending your classes. You were a man of principle. I remember they hated
you for not budging from your demand of high fees for your teaching at ISB, a
school you helped found. But you stuck to your guns - it was a matter of
principle. When they did give in, you donated it all and more to a scholarship
for high-performing students. You were the champion of the individual. Every
time you visited you left us - workers, students, administrators, faculty -
feeling that ISB would not have been built had it not been for our individual
contributions. You were always positive - don't complain, do something about it
or shut up.

Read more about Sumantra here. The Economist's tribute to him here (paid subscription only)