Book review: The Oxford India Anthology of Business History

This is a terrific collection of essays on Indian business history. It is edited by Prof. Medha Kudaisya of NUS.

This unique collection presents first-hand accounts by business people, trading organizations, merchants, and travellers, showcasing the remarkable dynamism and entrepreneurship of Indian business. In addition, scholarly writings draw attention to the multiplicity of forms, ethnic and regional affiliations, cultural practices, strategies, and types of organization in Indian business. Highlighting critical themes, personalities, events, and processes, this comprehensive anthology for the first time engages with debates that are central to Indian business history and points to the new directions in which Indian business is headed.

What are the big success stories of business in India? How did India make the transition from post-Independence regulation to liberalization and free enterprise? What socio-cultural and politico-economic forces constrained or propelled the rise of Indian business? How can the roots of modern business practices be traced to mercantile organizations and the bazaar? This anthology provides a fascinating account of the making of India Inc. and the leading role played by it in India’s social and economic transformation.

Economic history becomes really interesting when you throw firms and individuals in the discussion as well. This is where such books help as they help figure the developments in economy along with those in business firms as well. And business history has its own things on human behavior, personalities, society and so on.

The essays on business firms like Tatas, Birlas along with communities like Marwaris, Chettiars and so on make for an exciting reading. There are also essays on how businesses transformed post 1991 reforms.

Superb stuff.

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