29 April 2010

Forget Google, India should be more like John Lewis

There is a provocative article in New Statesman by James Purnell, making the case that India should be more like Google. The key attritube of Google is that it benefits from a perception that it lives its values. India, he argues, is not perceived by many to do this, and it should. If it did, he argues it will begin to realise that when rapid economic growth coexists with widespread infant malnutrition then values and interests are very severely dislocated. While this is an interesting analogy, I think a better one is with John Lewis, a large company in the UK.

India should be more like John Lewis. Employees of John Lewis are partners. They share profits. John Lewis’ constitution emphasizes "the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business". Employees report that although they belong to the business, the business belongs to them too. There is nothing magical about a country where nearly half its infants suffer brain damage due to malnutrition. India should be focused on the happiness of all its citizens and it should make them feel that India belongs to them by empowering its civil society to hold the state to greater account via social audits, community scorecards and participatory accounting.

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