Author: Dr. Madhulika Sahoo
It was an immense pleasure to be part of Indian Anthropological Congress 2019, formally known as Indian National Confederation and Academy of Anthropologists (INCAA) conference held in Sabitribaiphule Pune University. The theme of the conference was ‘Anthropology for developing India pathways to policy planning and implementation’ organized by the Department of Anthropology, SPU in collaboration with Anthropological Survey of India, Royal Anthropological, Indian Council for Social Science Research and Indra Gandhi Manav Sanghralaya.
About 200 Anthropologists, eminent social scientists and research scholar from all over the country participated in the Indian National Confederation and Academy of Anthropologists (INCAA) conference. Padmabhushan Prof. Vijay Bhatkar, Chancellor, Nalanda University graced the inaugural session as Chief Guest. His inaugural address was a topic of discussion. Padmabhusan Prof. Vijay Bhatkar emphasized on the need for anthropology in technology. He mentioned that ‘in this world of technology it is important to bring more liberal university and anthropology has to be included in the curriculum of the technical institute as more study is needed on exact humanities, digital humanity etc.’.
There were many technical sessions in the conference such as the medical anthropology, developmental anthropology, urban anthropology, business anthropology, and many more important topics were addressed. One of the sessions that interested me most was Business Anthropology. There were papers related to consumer behavior among the IT sector, Indians studying German users: a reversal of gaze, or is it really? and the importance of social anthropology in business studies.
Being an anthropologist myself, let me throw some light on the Business anthropology in the first place. Business anthropology has emerged lately as a professional subfield that joins together several streams of literature related to multiple dimensions of the business enterprise. From understanding the cultural background to building tribes, this could have a massive impact on the business world of today, but we hear surprisingly little about its applications in the boardroom. Nonetheless, today’s business involves materials, skills, and resources from more than one country and social system. They also reflect more than one organizational culture. So ignorance of cultural differences is not just unfortunate, it turns to be bad business.
There are many documented cases in which big business organizations have faced loss due to their failure to grasp different cultural environments (Ricks, 1983). New business thinking demands a deep concern with the culture. Furthermore, new business thinking emphasizes cultural awareness and intercultural skills. Anthropologists can be helpful in two ways in this regard. First, they can directly help (as part of the management team) the business organizations in their international and intercultural dealings. Second, they can contribute significantly to business studies and training programmes designed for business operators.
The business organizations are moving to a new and fluid phase. They must be able to anticipate situations. They could also contribute to fostering new balances between local identities and global affairs, autonomy and interdependence, cultures and markets, and be able to cash the available opportunities. According to some recent studies (Gonzalez, 1995; Costa & Bamossy, 1995; Baba, 1986) anthropologists help to solve a wide variety of contemporary business problems Companies having workers with different educational, ethnic and cultural backgrounds face serious difficulties in creating a coherent organizational culture (Schultz, 1995).
Anthropologists have been hired to investigate sources of trouble (Mars, 1994) and to suggest remedies. The benefits and the value of business anthropology are so immense that global companies are using the services of anthropologists. Some of the companies that are actively using anthropology to design new products are IBM, Motorola, Nokia, Microsoft, Intel, Volkswagen, TESCO, Toyota, etc. Business anthropology studies show how customers use a product and what they do with it, and why customers do not use certain products.
If one looks at the contemporary Indian academics anthropology has been a demanding subject in technical institutes like IIMs and IITs particularly in liberal arts. Many IIMs are now offering social and cultural anthropology in studying organizational behavior and human resource management. Recently, VIT-AP School of Business has also included Social Anthropology in their business studies curriculum. The objective is to bring a strong foundation through liberal arts education to the management students. This will indeed bring consciousness in students to take up any challenge in life. Looking at the demand for the humanities in management studies. There are more liberal universities and institutes are opening in India with a vision to bring humanities and management together as it complements each other. Gurcharan Das, Author and Former CEO, P&G India said: "Management colleges should devote one-fourth of their curriculum to liberal arts“. So as Saibal Chattopadhyay, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta "Humanities must be combined with management education for holistic learning".