Dr. Prashant Mishra

Dr. Prashant Mishra, is a Dean -New Initiative and External Relations and Professor of Marketing, IIM Calcutta.

I came to the City of Kolkata in 2004 upon being appointed as a faculty member at IIM Calcutta. I must confess, upon getting the appointment I had a mixed feeling. The joy of being appointed in one of India’s finest institution at the same time apprehension about the city which at that time has earned a not so positive reputation of being a decaying metropolis. Many of my friends and colleagues who had roots in this state cautioned me about things they thought I may not feel great about. Nonetheless, having some personal familial bond with the city, I decided to relocate from Mumbai to Kolkata and Joined IIM Calcutta. Beside my social interactions with friends and family, in last 17 years of my tryst with this city and state has given me opportunity to engage with wide sections of society, especially the business community, entrepreneurs, persons involved in trade, and also professionals working in several public and private institutions as well as independent ones.

One thing which has really intrigued me is the question that how come a state, which boasted of a rich history of business and trade in India, a state where well established business houses, as many of them are known today, first took root and blossomed, does not have best reputation for doing business, conducive industrial climate and also a seemingly hostile work culture? In my numerous interactions with many of the successful professionals who have roots in West Bengal but are working outside the state for career opportunities, one common theme has been the steady decline of the industrial climate, hostile work culture and lack of supportive infrastructure and enabling government policies. The common lament was that a prolonged statis on these issues has made it extremely difficult for any enterprising and ambitious person to look for opportunities in this state.

This is indeed a very sad commentary for a state which at one point of time was one of the most vibrant trade and commercecentres in India. Be it jute and tea industries, a port which was central to the trade with China for the British, and the birthplace of severalsuccessful business houses (which included Marwaris, Punjabis, British, Chinese, and the Bengalis) in the country.

A look at Bengal’s business history indicates that rooted in the SWADESHI principles several Bengali entrepreneurs lived up to the challenge of establishing indigenous industry. In early 1900s Bengal witnessed a kind of Entrepreneurial Nationalism which led to emergence of several companies including Calcutta Chemical Company, Duck Back Waterproof (earlier Bengal Waterproof Ltd.,)etc.

Looking at where West Bengal stands today, one can only conclude that something has gone wrong along the way. Even post liberalisation since 1991, many of India’s laggard states have made concerted efforts to give impetus to developmental agenda in order to create employment, wealth, and prosperity for all. The state of West Bengal it seems lagged in this period too. While the state is blessed with abundance of human resources as well as significant natural resources as well, what seems to be the missing link has been the forward-looking development-oriented governance agenda which is focused around aspirations of the millions of citizens of West Bengal .
To quote India’s revered ancient teacher, philosopher, and economist Chanakya (Kautilya)

“सुखस्यमूलंधर्मः,

धर्मस्यमूलंअर्थः,

अर्थस्यमूलंराज्यम्”

“The basis of happiness is righteousness,
The basis of righteousness is wealth,
The basis of wealth creation is the state”

A simpler translation of these sutras means that effective administration, rational policies and a just government is key to creating a wealthy and dharmic (which includes fair, just and egalitarian) society.

What the state of West Bengal needs today and going forward a people centric governance agenda which is driven by a forward looking, development-oriented vision, catering to the needs and aspirations of the citizens of the state. The spirit of Entrepreneurial nationalism led by eminent sons of the soil, which was so central to the rise of home-grown businesses in early 1900s in the state has remained supressed or dormant for too long. The yearning for a new dawn of growth, development, employment, a better life for the citizens of West Bengal needs the change it deserves.

Share on social media