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Hinduism in Digital-Global Power Calculus: View through Prism of Management Theories

Hinduism cannot survive from external forces unless we encircle them in their backyard. Until Rome becomes increasingly Hinduized or Saudi turns Hinduised, pressures on Indic civilization will not dissipate.

Unique to Hinduism is an uncluttered continuity in the face of frequent trials without sacrificing substantial degree of its intrinsic roots. In contrast, China, Japan among others surrendered to Westernization in many dimensions, notwithstanding certain degree of retention of religion and culture. To Hinduism, inward centric reactions, both strategic and tactical, conceivably helped retain the core, yet the persistence of the same might potentially yield diminishing returns. Political power notwithstanding, the ruling pessimism is palpable. Headwinds, not unusual for Hinduism, often both internal and external, on occasions magnified intra-power struggles.

For Prof. Subhash Sharma, inherent in every individual is a basket of needs[1] (Figure I), diverse in nature from biological to political to social to spiritual to psychological. Mahatma Gandhi‘s prayer meetings as a tool for socio-political mobilization reflected his understanding, perchance intuitive, of the basket of needs. Gratifying spiritual needs mandates accommodation of heterogeneous groups in the religious power arrangement. Each construction of the spiritual control and command spawns a hierarchy. Perpetuation of the pecking order, willingly or otherwise, results the bottom of the pyramid being marginalized in the spiritual power centers. Understandably, diminishing returns scale and agglomeration diseconomies rule the end product. Social movements from Buddhist times to the medieval Bhakti movement and beyond, to paraphrase Prof. Sharma again[2], attempt to ‘rotate the pyramid’ through a series of ‘capillary action’ forces. As self auto-correcting mechanisms innate in Hinduism as reaction to growing diseconomies, they render significant input to social restoration despite discernible limitations.

Figure I

Decoding modern alternate spiritual orders, Indic or otherwise and thus chart the probable future directions, Matt Mason’s arguments albeit in a dissimilar framework[3], might be supportive. To him, pirates or rebels occupy the space left vacant by the mainstream (Fig. II). They glide into unchartered waters, discarding orthodox assumptions engaging in radical experiments in ideas. In creating new spaces of operations they disturb the equilibrium of the establishment.

Fig II- Pirate’s Dilemma- What Pirates Occupy? (Source: Matt Mason, The Pirate’s Dilemma, Free Press, 2008)

Though arguments materialized in the backdrop of digital cultural contestations, nevertheless, the outline facilitates comprehension of the emergence of ‘rebel’ or ‘alternate’ movements in the Hindu spiritual structure besides ascendance of Abhramic forces specific to Indian milieu.

Conventional power structures caused distancing, alleged or real, of noteworthy section of the society from the spiritual power calculus.. Besides being understudied, what cannot be understated is the role of colonial scholars and later from those of Marxian/Nehruvian persuasion in aggravating the distances. Despite their role, visibly an archetypal application of what economists term the ‘Information Asymmetry’ problem, many ‘anti-establishment’ religious orders profess Indic roots. A case for example is Deras in Punjab, Haryana etc where the perceived dominance of Jats in Gurudwara Management seeded alternative spiritual movements.

Latent spiritual demand of groups outside the traditional power equations forces them to seek avenues in alternate orders. These capillary action forces do play productive roles more often than not, channelizing the spiritual vigor towards societal benefits. Yet adverse selection is not uncommon. Often, commanding considerable political following, they serve as double edged swords to the conformist political parties both at state and centre.

Alongside Indic spiritual alternate structures, subaltern spiritual spaces offer fertile platform for Abrahamic forces. Christian missionaries in pursuit of a silent conquest capture untapped openings. In the opinion of reputed scholar, Prof. Rajeev Srinivasan, the distributed nature of Hindu order enabled its survival in tough times[4]. With no centralized hub to destroy; the distributed nodes made it cost prohibitive for destruction by external religious forces. However, these very nodes are being constantly chipped at the edges. Contrary to the popular view, rather than British rule, Nehruvian India offered greater success for the Christian missionaries across states like Nagaland, Mizoram etc. Rather, merely exploiting the gaps in the ‘market space’, missionary movements pursue the time tested Ansoff’s Market Development strategy, a key concept in the management literature. With traditional domains saturated, they are in midst of penetrating new markets in Asia eg. increasing Christianization of Korea. Higher opportunity costs of spreading in Middle East, a reminder of historic Crusades, makes India outwardly lucrative low threat market with significant prospective audience. Unlike Islamic conquests, principally through sword, Christianity habitually adopts low key methods with successful indigenization of strategy. The modus operandi is underpinned on granting, on conversion, an exalted status in the religious hierarchy to the ‘underprivileged’ groups of Hinduism. Yet evidence hints a continuation of chain of command. Borrowing from economics, stated preference apart, revealed preference points out the contrary exhibiting a preference gap. Lobbying for extension of reservations to the Christian Dalits is an alibi for the incapability to make good of their assurances pre-conversion. Similarly, Islamic Love Jihad, perceptibly difficult to scale up, yet a matchstick can light a whole forest on fire making this enormously grave.

The myriad of tests make it imperative to scan options for Hindu survival. History points out to the futility of the self-protective strategy in survival against external challenges. A protracted siege might only delay the inevitable. The cost of defensiveness is the loss of quite a few territories some of strategic significance as Indic civilization coped with the invasions from without.

Adding to the complexity is the political agency problem. Substantial points of view revolve around outsourcing the battles purely to the political agencies. The ruling party is expected to resolve all issues in shortest possible time with little or no participation or involvement or effort from its voters. Indisputably, aside agency costs, political process is critical however, it is just one facet of the required response. There is little evidence that Indic ecosystem has mastered the art of legislative and judicial forum shopping, something developed into an ‘art’ by the Nehru-Islamo-Marxian ecosystem.

When globalization ostensibly navigated an apparent irreversible direction, opinion pointed to the odds of the disintegration of domestic firms as they confronted the no-holds barred one single global market. To Prof. Niraj Dawar and Prof. Tony Frost at Harvard, however, wide bouquet of choices was available to the domestic firms in the emerging markets[5]. Their options were subject to the interplay between two critical forces- pressures to globalize and the nature of the firm’s assets (Fig III).

Figure III- Dawar-Frost Model

Nature of assets Customized to home markets Dodger Defender
Transferable abroad Contender Extender
Strong Weak
 Globalization pressures

Source: Niraj Dawar and Tony Frost: Competing with the Giants (1999), Harvard Business Review

External pressures of Christianity at different points of time led to obliteration of many a pagan religion and civilizations like Incas, Aztecs, Mayans etc. Similarly Islamic conquest too annihilated many a traditional religion. The power apparatus of the traditional religions neither were able to cope with the global pressures nor reconfigure their assets to changing conditions. Further to paraphrase Prof. Anita McGahan from different context[6], both their core assets and core activities were threatened aggravated by their inability to execute a radical change requisite in the given state of affairs Shintoism in Japan, given its long isolation, perhaps flourished with good success on a ‘defender ‘strategy.

Islamic invasion starting in the early 8th century did bring out certain sense of helplessness in responding the offensive. Compulsions warranted an inward looking defensive strategy analogous to ‘Dodger’ mentioned above. The society faced serious limitations in reconfiguring the asset structure for overseas expansion. As a matter of fact, Indic responses continued to dodge the core through millennium long invasion and occupation both Islamic and British.

Talk of Bharat being a Vishwaguru etc., commands little merit until Hinduism develops into potential torch bearer of global religious power composition. Historically, Indian socio-economic- philosophical movements have engendered significant traction abroad from Swami Vivekananda (Spiritual tradition) to Mahatma Gandhi (Social action) and to contemporary spiritual movements. There exists something compelling about in India that allures people across ages to its spiritual and cultural wealth, Islamic plunders notwithstanding,. Yet, accretion to Hinduism is negligible with lack of proselytisation being made virtue of necessity. The contemporary demands Hinduism change the terms of interaction.

Given an apparent enthralling appeal to inherent assets, opportunities abound for Hinduism to be global religious contender than a niche player. Despite core activities of Hinduism coming under repeated threats, to its credit, Hinduism has not just managed to readapt but emerge triumphant. Under-utilization of its core assets is glaring.

Cultural exports, numerous shortcomings apart, defined both US and British successes positioning them as a sort of aspirational society at different points of time. France, Germany, Russia, or even China has not been able to match this success. Japan succeeded in building an export of ‘process culture’ but failed in building the bouquet of its rest of cultural offerings.

Strategic responses manifest in copious forms. Rapid expansion of defense procurement and preparedness both on external as well as internal fronts plus unhesitating usage of the same in pursuit of our interest is perhaps best exhibition of hard power. Contrary to noted writer Nirad Chaudhuri’s description of India as a militarist society, the demonstration of the same barring an exception or two has been internal. Given that military and economic power complement each other. Indian economic progress, tentative at times, is slowly gathering steam. In parallel, military and economic power has to be accompanied by soft power embedded in national ethos. ‘Yellow man’s burden’ currently being used to describe Chinese power moves are unlikely to sustain until accompanied by an entrenchment of soft order rooted in Confucian ethos. Japan was unable to transfer its cultural prowess rooted in Shinto paradigm. It goes without saying Indian moves will be incomplete until the triad of military, economic and soft power rooted in Indic foundations is synchronized towards a common objective

International Yoga Day was the first formal push towards entrenching Hindu foundational principles in the global mindset. Naturally, government patronage need not be formal. Time and again, covert support is likely to generate greater success. Many Western governments are known to give subtle and at times not so subtle pushes to Christian expansion in the hitherto unconquered territories. Similarly, many regimes of the Gulf do not lag behind, when it comes to promoting /protecting Islam.

Besides Yoga, Ayurveda/Sidda merits a strong push perhaps a positioning in the realm of preventive medicine. It might be a natural complement for modern medicine and effective line of defence in Western society increasingly engulfed by lifestyle diseases. Candle lighting to mark auspicious occasions can be pushed to be default symbol of commencement many an activity. Let us not forget, torch lighting is most important element in Olympics opening ceremony. Indian dress with its rich and colorful diversity offers itself to positioning as cultural dress (analogous to British formal and American casual/semi forma)- a dress for all festivals and other celebratory occasions. Saree might potentially challenge Western women formal wear as power dress.. Indic spirituality is potential challenger to the Church mass or Friday prayers in catering to the spiritual in the basket of needs. The opportunity is all the more tempting as the Western societies increasingly move into a cycle of what noted economist W W. Rostow describes as ‘beyond consumption’[7]. Indian music, art, textile, all has varied offerings potentially disrupting existing markets. Indian food having successfully penetrated the Western society can enhance its reputation. Sanskrit is the preferred language in computing with exciting possibilities in emergent technologies et.

Hindu cultural exports, while generating good traction, have not aimed, for reasons one too many, at bringing the rest of the world into the fold of Santana Dharma. Hinduism cannot survive from external forces unless we encircle them in their backyard. Until Rome becomes increasingly Hinduized or Saudi turns Hinduised, pressures on Indic civilization will not dissipate. Time, from a human generation point of view, might be small, yet from civilizational perspective, its plenty. It’s time we capture that. Sacrifices might be one too many but not one too less for spread of this beautiful civilization.


[1] Sharma, Subhash, Management in a New Age: Western Windows, Eastern Doors, New Age Publications, 1996, 2007, 2017

[2] Sharma, Subhash, ‘Rotating the Pyramid: Towards a New Vision of Holistic Globalization and Holistic Development, Southern Economist, May 1, 2008

[3] Matt, Mason, The Pirate’s Dilemma, Free Press, 2008

[4] Rajeev Srinivasan, ‘In Defense of Caste’, https://rajeev2007.wordpress.com/2007/05/04/in-defense-of-caste/ May 4, 2007, last accessed, July 19, 2018

[5] Niraj, Dawar and Tony Frost, “Competing with the Giants: Survival Strategies for Local Companies in Emerging Markets”, Harvard Business Review, March-April 1999

[6] Anita M McGahan, “How Industries Change”, Harvard Business Review October 2004

[7] For brief overview of Rostow’s ideas see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rostow%27s_stages_of_growth last accessed July 19,2018

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