Beyond Punjab

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Book Review of
Beyond Punjab
-by Prakash Tandon

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Beyond Punjab
-By Prakash Tandon
Beyond Punjab is one of the three volumes – Punjabi Century (1857 to 1947), Beyond Punjab (1937 to 1960) and Return to Punjab (1961 to 1987) - authored by Prakash Tandon. These volumes collectively known as Punjabi Saga tell the story of five generations of a Punjabi family. The Saga is part autobiography, part social and business history of India during the last decade under the British, part family chronicle, and part analysis of public and private institutions in India, part history of Hindustan Lever Limited (now Hindustan Unilever Limited) and part record of Indian Manager’s career in management. It is very well-written in a clear plain style and simple language, with an eye to details. It is socio-economic history at its very best. It captures the life of five generations of Punjabi family from the time the British came to India in 1852 outside the city walls of Gujarat, till they left in 1947 and India’s socio economic picture till late 20th century. Punjabi Century gives a remarkable account of the way of life in the Punjab. In the second part, Beyond Punjab, the author describes the time he had spent with the Hindustan Lever where he became the first national Chairman outside their home companies in England, Netherlands and America. Return to Punjab tells about his association with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, the State Trading Corporation of India, Punjab National Bank and National Council of Applied Economic Research. Beyond Punjab describes the years spent by the author, Mr. Prakash Tandon, with the renowned Hindustan Lever before and after India’s independence. He eventually became the first Indian Chairman of this renowned British multinational company in India. The events, seen through the eyes of this Punjabi, describe the successful transition of Punjabi Family from old traditional way of life to modern way of living. The author played a crucial role in transforming and building many public sector institutions in India and was also the associated with the most famous management school in India – Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. The book revolves around author’s career in management and his various experiences while travelling different parts of India. It starts with the author’s return to India from Europe. At that time Indians were primarily present in Indian Civil Service with very few Indian managers in European multinational companies in India. The situation in Indian firms was not better either. The presence in these firms was based on caste or nepotism. The author returned to India after long time and was in search of job. Unilever, the great international enterprise, undertook the bold step of introducing an Indian into its management team. The author was the first person to be included in its management team. He joined Unilever as a "covenanted officer” on probation. At that time, Indians were not accepted at managerial positions and most of the employees, including both British and Indians, in the company were sceptical about his presence in the company. With the change in national and international atmosphere, it was apparent that British control over India was likely to be over, sooner than later. Realizing this, the big multinational companies like Unilever were looking for qualified and talented Indians for managerial positions to manage the companies in India. They also understood that if they have to grow in this country, then they should customize or develop products as per local needs and who else can better understand the local behaviour and needs than an Indian. He started his journey in Unilever under John Rist and his first project was to assist Mr. Thomson Walker, in market research about company’s well known household soaps, in which he learnt the essentials of market research. During initial period, he experienced various practices of racial...
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