Book Review: Saluting India's unorganized enterprises

India Uninc. By R. Vaidyanathan; Westland Books; Rs 395

The late and great C K Prahlad, first woke up the business world to the Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. In the years gone by  his prescient message has got somewhat blunted.

Now Prof Vaidyanathan of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, in his book, just out, serves up a sharp jog to memory, a wakeup call for enterprise honchos and industry organizations, who too often are so blinded by the achievements of the corporate sector, that they miss the larger opportunity that presents itself -- the unincorporated other India of mom-and-pop stores, small manufacturers, single proprietor or partnership firms.... whose sheer staggering numbers make up for over 45% of the nation's gross domestic product.

Granted the government recognized this unorganised -- even disorganized -- sector by expanding the ambit of SMEs -- small and medium enterprises -- by tagging on an even smaller sector of Micro enterprises to create a uniquely Indian MSME entity. But much of this is only on paper -- and as Prof. Vaidyanathan forcefully suggests, Incorporated India ignores both opportunity and challenge of UnInc India at its peril.

There is wealth of information here -- I would say too much info sometimes: the data heavy charts while establishing the author's premise, tend to be an obstacle to a free flowing read. That may be a minor quibble, as the author covers the key sectors where unincorporated India operates -- financial markets, non banking financial institutions , retail trade, non governmental and voluntary organizations... In what I can only characterize as a cheeky and provocatively accurate classification, Vaidyanathan also throws light on two bloated and unorganized industries -- Bollywood and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), who are happy to cloak their growth and affluence in a cloak of carefully cultivated unprofessionalism.

"IndiaUNINC." is not easy reading -- but necessary reading for those whose job it is to create value and opportunity for the 1.2 billion in this country, many of whom if asked to vote will say 'nay' to the big and beautiful companies and 'aye' to the corner kirana shop or repairwalla or pawn shop, without a second's hesitation.

A sobering, damning indictment if ever there was one. And one that Prof Vaidyanathan  endorses with clinical, merciless detail.

-- Anand Parthasarathy

The publishers have provided a link where the book is currently available at a 22 % discount: