Sumantra Ghoshal

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Sumantra Ghoshal
Born26 September 1948
Died3 March 2004 (aged 55)
Hampstead, United Kingdom
Alma materDelhi University
Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management
Harvard Business School
MIT Sloan School of Management
Scientific career

Sumantra Ghoshal (26 September 1948 – 3 March 2004) was an Indian scholar and educator. He served as a Professor of Strategic and International Management at the London Business School, and was the founding Dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.

His Managing Across Borders: The Transnational Solution, (Bartlett & Ghoshal 2002) co-authored with Christopher A. Bartlett, has been listed in the Financial Times as one of the 50 most influential management books, and has been translated into nine languages.


Born in Calcutta, Ghoshal attended the Ballygaunge Government High School, and graduated from Delhi University with Physics major and at the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management.[1]

Ghoshal started his career in industry. He worked for Indian Oil Corporation, rising through the management ranks before moving to the United States on a Fulbright Fellowship and Humphrey Fellowship[2] in 1981. Ghoshal was awarded an S.M. and a PhD from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1983 and 1985 respectively, and was also awarded a D.B.A. degree from Harvard Business School in 1986. He worked on these degrees at the same time, writing two distinct dissertations on two different topics.

In 1985, Ghoshal joined INSEAD Business School in France and wrote a stream of influential articles and books. In 1994, he joined the London Business School. Ghoshal was a Fellow of the Advanced Institute of Management Research (AIM) in the United Kingdom and a Professor of Strategic and International Management at the London Business School. He served as a member of The Committee of Overseers of the Harvard Business School.[3]

Ghoshal married Sushmita and they had two sons. He died of a brain hemorrhage on 3 March 2004.[4]


  • The Differential Network: Organizing the Multinational Corporation for Value Creation, a book he co-authored with Nitin Nohria, won the George Terry Book Award in 1997.
  • The Individualized Corporation:A Fundamentally New Approach to Management, co-authored with Christopher A. Bartlett, won the Igor Ansoff Award in 1997, and has been translated into seven languages.
  • His last book Managing Radical Change, won the Management Book of the Year award in India. He was described by The Economist as 'Euroguru'.[citation needed]
  • He ranks 40th on the list of Top 50 business intellectuals published by the Accenture consulting company in 2002.[5]


Ghoshal's early work focused on the matrix structure in multinational organizations, and the "conflict and confusion" that reporting along both geographical and functional lines created. His later work is more ambitious, and hence perhaps more important – the idea that it is necessary to halt economics from taking over management. This, he theorised, is important since firms do not play on the periphery of human life today, but have taken a central role.

Forms of the international enterprise[edit]

In collaboration with Christopher A. Bartlett, Ghoshal researched successful enterprises on international markets. They found three types of internationalization, differing in structural approach and strategic capabilities. The types were dubbed Multinational, Global and International.

Multinational Enterprise Global Enterprise International Enterprise
Strategic competency responsiveness efficiency i.e. output per unit of input transfer of learning
Structures loose federations of enterprises; national subsidiaries solve all operative tasks and some strategical. tightly centralized enterprise; national subsidiaries primarily seen as distribution centres; all strategic and many operative decisions centralized Somewhere in between multinational and global enterprises; some strategic areas centralized, some decentralized
Samples Unilever, ITT Exxon, Toyota IBM, Ericsson

Due to an ever-faster changing environment, Bartlett and Ghoshal see a further need for adaptation with a drive toward a company, that masters not one, but all three of the strategic capabilities of the named types. The ideal-type thus created, they dubbed the transnational enterprise.

Management context and individual behavior model[edit]

Also with Bartlett in 1997, Ghoshal set up a management context and individual behavior model highlighting a context shaped by stretch, trust, support, and discipline. They identified that kind of context as a cornerstone that elicits behaviours of the individual which contribute to an organisation's self-renewal, allowing the organisation to be vigorous and energetic.[6]


Ghoshal's treatment of management issues at the level of the individual led him to conclude that management theory that focuses on the economic aspects of man to the exclusion of all others is incorrect at best. According to him, "A theory that assumes that managers cannot be relied upon by shareholders can make managers less reliable."[7]

Such theory, Ghoshal warned, would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, a particularly stinging critique of the output of a majority of his colleagues in business schools that made him controversial. To his death, his fight was against the "narrow idea" that led to today's management theory being "undersocialized and one-dimensional, a parody of the human condition more appropriate to a prison or a madhouse than an institution which should be a force for good."[8]


Ghoshal published 10 books, over 70 articles, and several award-winning case studies. Books, a selection:

  • Bartlett, Christopher A., and Sumantra Ghoshal. Managing across borders: The transnational solution. Vol. 2. Harvard Business School Press, 1999.
  • Bartlett, Christopher A., and Sumantra Ghoshal. Transnational management. Vol. 4. McGraw Hill, 2000.

Articles, a selection:

  • Ghoshal, Sumantra. "Global strategy: An organizing framework." Strategic management journal 8.5 (1987): 425–440.
  • Ghoshal, Sumantra, and Christopher A. Bartlett. "The multinational corporation as an inter-organizational network." Academy of management review 15.4 (1990): 603–626.
  • Ghoshal, Sumantra, and Peter Moran. "Bad for practice: A critique of the transaction cost theory." Academy of management Review 21.1 (1996): 13–47.
  • Tsai, Wenpin, and Sumantra Ghoshal. "Social capital and value creation: The role of intrafirm networks." Academy of management Journal 41.4 (1998): 464–476.
  • Nahapiet, Janine, and Sumantra Ghoshal. "Social capital, intellectual capital, and the organizational advantage." Academy of management review 23.2 (1998): 242–266.
  • Ghoshal, Sumantra. "Bad management theories are destroying good management practices." Academy of Management Learning & Education 4.1 (2005): 75–91.
  • Rocha, Hector and Ghoshal, Sumantra. "Beyond Self-Interest Revisited." Journal of Management Studies 43(3) (2006): 585–619.

Ghoshal featured on the list of The Case Centre's all-time top authors list (covering 40 years) released in 2014.[9]


  1. ^ Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management history Archived 6 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 10 April 2009.
  2. ^ "Sumantra Ghoshal: A tribute".
  3. ^ AIB Fellow biography Accessed 7 April 2007.
  4. ^ "Sumantra Ghoshal". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  5. ^ Accenture Study Yields Top 50 ‘Business Intellectuals’ Ranking of Top Thinkers and Writers on Management Topics, Accenture news release of 22 May 2002
  6. ^ Edward J. Szewczak; Coral R. Snodgrass (2003). Managing the Human Side of Information Technology: Challenges and Solutions. Idea Group Inc (IGI). p. 206. ISBN 978-1-931777-74-2.
  7. ^ Julian M. Birkinshaw, Gita Piramal (2005) Sumantra Ghoshal on Management: A Force for Good, p. 22
  8. ^ Morgen Witzel, Malcolm Warner (2013). The Oxford Handbook of Management Theorists. p. 542
  9. ^ "40th anniversary bestselling author: Christopher Bartlett". Retrieved 18 June 2020.