BOOKS: A Practical Sage - Nick Reilly hails this paean to an Indian-born champion of greater British competitiveness

BOOKS: A Practical Sage - Nick Reilly hails this paean to an Indian-born champion of greater British competitiveness - Kumar Bhattacharyya: The Unsung Guru, By Andrew Lorenz, Random House Business Books pounds 20.00

by NICK REILLY, chairman of Vauxhall Motors and vice-president ofGeneral Motors
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Kumar Bhattacharyya: The Unsung Guru, By Andrew Lorenz, Random House Business Books pounds 20.00

It is refreshing in a time of media cynicism to find a book about success against the odds. Kumar Bhattacharyya chose a difficult background for his life's work, and won: he works in manufacturing and engineering, sectors that have been in decline in his primary market throughout his career; he created a partnership in the UK between government, industry and academia, succeeding where many have failed; he took on the established universities in the field of management education; and he created an enduring business at Warwick University at a time when other universities were struggling.

Although this book is the record of the achievements of a man of our time, it has several layers: the political machinations behind the major industry stories of the past 30 years; a view of the UK's productivity problems seen from an external perspective; an analysis of different management education theories; and a blueprint for co-operation between industry and academia. Not surprisingly, the book's claims and opinions are sometimes provocative.

Bhattacharyya was born in India, where engineering was revered, and came to the UK, where it was not. He was driven by his personal philosophy, which valued innovation, intellectual rigour, and teaching that is relevant and practical.

I found that I was in complete agreement with Bhattacharyya's views on what is needed to improve UK competitiveness. He has himself contributed to this, most notably by founding Warwick Manufacturing Group.

The book traces its successful growth, showing that although there were difficulties, there was also luck: Bhattacharyya found a university vice chancellor, Butterworth, who enthusiastically supported his idea. Today, WMG is a respected provider of engineering management education worldwide.

Bhattacharyya is also shown to have had tremendous influence at national government level, in particular as an adviser to Thatcher and Blair.

Andrew Lorenz has good knowledge of his subject matter, and his easy style has produced a captivating book. We should be grateful to him for singing the praises of this unsung guru. More widespread acclaim, as is normal in other countries, would encourage others to follow, thereby accelerating our nation's pace of improvement.

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