India -- A Market Analysis

For Staples Incorporated


Dayna McKnight

Pamela Stokes

Joel Vilmenay



University of Maryland University College

February 2, 2003





Executive Summary


Economic, Political, and Legal Conditions

          Political/Regulatory System

          Anti-Competitive Practices

          Product and Service Standards

          Intellectual Property

          Financial Market

          Monetary Policy

Infrastructure Analysis

          Economic Infrastructure

          Social Infrastructure

Management and Culture

          Business and Workforce Culture

Market Entrance Vehicle Analysis

          Barriers to Entry

          The Effect of Change

          Staples and the Indian Market




Executive Summary


India is working towards conducting more international business. As such, it should thoroughly research its market. Presently, the country is in political upheaval and anti-competitive practices are supported by a corrupt and bureaucratic government. India’s products and services are shoddy due to the lack of citizen protest and property rights for investors are not guaranteed. India’s infrastructure is slowly improving, but not at the necessary pace to globally compete. Nonetheless, major improvements have been made to these areas. Investment in India can be a substantive option for Staples, Inc. if critical changes are implemented.


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In examining international corporate opportunities, India should primarily focus on its own traditional cultures, values, organizational management, financial risks, regulations, and the overall state of the nation before probing the unique prospects of global business. Additionally, "a company contemplating the establishment of a foreign subsidiary must undertake a country analysis and a market analysis... Country Analysis is performed first, since countries with high risk and poor infrastructure are poor candidates for business activities regardless of market potential" (Sullivan, 2002, p. 364). Therefore, a market analysis was conducted in order to determine if India is a feasible country for the company to enter.  This market analysis provides the research necessary to determine the future and stability of India. 

 According to Sullivan (2002) a country analysis encompasses three primary categories:

1. Economic, Political, and Legal Conditions - this includes the business climate, economic conditions, currency issues, government laws and policies, and the ethics environment. In assessing these conditions for India, we examined the political and regulatory system, anti-competitive practices, product and service standards, intellectual property rights, financial markets, and monetary policy.

2. Infrastructure Analysis - the focus is "on the factors which support the economic and business climate and allow it to function" (Sullivan, 2002, p.522). In evaluating India’s infrastructure we specifically looked at the economic and social aspects of the country.

3. Management and Culture - "Even if a country has a good economic and legal environment and suitable infrastructure," the culture "may create unacceptable conditions for a foreign country" (Sullivan, p. 522). Organizational and business management in India, as well as the country’s traditional culture and value system, will be a focal point in this analysis.

Staples, Inc. is an $11 billion retailer of office supplies, business services, furniture and technology to consumers and businesses from home-based businesses to Fortune 500 companies.  It is an international company that currently has stores in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal.  The company may be able to increase its growth by expanding into India.  India has a diverse market and, over the years, has developed new business and trade partnerships with the United States and other countries.

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Political/Regulatory System

The political and regulatory systems of a target country are very important to the success of any foreign company, including the entry of Staples into India.  In 1991, India abandoned its socialist economic system in favor of a free market system designed to spur trade for goods and investments.  Prior to this change, India maintained a very high barrier to entry for foreign investors like Staples.  The free market strategy resulted in foreign direct investment (FDI) totaling $1-2 billion annually over a three-year period.  Encouraged by India’s reforms, the Enron Corporation made an entry and investment in the development of Dabhol Power Company, a subsidiary that was entered into a contract with the state government of Maharashtra to build a power plant.  After a $300 million investment by Enron, in 1995, due to political rankling the project was cancelled by the state government.  Nearly four years later the project was resumed, but was still overshadowed by political instability (Sullivan, 2001).  

According to Sullivan (2001), the Indian government developed a free market system to generate hard currency to address payments on $90 billion in external debt that existed during that time.  Companies, like Staples, were encouraged to establish operations in India because the Indian government:

·        Allowed foreign companies to own up to 100 percent of a business.

·        Cut maximum import duties from 300 percent to 50 percent.

·        Cut corporate income taxes to the levels of other Asian nations.

·        Reduced red tape in the licensing system.

India’s socialist tendencies resurfaced as the $90 billion debt was reduced.  It is Sullivan’s (2001) contention that “a policy born of desperation lasts only as long as the desperation lasts” (p. 371).   Even though the then leading Congress Party maintained its support of a free market system, the opposing Hindu nationalist party, which was in control of the state government of Maharashtra, began making claims that foreign firms should not be permitted to exploit India.

In order for Staples to fully assess the long-term viability of conducting business in India, a thorough country analysis must be completed.  The climate today is much more favorable for liberal trade practices compared to the 1950s and 1960s.  Notwithstanding, cultural traditions and governmental shifts in trade philosophies suggest some risk to entering India.   The successful strategies used by Staples in the analysis of entry to the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal must be applied to India. Staples’ entry to India is also dependent on the Indian government’s development of sound fiscal policies that are designed for consistent long-term FDI.

Click here for a more detailed analysis of India’s Political / Regulatory System


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Anti-Competitive Practices

The success of Staples in India is contingent on favorable political and regulatory policies. The Indian government, however, has developed a reputation of inefficiency, corruption, and poor budgetary management Sullivan (2001). Protectionism or anti competitive strategies are barriers established to protect a domestic industry from cheaper competitive goods and services (p. 93).  Protectionist strategies in India are largely based on the notion that increased importing reduces the demand for low-wage and low-skilled labor. Moreover, it is inferred by anti competitive strategists that domestic industries are unable to grow unless they are given the opportunity to earn profits through the minimization of competition from foreign companies and products  (p. 92).  In the 1950’s the Indian government enforced extensive import restrictions and high tariffs  (Gupta & Ray, 1998).  India’s protectionist strategy led to the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices Act of 1969, which sought to save jobs, protect profits and increase government revenue (Anonymous, 2001). The Indian economy, however, began to liberalize and globalize in earnest in 1991 (Khandwalla, 2002).   

Click here for a more detailed analysis of India’s Anti-Competitive Practices


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Product and Service Standards

Product and service standards can include any type of measures or criterion which set parameters on how a product is manufactured or distributed. Product and service standards provide consumers with the knowledge that a particular product or service is of high quality.

An article in The Hindu magazine reports that India has a high tolerance for unsafe products and that they are basically acceptable because no one protests. The article goes on to state that the organization responsible for enforcing such standards, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), does not have the infrastructure in place to handle enforcing standards (Deskin, 1999). Therefore, quality may still go by the wayside at times due to the lack of standards enforcement and the lack of citizen complaints.

In a study comparing ISO and non-ISO organizations, Sarkar (1990) studied the status of quality control in India. His observations concluded that no performance evaluations of quality control operations are conducted in Indian manufacturing organizations. He felt it was important to attempt to infuse a culture of quality improvement throughout companies in India. Raghunathan et al. (1997) later identified (in a comparative study including India) that quality was considered important in the country (Wembley, 2000). 

In 1987, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) was established, resulting in greater consumer participation of the establishment of standards. The BIS has a voluntary product certification protocol that attempts to provide quality and safety to consumers. Presence of a certification mark known as the "standard mark" insures that a product has met specifications.  The Customer Operations Performance Center Inc. (COPC), a performance management organization for the customer contact industry, has established an office in India to help improve the level of service quality provided to customers (Anonymous, 2001).

There are no set standards in India that are directly related to office supplies. Therefore there are no standards that will make it difficult for Staples to manufacture or distribute its products in India. The area that comes under India's mandatory requirements that affects Staples includes electrical wires, cables, appliances and accessories. These items are subject to BIS standards and Staples must ensure that its plugs and small appliances are in compliance with the standards established by the BIS. This is a common requirement that Staples has encountered when entering into other foreign markets.   Many of the manufacturing machines and supplies the company uses will be subject to the voluntary standards.  This should not present a problem to Staples.  Foreign manufactures are welcome to utilize India's product certification scheme, which allows them to apply the "standard mark" on their products. 

Click here for a more detailed analysis of India’s Product and Service Standards


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Intellectual Property

India has put mechanisms in place to offer intellectual property protections; however, these protections are not fully guaranteed. As such, “less developed countries (LDCs) offer intellectual property rights in particular patent rights, not to induce inventions in their country, but rather as incentives to develop trading advantages” (Tikku, 1998, p. 2). With this understanding, India has decided to develop and implement intellectual property rights to garner global business.

India is required by the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) provisions to fulfill its obligations by 2005 (Tikku, 1998, p. 5). Consequently, the United States has put much pressure on India to adhere to the provisions prior to the 2005 TRIPS deadline. Because India greatly desires conducting business with the U.S., its government has “amended the various laws much earlier than the negotiated deadline” (Tikku, p. 5). In addition, changes to the current patent legislation are being made to make it more compatible with TRIPS. This massive undertaking requires amendments to how the laws for intellectual property are enforced in India.

Due to India’s slow pace towards regulation enforcement stem from decades of complacency and corruption, this process has been frowned upon by the international community (Tikku, 1998, p. 9). Even with this bleak outlook, India’s efforts to comply with amending intellectual property regulations is rapidly increasing. “The Arbitration and Conciliation Ordinance of 1996 consolidates and amends the old law relating to domestic and international arbitration and enforcement of arbitral awards” (Gaya, 1996, p. 1). This regulation has been established to minimize court intervention so as to untie the bureaucratic legislative process.

Many corporations are leery of entering the Indian market due to the lack of enforcement of intellectual property laws and regulations, as well as the slow, bureaucratic process with which they are implemented. Staples is presently looking to expand into fertile markets at a slower pace, but India is still unstable on this level. Therefore, Staples is ready to enter new international market ventures but needs the assurance of the entered country that it will be able to conduct business in a legal manner. 

Click here for a more detailed analysis of India’s Intellectual Property


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Financial Market

The effects of political risk have caused the positive outcomes of the free trade reforms implemented in 1991 to slow down.  Policy errors have resulted in a reduction of growth and have reduced much of the gains in India’s fiscal position. As a result, credit rating agencies have downgraded India's medium-term prospects (Nishimizu, 2002).  The most serious difficulty is India's fiscal indiscipline, which was expected to push the combined central and state governments' budget deficit to nearly 10 percent of GDP in 2002 (Sabharwal, 2002). As of June 2002, India was the World Bank's largest single borrower, with total lending of more than $58 billion from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and development credits from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank affiliate that provides interest-free loans to economies with low per capita incomes (   

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Monetary Policy

Monetary policy is a “central bank's actions to influence the availability and cost of money and credit, as a means of helping to promote national economic goals” (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 2003).  It helps to promote economic goals by influencing the availability and cost of money and credit.  Monetary policy affects people everywhere making economic and financial decisions.  It influences the performance of economies, as reflected in factors such as inflation, employment or unemployment, and economic output.  It affects demand across the economy, influencing how a person chooses to spend money on goods and services.

India’s banking system is one of the largest in the world.  In India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is India’s central banking institution. The Reserve Bank lays downs restrictions on bank lending and other activities with large companies.  It is the sole authority for issuing bank notes and supervises all banking operations in India.  The RBI acts as banker to central and state governments, commercial banks, state cooperative banks, and other financial institutions.  The RBI manages overall growth targets by setting interest rates to meet these growth targets, managing exchange rates and managing money supply in order to keep a check on inflation and maintaining price stability.

India’s banking system has a close association with the country’s development efforts.   The diversification and development of the economy, and the acceleration of the growth process, are due in part to the role banks have played in financing economic activities in different sectors throughout the economy. 

India is still relatively unstable economically.  India’s local currency, the rupee, is currently under threat due to the country’s bloated fiscal deficit. The rupee is constantly fluctuating.  Poor liquidity is also a problem in India given the extremely destitute volume and the impact costs it implies. There are macroeconomic risks of government deficits financed through borrowing and the impact on GDP growth, interest rates and potential inflation and rupee foreign exchange rates (Parikh, 2002).  The rising inflation, deficit, and threat of war in Iraq all send up red flags in terms of investment opportunities for Staples. 

Click here for a more detailed analysis of India’s Monetary Policy

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Economic Infrastructure

The transportation infrastructure in India consists of roads, ports, airlines, and supports the world’s most extensive railway network. As such, “passenger traffic is heavily subsidized by higher charges for moving freight, increasingly forcing freight on to the roads (Country Profile 2002, p. 19). Railway safety has become a substantial problem due to many recent accidents in part stemming from a lack of investment. To improve this situation, India is examining alternative ways to increase railway funding. India also has 11 major ports, which are managed by the Port Trust of India (Country Profile 2002, p. 20). These ports process 82 percent of cargo and are functioning well beyond their capacity.

India’s energy provision is a major limitation to the country’s economic infrastructure. There are significant shortages, even though the total power generated in India has continued to increase (Country Profile 2002, p. 22). India’s power and energy capacities urgently require significant private investment.

The telecommunications sector in India has encountered recent and rapid growth. “A number of private companies that have been given licenses for land based services have been laying telephone cable lines” due to the low number of telephone lines in India (EIU Country Report, 2002, p. 31). In addition, “Internet connectivity remains low, although numbers are expected to increase rapidly” (Country Profile 2002, p. 21). 

India supports a labor force of 400 million workers (Chemical Business, 2002, p. 3). The countries government and businesses are rampant with corruption. Thus, “an unsympathetic bureaucracy, delays, lack of accountability, and transparency have deterred foreign investors from investing in India” (Ibid). An entire reengineering of India’s infrastructure is the only way that the Indian business industry will become globally competitive and attractive for foreign and domestic investors like Staples. 

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Social Infrastructure

Social infrastructure refers to those factors which render the human resources of a nation suitable for productive work (Sullivan, 2002). India is drastically different in terms of how its labor laws are regulated, how its citizens are educated, and how their health is handled. 

India is reportedly the world's largest and most diverse democracy.  “The country has seen remarkable social, agricultural, and industrial progress. Life expectancy has doubled and the specter of famine no longer stalks the sub-continent” (Hammond, 2003).  On the other hand, India (and the south Asian region as a whole) has the world's worst poverty, the most widespread malnutrition, and the most extensive use of child labor (Hammond, 2003).

Education is highly valued in India and considered a great asset among its people.  The currently literacy rate is 65.38 percent (males: 75.96 percent and females: 54.28 percent) (Census of India, 2003).  It has improved steadily over the years. 

The labor laws of India are drastically different than those of the United States, lacking the same level of regulation that U.S.-based organizations are accustomed to.  Child labor is also a problem in India. There are more children under the age of fourteen in India than the entire population of the United States.  Children under fourteen constitute around 3.6 percent of the total labor force in India.  The Government of India is determined to eradicate child labor in the country. “The world's largest child labor elimination program is being implemented at the grass roots level in India, with primary education targeted for nearly 250 million” (Indian Embassy, 2003).

Environmental degradation is widespread and resource scarcities are growing, helping to further impoverish India's rural population. The growing demand for power, fueled largely by high-ash coal, contributes to air pollution and chronic respiratory diseases in India.  Inadequate access to clean water and sanitation add to the incidence of other communicable illnesses.  Without cleaner technology or more effective environmental policies, emissions of air pollutants may increase by the same amount. Over the same period, the region's industrial growth and its production of chemicals, metals, and paper-the main source of toxic emissions-are expected to increase 980 percent. Without improved industrial processes and better enforcement, toxic emissions and health threats may grow by a similar amount (USAID, 2003).

There are many unknown variables and differences in social infrastructure.  Although the country has a high illiteracy rate, there is a still a decent level of skilled and educated workers.  India has the labor productivity to be a viable location; however, there are many possible barriers including the differences in labor laws and existing child labor practices.

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Business and Workforce Culture

Five dimensions of culture, developed by psychologist Geert Hofstede, have been used here to analyze India and the United States. The Hofstede analysis shows that Indian managers express different values compared to those of their Western counterparts (Fisher, Shirole, Bhupatkar, 2001, p. 5).



Degree of Individualism

Power Distance

Uncertainty Avoidance


Long-term Orientation







United States






(Adapted from Sullivan, table 9.3, p. 342.)


India believes in collective group and team achievements, while the U.S. supports the achievements of individuals. The most widely studied cultural value, the degree of individualism, for both countries is significant (Brett, 2001, p. 15). The wide disparity in scores (n=48, n=91) suggests that India is an intermediate culture and that the U.S is an individualist culture (p. 16). This analysis also connotes that conducting business may prove to be challenging. Power distance, the relationship between superiors and subordinates, will also be an issue with Indian-U.S. business relations (Sullivan, p. 341). While the U.S still has many bureaucratic, paternal organizations, it is swiftly moving in the direction of flatter, participatory corporations. India, on the other hand, scored reasonably high (n=77) for the power distance dimension of culture.

Due to India’s unwavering devotion to its culture and traditions, it has unfortunately fallen behind the globalization bandwagon. “India is a country that has actively tried to resist much of this global cultural homogenization. But even there, among India’s elites, the Electronic Herd is fast at work” (Friedman, p. 292). Cultural preservation is a significant concern in India. “Unless you preserve at least some of your own olive trees in your own backyard, you will never feel at home in your own house” (Friedman, p. 292). India’s tolerance of American culture will increase if they can be guaranteed that they can maintain their business and cultural traditions.

The apprehension between Indian and Western managerial values has developed from deeply rooted Indian culture (Fisher, Shirole, & Bhupatkar, p. 5) and the ignorance of the West.

“Indian managers, in the spirit of their own tradition, should focus on the ethical quality of the means used to achieve ends rather than simply on the achievements of ends. These values, emerging from the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu and Buddhist texts, claim that it is right to achieve a sufficiency of wealth and possessions but wrong to seek economic growth for its own sake” (p. 5-6).  

In India, moral wellness is more important than economic success.  In addition, the idea of downsizing is a taboo in Indian workforce culture. “Employees enjoy protection at the expense of the unemployed and those in the unorganized sector” (Chemical Business, 2002, p. 2).

Indian labor laws, regulations, and workforce standards are archaic and outdated. Thus, Indian labor legislation may clash with American labor laws. Staples might “to go into India, asking all these questions: ‘Can we have what we want? Do we trust you here? Will we get tax breaks?’” (Friedman, p. 347). India would surely benefit from the investment, but others might question Staples’ motives. 

India’s business culture supports some principles that are not supported by the U.S. For example,

“the emphasis on moral judgment, on finding a proper balance between ends and means, suggests that the Indian tradition would favor the stances of the contribution a person makes to the organization’s objective and if a person finds it difficult to make the compromise over values involved in a problem solving approach” (Fisher, Shirole, & Bhupatkar, p. 6).

However, while Indian culture maintains a substantial organizational climate of consensus and “groupthink,” it also supports innovation and entrepreneurship.

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Barriers to Entry

As discussed earlier, the Indian government has established “pre-conditions for prospective foreign [direct] investors” (Emerging Markets Economy, 2002, p. 1). These preconditions support the bureaucratic structure of the government, thereby making it difficult for an increase in FDI in India. To ensure Staples investment, India must open its market by loosening its “preconditions” to allow more FDI. Additionally, “certain sectors of the Indian economy cannot receive FDI, and this prohibition closes off a fruitful source of technology and skills” (Lodovico, Lewis, Palmade, Sankhe, 2001, p. 2). Allowing FDI in retailing, for example, would increase India’s market share by 25 percent in ten years from the present 2 percent (Ibid). Therefore, living standards in India would increase immediately. 

In many sectors of the India economy, a license is required from the government to operate and compete. The licensing process was put in place to “ensure high levels of quality and hygiene” but instead has become a burdensome, bureaucratic requirement that has restricted competition in industry (Lodovico, Lewis, Palmade, Sankhe, 2001, p. 3). Removing these restrictions would enable competition, and in the process, force corporations to make improvements in how they conduct business.

Due to India’s thick bureaucracy and political environment, the corruption among officials is apparent. In addition “government-controlled entities still account for around 43 percent of India’s capital stock and 15 percent of employment outside agriculture…The near-monopoly status of government-owned companies in sectors such as oil, power, and telecommunications, for example, ensures that such companies will be profitable however unproductive they may be” (Lodovico, Lewis, Palmade, Sankhe, p. 4). This issue alone would make it extremely difficult for Staples’ investment in the country. Because India has yet to relieve this major constraint, it has not experienced higher rates of economic growth.

Consequently, property and ownership rights have changed little during the past five decades in India, with the exception of copyright legislation (Tikku, 1998, p. 15). In probing Staples investment in India, one issue should be addressed: to what extent has the intellectual property laws in India curbed the flow of FDI and discouraged innovation and development (Ibid)? Advantageous to Staples, many FDI approvals have been geared to the telecommunications sector.

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The Effect of Change

What would happen to India’s economy if immediate dismantling of all existing barriers were to occur? An analysis was completed which shows that “the resulting increase in labor and capital productivity will boost growth in the overall gross domestic product (GDP) to 10 percent a year, release investment capital worth 5.7 percent of GDP, and generate 75 million new jobs outside agriculture” (Lodovico, Lewis, Palmade, Sankhe, 2001, p. 5). Therefore, eliminating all of the productivity barriers would almost double India’s rate of growth in labor productivity to almost 8 percent a year over the next ten years (Ibid). 








Retail supermarkets






Automotive assembly









Retail banking



Power generation



Dairy processing



Housing construction



Wheat milling



Power transmission






Legend: A – current labor productivity, B – expected labor productivity in 2010 if reforms are fully implemented

Index: United States = 100 in 1998

(Lodovico, Lewis, Palmade, Sankhe, 2001, p. 9-10).


Additionally, capital productivity would increase by at least 50 percent over the next three to four years. Increased competition would force organizational managers to eliminate time and cost overruns and low use of facility capacity (Lodovico, Lewis, Palmade, Sankhe, 2001). Presently, these are problems that India’s managers are dealing with, especially with government-owned, state-run corporations.

The increase in GDP resulting from these policy changes might flow to India’s rich. However, “by creating a virtuous cycle of broad-based growth in GDP, the changes will benefit every Indian” (Lodovico, Lewis, Palmade, Sankhe, 2001, p. 5). For instance, the real incomes of farming families in India will rise at least 40 percent over ten years (Ibid).

Many policy makers believe that it would take a substantial level of FDI equal to more than 35 percent of India’s GDP to make the country’s GDP increase by 10 percent per annum. Lodovico, et al, (2001) purport that eliminating barriers to higher productivity will allow India to achieve this rate of GDP growth with a level of FDI equivalent to only 30 percent of GDP a year for a decade (p. 6). In fact, India has experienced recent exponential growth. “A total FDI inflow of 1.30 billion dollars was recorded during the first quarter of the current fiscal year … resulting in a 106 percent growth” (World Times, 2002, p. 1).

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Staples and the Indian Market

These substantive changes, once implemented, will allow Staples to enter the Indian market. At present, India is focusing on the telecommunications sector. “FDI inflow in India’s telecom sector touched 1.67 billion dollars during August of 1991 to November of 2001, with cellular mobile telephone service contributing to 455 million dollars and accounting for 27.2 percent of the inflow (World Times, 2002, p. 1). This growth is expected to continue. In addition, Internet connectivity in India is expected to increase rapidly. Accordingly, Staples is increasing its Internet business. This rapid economic growth area is Staples’ “Internet sales in North America, which doubled last year to about $1 billion” (Marcial, p. 2). This growth has continued to increase in 2003 even with store closings and layoffs.

Due to Staples increased growth, the corporation’s international operations have been exposed to inherent foreign investment risks. Competitive and foreign currency fluctuations will make Indian investment more difficult (Staples Annual 2001 Report). Additionally, Staples may have issues securing future funding for such projects due to current changes in the economy. India can and must address the barriers to entry in order for Staples to consider investing in the Indian market.

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Even with its problems, India has been fairly successful in massive undertakings such as the expansion of telephone lines and copyright legislation. However, India’s political and regulatory systems should develop and implement concise policies and procedures that will support consistent FDI. Additionally, the social and economic infrastructures of the country require major improvements.

The political aspects of the country have had an enormous influence on the infrastructure and culture. As such, Western corporations such as Staples should be less ignorant and more tolerant of the traditional values, morals, and standards of India. In turn, India must adapt its bureaucratic governmental practices to the quick pace of globalization. Only then will the nation experience a significant increase in GDP and FDI.


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