Tarun Khanna

Tarun Khanna

“A million mutinies now” was V.S. Naipaul’s 1990 description of the social upheaval then rocking India. “Lurking in that idea,” says Lemann professor Tarun Khanna, Ph.D. ’93, a native of New Delhi, “are a million entrepreneurial ventures, because an entrepreneur is somebody who is exercising productive mutiny against some status quo.” After earning his doctorate in a joint program offered by the economics department and Harvard Business School, which hired him the same year, Khanna staged a mutiny of his own: he shifted his emphasis from hard numbers to the delicate art of integrating Western business models into emerging markets. “I was becoming conscious of the desire to do something for my country of origin and in general for poor countries,” he says. But, as he realized in conversation with his former HBS colleague Yasheng Huang ’85, Ph.D. ’91, nations develop in wildly different ways. Their class on how China’s state-controlled growth differs from India’s democratic scramble for wealth became a 2003 Foreign Policy article. The provocative title (“Can India Overtake China?”) and answer (perhaps!) sparked heated reactions, he says: that it made “a huge amount of sense” or was “completely absurd.” Those who “were not observers of [India] found it surprising because it didn’t mesh with their image.” Today, Khanna sees the status quo changing at his children’s school, where students study China and listen to Indian music. At Harvard, he serves on the South Asia Initiative’s steering committee (see “Global Gains,” January-February, page 64), bringing Asia to the University even as he sends business ideas to his old home.

You might also like

The Roman Empire’s Cosmopolitan Frontier

Genetic analysis reveals a culture enriched from both sides of the Danube.

Tobacco Smoke and Tuberculosis

Harvard researchers illuminate a longstanding epidemiological connection. 

Discourse and Discipline

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences broaches two tough topics.

Most popular

Yesterday’s News

Headlines from Harvard’s history

Chiara String Quartet

The Chiara String Quartet are Harvard's current Blodgett Artists-in-Residence.

Storytelling Scholar

Marie Rutkoski blends sixteenth-century history with fantasy in The Cabinet of Wonders, a new novel for young adults.

More to explore

Illustration of a box containing a laid-off fossil fuel worker's office belongings

Preparing for the Energy Transition

Expect massive job losses in industries associated with fossil fuels. The time to get ready is now.

Apollonia Poilâne standing in front of rows of fresh-baked loaves at her family's flagship bakery

Her Bread and Butter

A third-generation French baker on legacy loaves and the "magic" of baking

Illustration that plays on the grade A+ and the term Ai

AI in the Academy

Generative AI can enhance teaching and learning but augurs a shift to oral forms of student assessment.