Tarun Khanna

Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor

Tarun Khanna is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School, where he has sought for two decades to study the drivers of entrepreneurship in emerging markets as a means of economic and social development. At HBS since 1993, after obtaining degrees from Princeton and Harvard, he has taught courses on strategy, corporate governance and international business to MBA and Ph.D. students and senior executives. For many years, he has served as the Faculty Chair for HBS activities in India and South Asia.

A summary of his work on emerging markets appeared in his 2010 co-authored book, Winning in Emerging Markets, and an example of his comparative work on entrepreneurship appears in his 2008 first-person analysis of China and India, Billions of Entrepreneurs, both published by Harvard Business Press and translated into many languages. In 2014, his piece, Contextual Intelligence, was a runner-up for the McKinsey Prize for the year’s best article in the Harvard Business Review.

He was named the first director of the university-wide Harvard South Asia Institute in the fall of 2010.  The institute rapidly grew to engage over 150 faculty from across Harvard in projects embracing the pure sciences, social sciences and the humanities, and spanning the region from Afghanistan to Myanmar. In this role, he currently teaches a popular university-wide elective course, Contemporary Developing Countries, where students work in multi-disciplinary teams to devise practical solutions to complex social problems.  The course is part of Harvard’s undergraduate general education core curriculum, and is rare in that it also attracts graduate students from across the university, engaging everyone from sophomores to surgeons.

In 2007, he was nominated Young Global Leader (under 40) by the World Economic Forum; and in 2009, elected as a Fellow of the Academy of International Business.  In 2015, he was named by the Government of India to chair the national commission to help shape the fabric of India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.  In 2016, the Academy of Management conferred on him its Eminent Scholar Lifetime achievement award for scholarship in International Management.  Outside HBS, he serves on numerous for-profit and not-for-profit boards in the US and India, including AES, a Washington, D.C. headquartered global power company, and India-based Bharat Financial Inclusion Limited (formerly SKS Microfinance), one of the world’s largest firms dedicated to financial inclusion for the poor.  He is a co-founder of several entrepreneurial ventures in the developing world, spanning India, China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Recently, he co-founded Axilor, a vibrant incubator in Bangalore. In 2015, he was appointed a Trustee of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. 

He lives in Newton, MA, with his wife, daughter and son.




Building a New Egypt: Where We Are Today

No nation can be rebuilt in short order. Egypt is no exception. Professor Tarun Khanna describes how business leaders can help. 

Videos of Selected Talks

Billions of Entrepreneurs (Chinese)

Prof. Khanna's book has been widely reviewed around the world.  Please click the above link for an abstract in Chinese.

Into India

Harvard Magazine - March/April 2012

Harvard emissaries were opening many conversations across India in January. Students came for between-semesters academic projects. Professors visited to check in on research, NGOs they have started, and companies they advise. And President Drew Faust made her first visit, with stops in Mumbai and Delhi. Faust, in explaining the significance of her visit to India, noted the widening scope of activities in the country, and across South Asia. Tarun Khanna, Lemann professor at Harvard Business School (HBS), concurs: “We have extraordinarily greater reach in the region now,” compared to a few years ago. Khanna just finished his first year as director of the University’s nine-year-old, interdisciplinary South Asia Initiative (SAI), which last year supported research by 24 undergraduates, 28 graduate students, and two professors; last spring, a symposium in Cambridge on the future of South Asia drew 200 people.

Foreign Affairs Book Review

Foreign Affairs, Book Review by Lucian W. Pye, May/June 2008

The title of this book might suggest that it is not a serious scholarly study, which in fact it is. Although the claim of "billions" of entrepreneurs is a bit much, there is no denying that both China and India are now at last having success in advancing their economies and that a driving force in their economic growth is their private sectors.

Entrepreneur Magazine Book Review

Entrepreneur Magazine, Book Review by Mark Henricks, March 2008

China and India, which make up a third of the world’s population, share a long border and a longer history of economic and cultural ties. Yet entrepreneurs from the two countries are very different, as Indian-born Harvard business school professor Tarun Khanna reveals in Billions of Entrepreneurs (Harvard Business School Press, $29.95). While India and Indians revel in free-wheeling competition, China and its business owners seek stability and consensus. Whether competing in or with the two rising Asian superpowers, entrepreneurs everywhere need to know what to expect.

China's Business Boom

Fox Business Now (National TV), Interviewer - Peter Barnes, February 9, 2008

Peter Barnes speaks to Tarun Khanna, Harvard Business School Professor and author of "Billions of Entrepreneurs," talks about the growing economy in China, the challenges it faces, and compares it to India's growing economy.

Thunder From The East

India Today, by Ashutosh Varshney, February 7, 2008

Nowhere in the world has any pre-modern, vertical, birth-based social order—in which the top echelons had all the privileges and treated those at the bottom with disdain and contempt—disappeared without considerable churning and violence. Those treated shabbily for centuries are simply using the newly available democratic means to assert their power. It is not a pretty sight, but it is a democratic inevitability.

The Right Questions on India and China

The Financial Times, by Tunku Varadarajan, February 6, 2008

On finishing this earnest and entertaining book (yes, it’s possible to be both), my first reaction was to slap the author – metaphorically – on the back for refusing to deploy the word “Chindia” in his text.

That ghastly neologism – China plus India, rendered as a portmanteau word – is seldom absent from any discussion of the two huge Asian countries and their impact on the world order. In fact, ever since it was coined by a BusinessWeek writer, “Chindia” has come to represent an object of both paranoia for those in the US who fear economic eclipse, and pride for Asian dreamers who long for the day when the US gets its comeuppance. But in reality China and India, far from being in strategic wedlock, remain cool and wary neighbours.

China and India Share Little but Fast Growth. That Could Change.

U.S. News, Interviewer - Kirk Shinkle, February 6, 2008

Dear Business Writers: Chindia is not a real place. Despite what you may have read, China and India may be the great ascending economic powers of our time, but their emerging influence comes from very different places. Common ground, however, may be easier to find than one would expect, argues Tarun Khanna, a Harvard University professor and author of Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours. He predicts the two powerhouses will complement each other more and more in the coming years.

The Potential Partnership of India and China

HBS Working Knowledge Podcast, Interviewer - Sean Silverstone, February 4, 2008

The world has an estimated population of 6.6 billion people. One-third of that total resides in just 2 nations: China (1.3 billion) and India (1.1 billion). On the strength of those numbers, coupled with powerful economic development programs that each is pursuing, these countries are poised to become dominant economic powers in short order.

But there is a subtle trend occurring that could make these 2 competitors even more formidable on the world stage. In many ways, China and India are moving past their recent history of animosity and cooperating in ways economic, social, and political—the beginnings of what could be a powerful partnership, says Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna.

India and China are Very Different

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, by Tali Arbel - Associated Press, February 4, 2008

The economies of India and China, rising powerhouses both, have opposite but complementary strategies, says Tarun Khanna, author of "Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours."

"China and India are flavors of the month," Khanna said.

Just Don't Call It 'Chindia'

Business Week, by Pete Engardio, January 31, 2008

The concurrent economic booms in India and China have led to a plethora of books on the two countries. With good reason: They are destined to reshape the global economy for years to come, and few companies can remain competitive without a presence in both. Yet foreign executives also have found that the formula for succeeding in one country doesn't apply to the other.

China, India, and Billions of Entrepreneurs

NPR's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook, January 30, 2008

From the misty, half-attuned, still-in-the-American-Century shores of the United States, China and India can look like peas in a pod: two rising Asian giants with screaming growth rates and lots of what used to be American jobs.

Look closer, and these are very different cats. China is the factory floor and India the back-office, software shop. China is top-down party driven. India is a messy, vibrant democracy. And the two, one-time enemies.

Shifting The Balance

The Economist, January 24, 2008

FIVE years ago, Tarun Khanna, an Indian-born professor at Harvard Business School, grabbed attention with an article in Foreign Policy magazine speculating that India might eventually overtake China. Co-written with Yasheng Huang, a Chinese-American scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the article argued that India's economic model offers more freedom to entrepreneurs which could help the country outpace its fellow Asian giant in the longer term.

Why Cooperation Matters

International Herald Tribune, by Tarun Khanna, January 15, 2008

There are some telling signs of economic rapprochement between China and India.

During wintry mornings in the Indian city of Gurgaon, home to call centers, offshore software companies and luxury high-rises near New Delhi, dozens of busy Chinese 20- and 30-somethings rush off to work in software companies and manufacturing facilities.

Flying South

Newsweek, by Mac Margolis, December 26, 2005

Cash flows between developing nations have more than doubled over the past decade. Cross-border contracts between companies in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe have become common. HBS professor Tarun Khanna notes the dangers inherent in such deals: "Many of these companies share an information set with the countries they do business in," he says. "What's important is not the absolute amount of risk but your ability to bear it better than anyone else. Greater familiarity means you can take more risks."

The Elephant at the Gate

China Economic Review, August 2005

China continues to be an economic force to be reckoned with, but after years of reform and growth, India seems to be making considerable headway. In a 2003 Foreign Policy article co-authored with MIT's Yasheng Huang, HBS Professor Tarun Khanna predicted that India would eventually eclipse China on the financial stage. Evidence of India's threat to China is still inconclusive, however, since a number of liabilities exist, including a budget deficit, a caste system, that wastes human talent, and rival political factions. Adds Khanna: "The inefficient side of India remains—democracy needs consensus and bureaucracy slows things down—those things won't change."

India's Entrepreneurial Advantage

The McKinsey Quarterly, by Tarun Khanna, September 16, 2004

China is bigger, has more people, and manufactures more merchandise than India. China also has been in the throes of economic reform—arguably its second Great Leap Forward—ten years longer than India. But India's new economic order is a grassroots effort, and Bombay's Stock Exchange is a model of the rough-and-tumble of the marketplace. According to HBS professor Tarun Khanna, "As India opens up further to foreign direct investment, we might well discover that the country's more laissez-faire approach has nurtured the conditions that will enable free enterprise and economic growth to flourish more easily in the long run."

China, India: Difference In The Details

Asia Times, by Lynette Ong, April 30, 2004

China and India are among the fastest growing economies in the world, with growth rates much admired by developing countries desperately struggling to crawl out of the poverty trap. Taken together, China is seen to be ahead of India; but there is much speculation on their respective growth trajectories. In an article in last August's Foreign Policy magazine, HBS professor Tarun Khanna and former HBS assistant professor Yasheng Huang—now of the MIT Sloan School of Management—write, "China's export-led manufacturing boom is largely a creation of foreign direct investment, which effectively serves as a substitute for domestic entrepreneurship," while India "is making fuller use of its resources and has chosen a path that may well deliver more sustainable progress than China's FDI-driven approach.

Tiger Ain't Crouching: Harvard & MIT Experts

The Economic Times, July 1, 2003

In an article titled "Can India Overtake China?"—published in the latest issue of the journal Foreign Policy—Yasheng Huang, formerly of HBS and now on the faculty of the MIT Sloan School of Management, and HBS professor Tarun Khanna conclude that the bottom-up approach adopted by India may prove more fruitful and productive than the top-down methods used by the Communist leadership in China. "China and India have pursued radically different development strategies. India is not outperforming China overall, but it is doing better in certain key areas. That success may enable it to catch up with and perhaps even overtake China," they write.