The Chennai online
Chennai, Nov.22: Global Adjustments’ 13th annual photo competition for expatriates brought together a multitude of photographic vignettes of India captured by expatriates of thirteen nationalities.Hosted in association with Ericsson India and themed ‘Beautiful India Goes Green’, the competition witnessed some spectacular photographs on display.
In addition to the standard categories, participants this year were invited to send in their entries for a new category titled ‘Green India’, with their interpretation of India’s inherent earthy wisdom. Global Adjustments and Ericsson India also announced a joint edu-environmental campaign that will reach out to 15,000 students from over 30 schools.
The winners were: Elena Eder from Italy (Into India); Amore Marcello from Italy (Culture & Festivals and Green India); Michele Bosciano from Italy (Faces and Overall Best); Melissa Enderle from the US (Places and Judges’ Favourite); and Bernadette Baars from the Netherlands (GA Favourite).
“It was positively a challenge to pick out just a few photos from more than 400 entries”, said Mr. Hedwig Baars, Ericsson Head RM, R&D India, and eminent cinematographer, Mr. Arvind Krishna.
Along with the awards ceremony, the event also featured a cultural extravaganza by twenty expatriates, grouped into the Nordic, Asian, American, Mediterranean and Australian continents. The programme, conceptualised around the five elements (earth, water, air, fire and space) featured vibrant folk dances from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and other states. This will also be part of a travelling road show to be featured at the schools reached through the green campaign. “The five elements have always been a part of our psyche in India”, said Ranjini Manian, Founder and CEO of Global Adjustments.
Indian culture, for expatriates in the city, could mean several things – from a group of kids gaping at a film poster to a snake charmer flipping the lid open and peering into a box of snakes. Capturing India in pictures, nearly 35 expatriates belonging to 13 nationalities put up their entries at the ‘Beautiful India expatriate photo competition’ here on Sunday.
Over 400 pictures, each freezing the flavours of India in myriad angles, were part of the competition organised jointly by Global Adjustments and Ericsson India.
Grouped under various sections – faces, places, culture and festivals and green India – the entries brought out the beauty of both rustic and urban environments in equal measure.
If Gitte Anderson, a Swede, captured the festivity of Ayudha Pooja in her frame, a row of idols of Nayanmars seemed to signify a symbol of spirituality for Philip James, an Englishman.
The photographs that Amore Marcello, an Italian, captured for the contest represented the essence of rural India. The category ‘Green India,’ in particular, brought out some excellent day-light shots sparkling with greenery. While pictures of verdant fields and lush trees dominated the category, photographs of bright-green worms, south-Indian fare served on a banana leaf and a row of cycles also vied for attention.
Ericsson India Head (R&D) Hedwig Baars and cinematographer Arvind Krishna, judged the entries for the competition. The annual photo competition is an initiative to bring together the expatriates in the city and get them to express their thoughts about India through photographs, said Anita Krishnaswami, Senior Vice President of Global Adjustments. “Into its 13th year now, the photo competition has been seeing a steady growth in terms of the number of entries that we receive,” she said.
‘Green India’ campaign
As part of the photo competition, the organisers have come up with ‘Green India’ campaign, an initiative to reach out to 15,000 students and sensitise them to need for protecting environment. A total of 30 city schools will adopt one eco-friendly initiative each and follow it for a month. Based on the performance of the students and their awareness levels, 15 schools will be shortlisted for a visit to the R&D centre of Ericsson.
A cultural performance by 20 expats from Nordic, Asian, American, Mediterranean and Australian continents was held at the prize distribution event, presided over by actor Suhasini Mani Ratnam.
“Our India story as told by our CEO to one of the top Zurich newspapers (“Neue Zürcher Zeitung”) “
What does it mean when an Indian is listening to you, while his head is weighting back and forth? How is a limp handshake to be interpreted? And does ‘yes’ always mean ‘yes’? Misunderstandings of the intercultural type – such as nodding when meaning ‘no’ – might be amusing for the casual traveler, but could complicate West-to-East business relations and should be clarified. Ranjini Manian has transformed this ‘need for enlightenment’ into an (obviously well) working business model. Global Adjustments is operating in a niche market, which has claimed a lot of importance with India rising as an economic superpower.
The cities of the booming country are popular destinations for Western business people, but are also mine fields: how can Europeans or Americans work in places which appear threatening to them upon their arrival and create for them a cultural shock? Recently, Ranjini Manian, who grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai, was invited by KPMG (management consultancy) to Zürich to present her cross-cultural knowledge and services. The long list of participants, who attended these training sessions facilitated by Ms. Manian in hotel ‘Baur au Lac’, show that the global players of Switzerland are still interested in working with new cultures.
Ranjini Manian founded her company Global Adjustments fifteen years ago, as the subcontinent just started to awaken to new economic life. The idea of creating a relocation services company came from the wife of an American diplomat who had drawn her attention to the existing relocation services in the West and suggested that she establish something similar in India. This business model, which would make life simpler for international managers, was unknown to India in those times. The idea built on Indian hospitality was seen as absurd and even objectionable by many people. After serving some smaller clients, Ms. Manian won her first big deal with Ford Motors. The automotive company had established a production plant in Chennai and planned to relocate 80 expatriate families. Global Adjustments then developed their first training session and gained reputation, which led to future contracts.
Ms. Manian won another big deal in 2006 by assisting Nokia in setting up a production base in South India. This became a showcase project for Ms. Manian, as the company was able to demonstrate high intercultural competence by combining Finnish and Indian cultures successfully. Attaining these skills through experience hasn’t been easy for Ranjini Manian. She studied French literature at the Elphinstone College in Mumbai and further supplemented her study with a stay at the University of Sorbonne in Paris – where she soon realised that nobody understood her French, because it sounded very Indian.
This lack has been frayed a long time ago by Ms. Manian and she now fluently speaks French, English, Spanish, Japanese and a number of Indian languages. She started learning Japanese when she realised that Japan would be a major business partner for India in the future. Ms. Manian herself does not cringe before intercultural hurdles.
A range of topics, including the forgotten Indian culture, the practice of aping the West and the socio-political participation of middle-class families were debated at a discussion on ‘The life and times of being Indian’ here on Friday.
Diplomats Pavan K.Varma and R.Kannan talked about the cultural richness of the country and stressed the need for people to recognise their roots. Mr. Varma is India’s Ambassador to Bhutan and an author. Mr. Kannan is a political officer with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo and also an author.
Opening the discussion with the post-colonial situation in the country, Mr.Varma said mediocrity has seeped into our civilisation and underscored the need to understand what it was to be Indian. Calling the middle-class, socially insensitive and self-obsessed, Mr.Varma said the families have built a citadel for themselves and it was time they evolve from being mere residents to becoming citizens. Contradicting the argument, Mr.Kannan said the middle-class has put the country on the world map by participating in large numbers in the development of information technology. Lower middle-class, on the other hand, were finding even the everyday life a struggle.
On his book ‘Anna: the Life and Times,’ Mr.Kannan said there weren’t many biographies on southern leaders and their contribution to the Indian political system has been hardly known to the world. While the Indian bureaucratic edifice was very much solid, it was important to analyse how the cultural richness of the country declined, he said.
Referring to his book ‘Being Indian,’ Mr.Varma said works such as ‘Arthasastra,’ ‘Vyakaran,’ ‘Natyasastra’ and ‘Upanishads’ were testimony to the greatness of Indian minds, but they were conveniently overlooked by the people of today. “You can’t be a great power by just producing a few engineers and doctors. How many of us know even the most popular Indian writers and historians? Strengthen your Indian roots and then take global wings.”
The discussion was organised to mark the second anniversary of the Indian Immersion Centre.
Ask them what they love about the city and the list is endless — art and culture, Marina Beach, Amethyst and yes, Kollywood! Says Nicolas Beaumont, a French national who has been in the city for a few months now, “Chennai is a great city. All you need to do is to go out and experience it — experience the movies, the music and the culture. Go to Sathyam and watch Tamil movies. You will be surprised to find that you understand 95 per cent of what is happening on screen. Watch Madraspattinam and Raavanan. You will find yourself reading Ramayana and history of Chennai when you get back home.”
The people here, they say are extremely hospitable and friendly, especially with foreigners. German national Bernd Thommes has been here for over two years and he says, “When I moved in to Chennai, the first thing I was told was how conservative the city is. But today, I own my factory here and all my employees are from here. And I am proud to say that they are all very progressive.”
For their part, expatriates have adapted to everything that is local. The sarees, the malli poo, Carnatic music and even TVS scooty! Says Finnish national, Silva Paananen, who has been living in the city for over two years, “I was quite frustrated when I came here because I could not drive my car. I felt like my wings were clipped. And then I came across a driving school that taught me how to ride a scooty. And now I hop from one concert to other in my scooty and there is no looking back.”
Did they enjoy the local south Indian cuisine? “It is all about how you adapt your palate. Once I got used to Indian food, I was carrying chutneys back home till I settled down to my native food again,” reminisces Beaumont. Chennai is a city that has adopted us like its children they say. “It is not a city that opens itself to you. You need to be open to the city,” reflects Nicolas.
Veteran journalist and historian S Muthaiah, one of the founders of Madras Day, also shares his lively perspective. “Go out and explore the city. There is no way you can expect the city to accept you till you accept and explore it. George Town has some of the most luxurious buildings in the city. But there is no way you can reach these without getting your feet dirty and getting squashed in narrow streets down below. All these encompass Chennai and make the city the colourful mural that it is.”
Madras Week is all set to kick off on August 15 with numerous food fests, art shows, cultural events, lectures and more. And it’s not just expats but even youngsters in the city who are looking forward to a weeklong celebration of the city’s birthday!
Elegant, erudite, professional and unbelievably classy, Ranjini Manian, founder Global Adjustments, seems to be happy with the world and has all reason to be. Global Adjustments turned 15 this year and the years notwithstanding, the glowing testimonials Global Adjustments’ clients heap on them is a sure fire sign that Manian’s gamble paid off.
“A diplomat’s spouse, Joanne Grady Huskey was finding it very difficult to adjust to life in Chennai. So I helped her in adjusting, and she said that her stay here would have been impossibly difficult without my help. We then decided to do this professionally-help people from outside settle into Chennai.”
She also believes that it was also a matter of being in the right place at the right time. “This is every entrepreneur’s dream,” she says, explaining the concept behind Global Adjustments. Global Adjustments does more than just relocation services. It provides end-to-end solutions to anyone moving into the city.
Manian stresses that as good as the idea was, she never expected that it would turn out be a huge success. “We knew our idea was good. We started from my mother’s small apartment and Joanne’s old computer. Also, the timing was right for us because many multi national companies were entering Chennai. That was also the time when cell phones were introduced. In fact we started by hosting a party for St. Patrick’s Day and promised our customers free calls to their loved ones back home,” she reminisces.
Today Global Adjustments has more than 50 employees, thousands of clients from 76 countries across the globe and five offices in the country. What she finds most gratifying about the job are the friends she has made on the journey and the perception of Chennai the expats return with.
“Most of the people who move here come kicking and screaming. From the weather to the food to the infrastructure to the housing, everything is new to them. Most of them come here for a year or two maximum, but at the end of it none of them want to leave. There’s something about Chennai that is so warm and hospitable. And yes this is a business, and yes we do make revenues, but what I like about it is the lifelong relationships I have formed.”
Manian is all praise for the city that has nurtured her dream. “Yes I do wish that there are more role models in the business, which is what the city lacks, as well as the government and industry having more common ground. The public and private need to come together and work together, and give a voice to women entrepreneurs, which is something I would to be a conduit for.” But having said that she feels Chennai is one of the best places for business.
After having explained India to expatriates, she believes that the need of the hour is a renaissance of core Indian values and culture. She feels it is time to focus on the cultural quotient, CQ as she calls it.
“We already have the brains, what we need to include our CQ.” Global Adjustments is already in talks with B-schools across the country to include this as part of the curriculum to give them a necessary perspective beyond their management studies and to make cultural connections.
She is also in the process of writing her next book, Upwardly Mobile, which will be published by Penguin. The book is going to focus on what India needs to become global in a true sense. Also, it also talks about playing to our strengths and making it work to our advantage.
Despite the hectic life she leads, she maintains a balance studying Vedanata literature and spending time with family.
- My team helps expatriates overcome their initial shock and confusion when they arrive in India, and then help them settle in comfortably.
- They work specifically in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.
- They provide various specialised services: relocation and realty consulting, cross-cultural training and social networking.
|Historical monuments, art galleries, eating out options and shopping… Russia offers something for every tourist.|
Karasho is the most useful word in Russian. It means, variously, “okay”, “good”,”understand?”, “understood” and together with Spasiba, means Thank You; these twin words always get you a smile. Russia — the world’s second most powerful country, a friend of India, a beautiful nation occupying a sixth of the world. , A week spent between Moscow and St. Petersburg spans a total of 12 centuries (Moscow is nine centuries old, St. Petersburg is three) and leaves you lost in wonder.
St. Petersburg is the biggest city when you look at those with a population of over one million It was teeming, in mid June this year, as it celebrated the White Nights, World Economic Forum and the annual Graduation ceremony of young Russians. The phenomenon of the White Nights happens during a week in June, when the sun shines bright for 21 hours of the day, and monuments come alive with floodlights for the remaining three. The World Economic Forum of course had many reports of improving our common lot and ended in a lively debate between President Medvedev of Russia and President Sarkozy of France. The place was teeming with security and VIPs. As for the Graduation ceremony, it happens on June 19 annually, when high school and college grads flood the streets in their tens of thousands, celebrating with a live music show and street carnival.
St. Petersburg or Leningrad?
The drive from Puklova airport to St. Petersburg tells you it’s a globalised world, as you pass plants of Coca Cola, Wrigley’s and Toyota. The Moscova Prospect (prospect means avenue in Russian) stretches from the airport down through the city for 12 kilometres.
Many things seem to stretch 12 kilometres here, the Hermitage or the winter home of the Czars on the banks of the Neva, a museum par excellence also spans 12 kilometres, imagine a home that big occupied by a dozen people and perhaps 200 servants! Each room fills you with amazement at the opulent vases, the malachite and lapis lazuli pillars, the ceilings with bas relief and the artefacts of splendour. The gold and diamond room are special and so are the two Leonardo da Vincis of the Madonna and Child. Donated by collectors to the national treasury, Renoir, Cezannes and Degas vie with Van Gogh, Matisse and even the current temporary display of the travelling Picasso show, including the exhibit of this Cubist artist’s rare goat sculpture titled “La Chevre”, leaving you impressed
Like our Indian cities, St. Petersburg once changed its name to Petrograd and then to Leningrad, and unlike our cities changed its name back to the original, so there is hope for us yet! The most stunning experiences for a visitor are the wondrous cathedrals and churches. Active churches in Russia move you as deeply devout followers revere the holy trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, marked by Cyrillic alphabets resembling an inverted “3”, an “O” and an “h” and the Mother of God. They cover their head with scarves, inspiring us to do the same, as they chant, sing, pray and genuflect, almost identical to the way we do our namaskar in India on bended knees, forehead touching the ground.
Museum churches are no longer active, but showcase mosaics and paintings that leave you in another kind of charmed awe, two such are the Church of the Spilled Blood and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The former has mosaic icons of Jesus and Biblical stories embellished with 22 carat gold halos stretching from the ground, on walls and even part of the ceiling, an incredible work by artists who didn’t have any power tools.
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, is the tallest church in Russia with doorways that take your breath away as you meander through beautifully painted corridors in muted colours, reaching the inner sanctum where a choir performs live music.
Moscow’s Red Square with the awe inspiring Kremlin is best enjoyed by a walking tour, pausing now to see, here a Lenin dressed alike, there a military Bolshevik for Kodak moments. Python, monkey, iguana, and vulture — add these to get your photo taken for 300 roubles a piece. Walk through to Saint Basil’s Cathedral with its amazingly different spires, and the overall ochre, earth red, green and white facades offer a magical play of colours.
Quiet inspiration is loudly interrupted by cannon balls that fly in military honour, the changing of the guards is a not to be missed hourly event outside the Kremlin and Bosco’s cafe overlooking the Red Square offers great coffee and a terrific view. Moscow is the financial and political hub of the former Soviet Union, enough to get a buzz with a three- day visit. The streets with cafes, metros that are plush as nowhere else in the world, fast cars and sweater weather leave quite an impression.
Buy, try, see, eat
Amber stones are a must buy in hues of honey to pale yellow as they are mined in Russia and are at affordable prices. Bargaining is the norm and guides get a commission when they escort you, so live and let live. Their matrushka dolls are ubiquitous but the newer versions of the Obama family fitted one inside the other are current fun souvenirs.
Georgian food is a must try. They use coriander, chilly and spicy sauces in their cooking, familiar and appetising to the Indian palate with a naan like bread called Lavash, which turns out to be comfort food for travelling Indians! Russian breakfast porridge is a delicious version of Indian rava kanji, all restaurants offer vegetarian options and meat is served with spices that suit the Indian palate.
The Bolshoi ballet is a must see, we picked the Sleeping Beauty but Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet would do just as well. Renting a pair of binoculars from coat check-in is well worth the close up view of the unbelievable floating movements of the artistes.
Some of the richest live in Moscow, they even have a “millionaire’s street”, their poor exist but seem hidden from tourists in these two cities. Beware of gypsies, one even came and plucked my bindi off my forehead! It didn’t stop me from returning to India from Russia with love. Moscow’s Domodevo airport and hour long immigration queues made us realise India is leaps ahead in its quality of airports and staffing efficiency – Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad or Bengaluru win hands down. That’s the second time we thought of Mr. Praful Patel, our guide Olga had told us he was the other Indian she had shown around recently.
(Thanks to Mr. James Bond for the title)