“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.