Archive for October, 2011
I am delighted to share with you, that we had a most cerebral launch of Upworldly Mobile in Chennai, with 150 leaders in attendance, at the event hosted by the elegant Taj Coromandel and my publishers Penguin. Dr. Sumantran, and Ms. Jennifer McIntyre so freely shared personal stories of how Culture Quotient building was a must.
I loved Sumantran’s summary of having a COO – Curiosity, Openmindednes, Observationpowers inorder to be interculturally successful. And Jennifer was so open about being asked at various posts where she represents American diplomacy, “are you married, and why not”? Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, even if cultures change, similarity remains.
I invite you to read the press coverage of the fireside chat with these two leaders.
The Cultural Connect
There is a fine line between stereotyping people of different cultures and understanding the unique traits and practices every culture brings with it. Ranjini Manian’s book Upworldly Mobile offers an insight on cultural intelligence for Indian managers and expats.
At the book launch last week, the author discussed the relevance of cultural intelligence with Jennifer McIntyre, Consul-General of the U.S. Consulate, Chennai, and V. Sumantran, executive vice- chairman, Hinduja Automotive and chairman of Nissan Ashok Leyland Powertrain.
“There are over 3,000 foreign companies registered and operating in India and 1,00,000 MBAs from India are or will be filling up positions in those companies. But they seem to lack in cultural and behavioural aspects of management. I wrote this book for supplemental reading in B-schools,” said Ranjini Manian, CEO, Global Adjustments explaining her motivation to write the book.
It all started with a newspaper column. “I was doing training programmes with expats when I got a chance to write for Business Line. It soon became an interactive piece. The interactions encouraged me to write this book.”
Ranjini believes that the book would serve as a beginners’ guide to ironing out inter-cultural issues. “I always tried to map the training programmes so that participants are aware of the basic differences right at the beginning. The frequently-asked questions are included in the table of contents so that this book serves as a text which will take students from the campus to the corporate world equipped with the cultural intelligence tool.”
“We need to become a little more savvy about ourselves,” she added. “Confidence in explaining ourselves comes only when we know ourselves first.”
Earlier at the discussion, V. Sumantran, who lived in the U.S. for 21 years and in Europe for four, and now works with a Japanese partner, observed that cultural intelligence is about “curiosity, observation and having an open mind to let in new ideas.” Jennifer McIntyre added: “And sensitivity and ability to understand your own culture.”
Sumantran pointed out that western work structures are about systematic product development and discipline while Indian work cultures carry a lot of adaptability. “There is virtue in this ability to adapt,” he said, illustrating the difference in Western classical music’s discipline and Indian classical music’s improvisation. “We should be able to create a balance and get the best of both worlds to come up with a work culture that has discipline and adaptability. We need both.”
McIntyre said that she admired India’s multi-cultural society.
“The world would be boring if it was homogenous,” said Sumantran.
Meanwhile, Ranjini has already moved on to writing her third book.
“It’s called Why Do Indians Do That because that is the question I am always asked,” she concluded.
Helping bridge the cultural divide
The second article was published in City Express Chennai on 25th of October 2011.
by Prashanthi Ganesh
From working at the Taj, Mumbai, as a college student for pocket money to hosting the launch of her second book at Taj Coromandel, Chennai, Ranjini Manian has come a long way. After the success of her first book “Doing Business in India for Dummies“, the founder and CEO of Global Adjustments, one of the country’s first relocation, realty and cross-cultural services company, is back with Upworldly Mobile.
Like the tag line of the book reads, “Behaviour and business skills for the new Indian manager”, the book focuses on various issues pertaining to the global work environment and is meant to act as a cultural intelligence tool for young Indian and foreign managers.
Unlike the usual book launch where the guests on the dais grill the author with questions on the book and related experiences, this event saw Ranjini question Dr. Sumantran, Executive Vice-Chairman, Hinduja Automotive, and Jennifer McIntyre, Consul General of the US Consulate, Chennai.
It could be said that the session did fit the bill of the occasion, with the two guests sharing experiences and anecdotes from their experience from around the world.
“When my wife and I hosted a dinner party in Sweden, we heard the guests’ cars pull up at 7.25 and they waited till 7.30 to ring the doorbell,” said Sumantran, explaining the difference in the concept of keeping time with Indians and other cultures.
Ranjini’s book addresses the concept of cultural intelligence at the work place. She has drawn inspiration from her experiences of having worked with clients from 75 nationalities for over 16 years. “I read that there are 3.000 foreign companies operating in India. But there is a lack of cultural and behavioral aspects even in some of the top IIM’s and B-schools. So, the book will act as supplementary reading material,” explains Ranjini, as an answer to what motivated her to write the book.
The book also throws light on cultural intelligence as a way of showing behavioural differences in each culture and depicting the values from them, right from lessons in gestures, communication, etiquette, among other work place aspects. “My sense of space has gotten much smaller after all the travelling and I’m also more conscious of where my hand and feet are,” said Jennifer.
Ranjini also explained that she has had to make a lot of changes to fit in while dealing with the West. “I thought that to get on with the Western world, I had to look Western. So, I initially tried a lot of Western clothes and they made me very uncomfortable. I had to unlearn and be myself,” she says.
Over the years she has also learnt to speak slow, the art of being able to say no and being blunt, which are also some of the points that figure in her book. Effectively divided into six parts, the book has been published by the Penguin Group and is prices ad R.S. 250.
Being a global citizen, the Upworldly Mobile way
“Indian punctuality” is a term that pokes fun at Indians’ predilection to arrive unfailingly late for an event. But what do you say about their penchant to queue up two or three hours in advance outside the US consulate for a visa interview even though they need only be there 20 minutes ahead?
The audience bursts into laughter when Ranjini Manian, Founder and CEO of relocation and cross-cultural destination services company Global Adjustments, poses this question to Jennifer McIntyre, Consul General, US Consulate, Chennai. The conversation is part of the launch of Upworldly Mobile: Behaviour and Business Skills for the New Indian Manager, Manian’s book, launched at Chennai on Thursday. Penguin is the publisher.
Discussing the differences between the Western world and India, Dr Sumantran, Executive Vice-Chairman, Hinduja Automotive, and Chairman, Nissan Ashok Leyland Powertrain, said there is a very strong element of structure in the West, the absence of which would fox them. In India, though, there is great emphasis on adapting. “I wouldn’t dismiss adaptability as a failure, it’s a virtue in an unpredictable world,” he said.
Among other Indian traits and differences was Indians’ inclination to be formal with seniors and authority. Dr Sumantran said he was “against an unnecessary use of power and seniority because it dampens frank communication.”
McIntyre assumed a more forgiving stance of common Indian foibles such as asking personal questions – her travels across the world had revealed that India was not alone when it came to such traits. For instance, she recalls being asked her age and her marital status by a taxi driver in Azerbaijan. She was put through a similar line of questioning in Turkey as well.
All in all, the consensus was that today’s world is far more accepting of multiculturalism and is not looking for one to reform.
The book aims to provide practical tips to enhance communication between Indian managers working with expatriates or in global workplace. Through anecdotes, it tells readers how to deal with real-life situations, running the gamut from dress sense and firm handshakes to meeting deadlines and expectations.
Ten Commandments for the returning NRI
by Ranjini Manian
An old friend, Akhila, e-mailed me from New York recently. She has been living in the Big Apple for the last twenty years, but is now making arrangements to move back to Chennai. She has been visiting her family here on and off, but a couple of weeks once in three or four years don’t prepare you for living in India. What, she asked, would be my advice to her on settling into a country that is, for all practical purposes, a ‘foreign’ land?
Akhila’s dilemma is shared by hundreds of NRIs who are moving back to India after years spent studying and working abroad. Since I’ve been asked many different versions of Akhila’s question, I thought I should share my thoughts on the subject with a wider audience.
So here I’ve put together Ten Commandments for the returning NRI. They relate not only to work – many of them will be coming here as New Managers – but also to day-to-day life.
1. You have changed. Accept it.
The Akhila who caught that flight out to New York twenty years ago will probably be unrecognizable to the Akhila of today. She must have been used to working in a close-knit team, where everyone knew everyone else, and their families too. On one hand paperwork would have had to be done in triplicate, and on the other, people would have accepted that results would come, all in good time, one just needed to be patient. But today, she’s a different person. She is result-oriented, on the fast track, and expects the same from colleagues. If Akhila has to get on in the new Indian business world, she needs to recognise these changes in herself, and work with them
2. India has changed. Accept that too.
In the same way, Akhila will find that the India she expects, where everything is cheap, and teams unquestioningly toe the line, is also a thing of the past. The new India is conscious of its quality and commands a fair price, knows its global role, and is working harder than the West to beat the West at its own game. Now, every minute is a deadline, and India works both by Indian Standard Time as well as American Time, both coasts included. But things still take longer to get fixed, collective responsibility continues as the norm, so patience is essential. .She is in between brown and white as an NRI and she has to realise that she has to err on the side of the expatriate.
3. The importance of Family has remained what it was. Respect it.
Some things haven’t changed. Families may be physically nuclear, but emotionally, India still lives in a joint set-up. Every decision has to be run past the elders, and it’s imperative to attend the funeral of a second cousin twice removed. Professionalism is important, but if Akhila learns to balance it with the demands of family ties, both for herself and for her new team, she’ll fit in faster.
4. Privacy and space now have a different meaning. Understand it.
Everyone has an opinion and will express it, even her child-rearing practices will be commented on. She just has to respectfully listen and quietly do only what she wants with the advice. Also, it will be useful to spend time with people but balance it with “me” time she’s used to.
5. Handling domestic help is an art. Re-learn it.
As a naturalised New Yorker, Akhila would have got used to doing things for herself, from driving to work to vacuuming her apartment. But in India, help is not only available, but essential if she’s to meet all her commitments and still remain sane. And handling domestic help and chauffeurs is an art she’ll need to re-learn. It’s worth it to spend some time observing how veterans handle staff. Be prepared to patiently guide staff to perform to new standards of housework. Actually, she should lower her standards; her blood pressure will follow suit. It will be impossible to get everything working 100%, but if she relaxes on this, the re-entry will be easier.
6. Friends and social circles need building. Start over.
With Facebook, Orkut and e-mail, chances are, Akhila would have stayed in touch with family and at least some friends. But virtual contact is a different ball game from actually fitting into social circles. Support groups are all-important, and she’ll find coping with her new environment that much easier if she’s able to re-establish ties with old friends, and find like-minded people to hang out with in her free time.
7. Your children are a-cultured. Rejoice in it!
Children will have a wonderful chance to strengthen Indian roots before they fly on global wings. They will be resilient. See how well they adapt to accent, weather, food and new friends! Learn to be like them, childlike and embracing things spontaneously.
8. It’s a new India of opportunities. Learn how to work, play and contribute to it.
Make time to get personal with your colleagues in and out of work. Balance connections with locals, expatriates and other NRIs. Join forces with local NGOs to do good back for India.
9. Don’t wallow in the past. Enjoy the present!
Of course, Akhila will miss many conveniences she enjoyed in New York, especially the ease with which paperwork moves. Even small things – a queue which isn’t a queue at all, but an unruly mob, for instance — may trigger ‘homesickness’, but my advice is, don’t wallow in nostalgia. There’s so much that India has to offer, which you won’t find anywhere else, affordable prices, childcare, temples and spirituality galore.) So stay focussed on enjoying what is on offer.
10. Go with the flow: Soon it will be time to move again.
This time in India is special and if Akhila takes too long adapting and adjusting in the re entry phase, she may regret it as her three-year assignment flies by and she has to head back to New York. As Navjit Brar of Fujitsu wrote us from Texas: ”I am glad I spent time doing the cultural experience modules of dance, music appreciation and understanding festivals with my kids at the India Immersion Center. Those form our dinner table conversations as we pine for India again.”
HR Leadership Congress India 2011
Mumbai, 27th of September: On invitation of Vikas Vij, CEO of The Ideas Exchange, Ranjini Manian handed over the first two copies of her new book “Upworldly Mobile” to Kate Sweetman, leadership guru and former editor of Harvard Business Review and Ed Cohen, Executive Vice President of Nelson Cohen Global Consulting. Ranjini explained the importance of cultural intelligence in today’s business world during a fireside-chat with Kate, through various practical and interactive examples – integrating the hand-picked audience of 70 senior HR managers.
Rotary Club Chennai Thiruvanmiyur
Chennai, 27th of September: On the same day, Ranjini was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Chennai Thiruvanmiyur meeting. The room was packed to hear what she had to say about equipping Indians to be Upworldly Mobile.
As she spoke, several seasoned Indian travelers weighed in with their own experiences and talked about the great need to understand the customs and communication styles of other cultures. Gerard Pushpanathan, President of RCCT, said “Ranjini’s topic was apt for most of us who do business across the country and across the globe”.
Ranjini also helped the Rotarians to be aware of their own culture – testing their knowledge of the different states of India, giving a succinct answer to the “whys” of Indian culture, and to have as much fervency in learning about India as learning about the West.
StopOver Chennai was launched at the India Immersion Center on the 28thSeptember 2011. At this occasion, several articles were published online.
The following article was published in the Chennai edition of the Hindu on 29th September 2011. The article is also available on line.
Book presents insights into Chennai’s culture, by Staff Reporter
As a guide to making the most of a few precious hours spent during a quick stopover in the city, Global Adjustments launched a coffee table book ‘Stopover Chennai’ here on Wednesday.
The book which will help visitors experience the city’s culture from inside out has contributions from music director A.R. Rahman, actor Radikaa Sarathkumar, grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, columnist Ian Watkinson, restaurateur M. Mahadevan, artist Pascal Reynaud and illustrator Maniam Selvam.
Releasing the book, M. Madhavan Nambiar, former Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, recollected his connection with Global Adjustments and said: “Chennai is such a lovely city. I am looking forward to spending my retirement life here.”
“Having travelled in six continents, it is good to know how local knowledge can enhance the local experience,” said Darin Voyles, US Vice Consul. “I am looking forward to personally using this guide,” he said, at the function in which Consuls-General of Australia, Germany, Russia, Sri Lanka and Japan participated.
Talking about the content of the book, Mr.Watkinson said that the intention of such a book is to not bring out a dry and textual guidebook of the city.
The newly created Culture team of Global Adjustments brought out this handy book, said Anita Krishnaswamy, president, Global Adjustments.
Coffee Table Book on Chennai, by Kavya Ram Mohan
A city can never be understood in just a few hours or even a few days but in today’s fast paced world that’s all the time a traveller has. So what are the absolute must-dos in a city in that short time? Closer home, what are the must-sees and must dos in Chennai? For an answer to this question , pick up a copy of Stopover Chennai , a collectible handbook put together by Global Adjustments, the relocation experts. The result of months of effort and hard work, the colourful book with cover art by Maniam Selvan was launched on 28th September at the India Immersion Centre.
The launch of the book was done in true blue Chennai style with lighting of the kuthuvilaku by the special guests of the evening. The book was launched at by diplomats from a host of countries including Australia , Germany , Singapore , USA , Russia , Japan, our neighbour Sri Lanka and Mr Madhavan Nambiar, representing the India Government. As someone in the audience commented, the room could have almost passed for the United Nations General Assembly!
The book represents Chennai in all its glory and brings in various perspectives about our beautiful coastal city, with the contributors including AR Rahman, Viswanathan Anand and many more. Ian Watkinson, one of the contributors spoke about the book and his wonderful experience while working on it. The common thread running through the speeches of all the guests was this – such a book is essential for the corporate and busy traveller. With a list of typically Chennai things and detailed possible itineraries, the book brings out the essence of Chennai like never before. A useful buy for those stopping over the Chennai !
Intercultural dinner with Ranjini Manian on “Doing Business in India”
Glimpse into parts of her speech by clicking here.
In the light of growing importance of the Indian automotive markets this year’s round table event was followed by an intercultural dinner taking up the theme “How to do business in India”.
As a special guest Ranjini Manian, a renowned and very successful business woman from India, spoke about intercultural understanding between India and the rest of the world and how her company puts its vision of creating “empowered global citizens through real life solutions” into practice.
Her company Global Adjustment Ltd. started in India in 1995, with Ford Motor Company being one of the first clients.
Since then she supported the families and workers of many globally active businesses (e.g. Nokia, BMW) to adapt to India and helped them to become successful in India. Ranjini Manian’s highest credo is that “always both sides need to learn and understand how to do business with each other.”
“Whatever you say of India, the opposite is also true: India is modern, it is also traditional. India is manual, India is also super-technically savvy”. This is mirrored in many interesting facts “There are 69 billionaires in India, but the opposite is also true: 450 million Indians live on less than USD $1.25 a day,” was one among many other impressing facts the Indian CEO and Founder of Global Adjustments put forward. India is also one of the countries with a very fast growing population. “Did you know that 262 babies are born in the world every minute? Out of them 51 are born in India while China only comes second – at a great distance – with 28”.
These facts are certainly among the reasons why the world is coming to India lately. The potentials of the growing middle class and the very young population (average age in India is 25) with more than 350 million English speaking people should generally not be underestimated. “India is going to have wealthy consumers and a capable workforce for many years to come,” Manian promised.
But India is not only promising. Likewise, there are several challenges multi-national firms might have to face when engaging in investments on the Asian sub-continent:
Rich vs. Poor Divide is Immense
According to Manian the fact that filling a luxury car with petrol is often more than the monthly salary of the driver that drives the car is a striking everyday life example of the social imbalance. In her experience it is absolutely mandatory to manage this gap with corporate social responsibility activities. “Taking land from villagers, for instance, will always affect their self-esteem of being a land lord. It is not all about money for Indians, suddenly they are landless and that considerably lowers their status in society.” In this regard Manian recommends the creation of education or health opportunities which could also be an appropriate give back, besides giving former land owners jobs in factories.
Differences In Management Styles
“Indian culture usually does not allow saying ‘no’ straightforwardly. Instead Indians love to respond with questions,” which is one of the major intercultural issues between Indian and Western business partners (see box on the right side for an illustrative example). Indians also love to be part of the bigger picture. Therefore, giving a holistic view on the company’s strategy and treating Indian workers as an integral part of their own workforce are among the most important recommendations to become successful.
There Are No Pan-Indian Solutions
Last but not least Manian made clear that successful regional strategies are of particular importance for nationwide long-term success in India. “You cannot look at India as pan-Indian – India is not one. You have to deal with people differently from state to state.” To find the way through the often complex rules and state structures in India it is advisable first to succeed on a regional level before going national.
Notwithstanding that Manian concluded: “Of course, it is also fine to come in on your own, if you don’t want a joint venture.” She named examples like BMW and Ford which successfully accessed the Indian market on their own. “However, an Indian expert advisor is still a must to negotiate with the people and the local government,” she finally emphasized how she interprets her role as a mediator between the widely differing cultures.
Explore Ranjini’s new book Upworldly Mobile - India’s first tool to enhance Cultural Intelligence!
Vijayadashmi is a special festival day in the Hindu calendar which is a very auspicious day for starting a new form of learning. Global Adjustments celebrated this year by starting something called Collective Wisdom.
In our training department, we are constantly trying to find ways to “upskill” young Indians to be prepared for the world. Issues like showing initiative, business writing, summarizing information, and many other things discussed in Upworldly Mobile sometimes don’t come easy. While we are passionate about seeing these skills instilled in young Indians, we also know that two heads are always better than one when it comes to the How.
Thus, we invited 10 thinkers to our India Immersion Centre to ask a few simple questions about one topic: Assertiveness. Moderated by Mr. Eric Gossard of Hospira, we examined the idea of what assertiveness is, how it fits in the Indian culture, and how to teach it to people. The event was extremely stimulating for those who attended: a mix of small business owners, students, trainers, professors and corporate heads.
As we continue to work towards making Global Citizens, it will take more than just one of us thinking. At Global Adjustments, we know that we need to rely on our “extended family” to reach this goal. Be on the lookout for more Collective Wisdom gatherings!
The Training Team
(Here’s a hint if you want to be invited for the next one: make sure to comment on Ranjini’s Business Line articles.)
This article was published in Femina, October 2011 issue.