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Friday, November 10

What makes the Global Indian Manager Tick?

Offline or online, India seems to be the flavour of the year/ decade! At least the select media that I manage to consume suggests so! As always there is lots of genuine interest as also loads of hype about the not-so-large consumerist India which gets equated to the entire nation!

And in this 'India Shining' story are regularly covered the talented Indian managers - globally in hot demand! In fact today's CD(Corporate Dossier with the ET) once again talks about this breed/ brand.

Since I have nursed a desire like many of us to work in a global/ regional set-up, I found it interesting to probe what makes these successful Indian managers tick!

There are the poster boys - Rajat Gupta of McKinsey, Rana Talwar(ex Standard Chartered Bank) and the latest entrant Indra Nooyi of Pepsico!

The new kids to the club are the likes of Bharat Puri(former CEO of Cadbury India) now in Singapore with regional responsibilities, Siddharth Verma(former Reebok CEO) heading the company's ops in Japan. The list keeps on ballooning...Well even in advertising, with the likes of Asit Mehra( ex-Lowe now Omnicom) making headlines from time to time!

As we move into the future, it will increasingly be very important to have skills that work on a global scale.

Some reasons why Indian managers tick.

1. "Knowledge, expertise, analytical flair and cultural adaptability set the Indian managers apart" - Sanjay Nayyar, CEO - Citigroup India

2. "The ability to take on a lot of responsibility early in their careers, willingness to quickly adapt to new businesses and cultures and highly flexible in their career and location choices are the key attributes that set them apart" - Mohit Nayyar, Associate Director HR, P&G India.

3. The Indian education system emphasises learning the basics and on the left side of the brain rather than the right side which leads to greater analytical skills.

4. The other ace up his sleeve is his single minded drive to achieve success at any cost. Middle class ethos of a large number of these managers is reponsible for this hunger for both knowledge and success!

There is a down-side to the Indian manager as well.
For example the natural inclination of the Indian manager to over-intellectualise and his tendency towards too much debate at the expense of action sometimes is a deterrent to his rise.

Every management guru worth his salt is predicting that in the future all industries will be creative industries. And that's where an over dependence on the analytical skills will not be advantage 'Indian' anymore...

I also have some stray personal observations from my work environment - current and past. Word of caution.(Sweeping generalisations are never totally correct.) And of course the experience would be limited to the narrow silo of advertising that I am familiar with! Nevertheless...

1. Indians are still lousy when replying, attending to communication from strangers, people not known to them.

2. We are relatively speaking more 'hierarchy conscious'

3. We are quite uncomfortable discussing/ debating/ formalising/ learning about the softer side of our business. I often hear in training programmes the total cynicism to such issues. 'Yeh sab fluff/ faff/ gas hai'

4. Over the years we have become quite 'jugaadu' in our mentality. I see little desire to be 'original' in our thoughts and POV.

5. We might be efficient and effective managers. But our tribe sorely lacks in leadership.

6. We are also quite self-obsessed. Profit and personal goals and ambitions are the over-riding drivers. Social and environmental causes are generally not on the radar. Again my experience is the narrow domain of advertising.

In the future what might help us succeed globally is more right-brained thinking. Let's not forget that we would all be expected to be creative - creative servicing, creative planning, creative finance management, creative team management, creative leadership. Being creative will be our biggest skill/ asset.

Increased globalisation will also demand more collaborative thinking, more flexibility, more leadership and more visionary thinking!

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