Authors R. Gopalakrishnan and Dr Ranjan Banerjee explore the reasons behind the success of Indians in top global companies
Photos by Albin Mathew. R Gopalakrishnan (left) and Dr. Ranjan Banerjee; the cover of the book
By Shevlin Sebastian
It was lunchtime at the Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai. And expectedly, in a cosmopolitan city, there was a boy from Gujarat, another from Kerala, a third student from Rajasthan and a fourth from Bengal. Without much ado, they put their tiffins on the table and shared the food. “I remember that each cuisine was so different,” says Dr Ranjan Banerjee, Dean and Professor, Marketing, at the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research at Mumbai. “We learnt to respect each other and the food.”
Because Ranjan was studying in a Christian school, during Assembly, he would say the Lord’s Prayer. But at night, without any sense of contradiction, he would attend the Durga Puja celebrations. “The ability to deal with differences is deeply ingrained among us Indians,” says Ranjan. “So, when you go to a work environment abroad where there are people from several countries it is a logical extension of your childhood and you are able to adapt easily and accept everybody.”
Ranjan, along with his co-author R. Gopalakrishnan, a former Director, Tata Sons and Vice Chairman, Hindustan Lever, got thinking about this, when they came across a Global Leader Survey by the executive research firm Egon Zehnder which concluded that Indians led more Standard & Poor 500 companies than people of any other nationality, except Americans. The list included people like Vikram Pandit at Citibank, Indra Nooyi at Pepsico and Sanjay Jha at Motorola.
It pricked their curiosity. Was this an accident, they wondered. “To find out, we spoke to our batch mates who are in global positions, and said, ‘Did being brought up and educated in India make a difference to where you are today?’” says Gopalakrishnan.
“And almost across the board we got replies like there was an element of resilience that we learnt, we grew up dealing with the unpredictable, and there was a competitive intensity. Soon, we saw a set of themes emerging.”
So, the duo, who are close friends, did extensive research and conducted numerous interviews, before they began writing. The end result is a 196-page book called ‘The Made In India Manager’.
So what qualities does one gain by living in India? Ranjan provides an example. “In many cities, after office hours, you will see people waiting at a bus stop,” he says. “When the bus arrives, somebody will throw a handkerchief in through the window to book a seat. That’s because the number of seats is significantly lower than the number of people who aspire for the seat.”
This competitive intensity is there from the start. “Anybody who is an executive in a multinational company or a top organisation has typically competed at some point of time with a ratio of 1:100, because of our huge population,” says Ranjan.
Apart from competition, there is a strong family culture in India and the values they espouse. Or, as Ranjan says: “Since we grow up in large families, we develop the quality of empathy. Also, there is somebody, either a father, uncle or grandfather, who plays a pivotal role in moulding a young person.” For Ranjan, it was his own parents who always encouraged him.
Indians have other advantages, too, like a culture of management education. “In fact, management education in India started soon after independence,” says Gopalakrishnan. “The Indian Institutes of Management were set up in the 1960s. We are the world’s largest producers of MBAs. Korea and Japan cannot match us. So, our management preparation factories have also played a distinct role of Indians emerging as good managers.”
Plus, Indians are very strong in English, the global language for business. As the book states, ‘Most Indian business executives receive all of their business training in English, exclusively read English papers, watch English news channels and quote from the ‘Economist’ and the ‘Harvard Business Review’. This has created a class of professional managers who turn to English when they want to articulate a complex thought.’ And that is a big advantage when you work for a global company.
All in all, this is a cogently-argued and lucidly written book, which can be read, with profit, by youngsters, at the beginning of their careers, as well as seasoned professionals.
(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)