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The 10 mindsets of Indian business leaders

Indian companies are expanding globally, with icons like Jaguar and Land Rover now in Indian hands, and western business executives are going there to gain insights. The real secret of Indian success can be found in ten ways of thinking of Indian business leaders – including the leadership of Ratan Tata (pictured) who made his group a global powerhouse.

Acceptance of change

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon Ltd is one of India’s most successful and wealthiest women: “I certainly believe that everything happens with a reason. I wanted to join medical school and when that did not happen I took up biology instead. And that led me to specialise in brewing. However when I was not accepted as a brew master in India, I turned to biotechnology in a very accidental manner. In hindsight, I am grateful that the brewing doors shut on me and I set up Biocon instead!”

Live in the moment, now

Living more in the moment makes India’s business leaders very adaptable and opportunistic – arrive in Mumbai with an idea and no appointments, pretty soon you will be seeing the people at the top.

Generosity

Ratan Tata epitomises the Tata Group’s success and ethics: “Some foreign investors accuse us of being unfair to shareholders by using our resources for community development. Yes, this is money that could have made for dividend payouts, but it also is money that’s uplifting and improving the quality of life of people in the rural areas where we operate and work.”

Patience, not anger

Of the great texts of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita is an influential part of the education of so many Indian business leaders: “Delusion arises from anger. The mind is bewildered by delusion. Reasoning is destroyed when the mind is bewildered.”

Ethics and respect

My exposure to this began in 2005 when the Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys, Narayana Murthy, spoke about corporate governance and morality in business: “We follow one principle – the softest pillow is a clear conscience”.

Problems are a gift

While the west has a fear of things going wrong, in India it is accepted.

The Indian born Lakshmi Mittal, head of Arcelor Mittal: “Everyone experiences tough times, it is a measure of your determination and dedication how you deal with them and how you can come through them.”

Right Words

Ratan Tata expresses his communication style this way: “What I have done is establish growth mechanisms, play down individuals and play up the team that has made the companies what they are. I, for one, am not the kind who loves dwelling on the ‘I’. If history remembers me at all, I hope it will be for this transformation.”

Leaders as gurus

TT Srinivasaraghavan is the Managing Director of Sundaram Finance, a diverse company based in Chennai. TT says that Sundaram is first a family and second, a company. Fundamental to his business is ‘trust’ and what he calls a ‘chain of faith’ that flows from people who trust each other.

Life as a spider web

Indian business leaders know that life is like trying to find your way through a spider web – where does it begin, where does it lead, who can tell? The Bhagavad Gita says: “Better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.”

Leading by not conforming

Thinking of others rather than “profits first” is one way Indian leaders do not conform. Paramahansa Yogananda: “Business life need not be a material life. Business ambition can be spiritualized. Business is nothing but serving others materially in the best possible way.”

Stephen Manallack is a Director of the EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and compiled the secrets of Indian business success and cross cultural issues while preparing his book for the Indian market, Soft Skills for a Flat World (Tata McGraw-Hill). He has led several trade missions to India and is a Cross-Cultural Trainer. He has just released Communicating Your Personal Brand (Vivid Publications)

Indian PM continues to impress

Brilliant diplomatic and strategic move by Indian PM Modi – he took the unprecedented step of inviting 10 heads of states and governments, from the 10 ASEAN countries, to be chief guests at this year’s Republic Day parade (26 Jan).This is the first time that so many world leaders – from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – will be attending the annual Indian show of its military might and cultural diversity. Modi is one of those rare leaders who genuinely thinks outside the box. For example, despite every expert saying “you will never get a GST in India”, he found a way to get the states on board and now the country has a sensible national taxation in place. When it comes to both diplomacy and serious reforms, PM Modi has the track record in place.

Marvellous Mumbai is on the move!

Modern India moves fast. Mumbai is probably the fastest city. For example – Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said the city will see a transformation in terms of mobility with projects ranging from underground metro and sea bridge to coastal roads, elevated suburban trains and new airports.These include 258 km of metro network in Mumbai and suburban areas, which would be one of the biggest in the country. About 50 km of elevated suburban railway network is being set up.They are also making coastal roads. a new sea link, a sea bridge from Mumbai to New Mumbai, an airport in New Mumbai, an underground metro and – all complete by 2022.

Here’s how modern India is different – in the past such a promise from a Chief Minister would be laughed at by the locals as “never going to happen”. Now, it is happening.

http://www.ptinews.com/news/9440133__Mumbai-to-transform-on-mobility-by-2022–new-Fintech-policy-on$storyes

The “split personality” of western investors when it comes to India

Investors in the west have split personalities when it comes to India – yes, they see India opportunities as incredible, but, no, they choose not to invest there. This is all about to change – my post gives 8 reasons for the change.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/eight-reasons-india-global-investors-radar-stephen-manallack/?published=t

What if Branson met Gandhi?

They both used creative symbolism to propel their causes into the spotlight – Mahatma Gandhi with his spinning wheel and simple clothing, Sir Richard Branson with balloon flights and other challenges. But what if they met – would they have got on?

They both used creative symbolism to propel their causes into the spotlight – Mahatma Gandhi with his spinning wheel and simple clothing, Sir Richard Branson with balloon flights and other challenges. But what if they met – would they have got on?

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) is regarded in India as the Father of the Nation, leading the campaign for freedom from British rule, and Sir Richard Branson (1950-) is the British founder of the Virgin business empire, also known for humanitarian activism.

The quietly spoken Gandhi opens the discussion by reminding Branson: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Gandhi explains what this means for business: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

Branson is nodding and interjects: “No company can train its front-end people to handle every situation, but you can strive to create an environment in which they feel at ease doing as they would be done by.”

As Gandhi continues with the cotton spinning wheel, Branson enthuses: “…it is necessary to give other people the space to thrive, to catch people doing something right, rather than getting things wrong.”

Gandhi is vigorous in agreement: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

But what about choosing the right approach to life? Gandhi sets the scene with: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Branson, the enthusiast, responds: “Look for people who take their roles seriously and lead from the front, but who are not slow to see the lighter side of life.”

In response to Gandhi’s quizzical look, Branson continues: “A company should genuinely be a family, who achieve together, grow together and laugh together.”

Family disputes

Gandhi reminds his colleague that even in families, disputes can occur and anger can arise. He points out: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” As Branson nods in agreement, Gandhi continues: “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.”

Branson wants to discuss creativity, leading with: “No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice, so as a leader you should always be listening. Be visible, note down what you hear and you’ll be surprised how much you learn.”

Gandhi responds with wisdom: “The golden rule is to test everything in the light of reason and experience, no matter from where it comes.”

And leadership? Again, from Branson: “Nobody respects a leader who doesn’t know how to get his hands dirty and innovate personally.” This point of character was so important to Gandhi: “If you have no character to lose, people will have no faith in you”.

Gandhi warms to the theme: “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” Branson can barely restrain his thoughts: “Having a personality of caring about people is important,” he says. “You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.” But Gandhi wants to move from big picture to the individual, reminding Branson to: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

Taking pride

Reflecting on this point, Branson highlights the importance of being proud of what you do: “If you make something you are proud of, that filters down to your staff, as well as your customers.” But Gandhi is more impressed with action than words: “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” He reminds Branson that tolerance is a key human value, explaining that he has “…a tolerance for all faiths”.

Glancing at his enthusiastic visitor, Gandhi cannot resist stirring the pot: “There is enough in this world for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed” and explains the real source of a happy life: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Branson relishes this shift in the conversation and expands on business in the community: “Take a look around at your community and you will likely see problems that need to be fixed – from reversing environmental degradation to creating local jobs. As an entrepreneur or business leader, you have a role to play in solving those problems.”

Coke deed

Inspired by the great man, Branson sets out a vision: “Coca-Cola sells 1.7 billion drinks every day, from Paris to Mumbai. If a fraction of those consumers were inspired to do something good each time they drank a Coke, the company really would be teaching the world to sing.”

Gandhi almost shudders at the mention of the fizzy western drink, removes his round glasses and his parting words linger in the mind of Branson as he flies home:

“The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.”

This article first appeared in THE HINDU in 2013

Let’s engage with India

Why get closer to India? About 600 million people, more than half India’s population, are under 25 years old; no country has more young people. Remember the economic impact of the western “baby boom”? It is time the west moved closer to India in trade, culture and tourism. What do you think? As the great Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore said: “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

Stephen Manallack is a Director of India strategy consultants the EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and compiled the secrets of Indian business success and cross cultural issues while preparing his book for the Indian market, Soft Skills for a Flat World (Tata McGraw-Hill). He has led several trade missions to India and is a Cross-Cultural Trainer.