Friday, April 15, 2011

Nimble-footed desi managers go global

DELHI: Rakesh Kapoor's appointment as CEO-designate at UK-based Reckitt Benckiser adds to the growing list of Indians joining the elite club of global CEOs. The elevation of Indians may be because of the clout of the region ( Asia), which is being looked upon by MNCs as the biggest growth driver, or because desi managers have proven to be capable leaders, the fact remains that the Indian leadership quotient in Global Inc has gone up significantly. 

"Indian managers, especially those who have worked in India, are versatile and capable leaders. They know how to compete with the international as well as local low-cost competitors," said M S 'Vindi' Banga, operating partner, Clayton, Dubillier & Rice LLP, a PE fund. According to Banga, who was formerly president (foods, home and personal care),Unilever Plc, Indian managers mature in a very uncertain and volatile environment, where they face challenges of changing regulation, poor infrastructure and labor issues, and thus become versatile and nimble; compared to Western managers who only need to worry about the market and competition. 

According to Banga, Indian managers are good leaders as they understand power of relationships with people. Banga, who knows Kapoor well, said that Rakesh is an outstanding professional and combines this with a very down to earth pragmatism and unassuming manner. Management gurus and HR head honchos, who are on the hunt for this kind of leaders, also share Banga's views. "Today, the leadership aspect of an Indian origin is much respected unlike the days when the Americans, Europeans and Japanese more or less controlled senior roles in the company's management," said R Suresh, MD, Stanton Chase, an executive search firm. He added that for someone like Rakesh Kapoor to take top most position at Reckitt is an indication of sectors like consumer goods seeing India as the biggest consumption story in world. "This is the best place to launch new products and from where the big chunk of sales will come therefore, someone like him can drive the strategy around new growth markets," said Suresh. To be brought up in a multi-cultural environment helps, said Abraham Koshy, professor of marketing at IIM Ahmedabad. "The emerging markets will require somebody to understand the nuances and the backgrounds that Indians come from helps," said Koshy. 

"For anybody to be selected as a global CEO, competence matters the most. Indian CEOs who have gone global have the advantage of having been through a filtration process, be it getting good education, working in a good multinational company or performing well there," said Koshy.

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