Indians’ innate skills and values ​​can be harnessed to our advantage

The latest entry in the growing list of Indians who have ‘made it’ overseas is Laxman Narasimhan, the new CEO of Starbucks. So, once again, the question has popped up: why are more and more persons of Indian origin (PIO) becoming leaders in global organizations? The answer probably lies in the fact that Indians are better at managing diversity and adversity than those living in many other countries.

We have diversity in cultures, religions, food habits, clothes and languages. Also, our population – both rural and urban – makes for one of the biggest and most varied markets in the world. Adversity, except for a few rich, lies in every sphere of Indian life. From living in large joint families and making ends meet, to struggling to get an admission in a good school or college, and getting a stable job. We learn to manage all this at an early age, while, in other countries, most youngsters grow up in an environment of plenty.

India has excellent ‘incubators’ – educational institutions like the IITs and IIMs – as well as the ‘steel frames’ of the IAS, IFS and IPS. So, we study hard to get into them, and many of us even harder once we are in them. This makes us fast learners. Many are fortunate to get a job in the best companies in the world that brings about its own set of standards. MNCs have been around in India for over 70 years and understand our systems. They know that Indians, in general, are willing to work hard and even extra hours. Not only are many Indians tech-savvy but we have some command over the global lingua franca, English, that comes handy.

We are rarely overambitious. This translates into us becoming better managers, dealing with people from various walks of life and managing unstructured environments. We also learn to value the resources available to us – leading to our proficiency with the ‘jugaad’ system – non-wastage of resources, and always having a Plan B in case things don’t work out as planned.

We learn to embrace data and how to filter what life has in store. Our upbringing makes us better at disaster management, and diligent. In taking care of ourselves by going abroad, Indians, however, generally lack the desire to help those they leave behind. Many tend to donate to foreign universities, without thinking of giving back to the schools and colleges in India where they first set off on their course.

Close to 90% of FDI investments in China are coming from Chinese Americans. India’s ratio from Indian Americans is below 5%. One of the main reasons is that investors look for stability in politics. India has suffered from inconsistency, even as this is changing.

The innate bag of skills and values ​​Indians possess – family values, work ethic, respect for mentors, building trust and confidence, and riding the ebbs and flows of the market – can be harnessed to our advantage. While we have earned bragging rights for those among us who have ‘made it’, it’s time to move beyond that. It’s time to grow as a country and its people.


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