Business Today

The global manager

What does it take to become a true global manager? And can B-schools teach students the nuances of succeeding in a globalised environment?

Anusha Subramanian        Print Edition: July 13, 2008

  • Before Ramesh Natrajan, 40, became the India-based Deputy Country Manager-South Asia of DHL, he did a two-year stint as Deputy Country Manager-DHL Express in Malaysia. An alumnus of IIFT (Class of 1995), Natrajan has put in six years with DHL, where he began as Head of Marketing. Before being deputed to Malaysia, he went through DHL's Deputy Country Manager Programme, an initiative aimed at grooming future leaders.

  • Brajesh Bajpai, 37, an alumnus of XLRI's Class of 1996, is the Regional Head, Middle East and North Africa at Mumbai-based FMCG major Marico, which he joined in 2006 as Country Head for Egypt, after spending over a decade with PepsiCo in India across functions as diverse as Sales, Marketing, Operations and Franchise & Brand Management. He has played a key role in the establishment and consolidation of Marico's operations in West Asia and North Africa.

  • Suneela Katikala, 34, an IIM Lucknow alumnus, is recently deputed to London to take on a global managerial role in sales for TCS, where she has worked for the past four years. She was picked up for TCS's global managers training programme.that got her the London posting.on the basis of her award-winning performance in sales and leadership for two consecutive years.

IIM-A class in progress: The road to Global Inc. starts here
IIM-A class in progress
Bajpai and Katikala Natrajan represent a growing breed of global managers who have become a necessity in the rapidly globalising world of business. What’s apparent from the brief biographies of the three is that they have the talent and training to efficiently manage businesses in alien and cross-cultural settings. What’s also obvious is that companies are playing a major role in shaping these global managers through innovative training programmes designed to suit their specific needs. Says Ajoyendra Mukherjee, Vice President & Head, Global HR, TCS, which has over 111,000 employees in 47 countries: “Given our strong growth rates, we have had to focus on building leadership capabilities at all management levels and grooming managers across the TCS network for global leadership positions.”

TCS’ Suneela Katikala: Business acumen is the key
Suneela Katikala
TCS’s Ambassador Corps Programme focusses on critical business and communication skills and also equips managers to tackle challenges posed by cultural diversity. It offers an accelerated learning curve and trains managers to take their place on the global stage from the day they land in the international marketplace. Similarly, DHL’s Deputy Country Manager Programme is designed to instil multi-functional expertise and cross-cultural exposure with a clear leadership orientation. But beyond specific training, what does it take to be a global manager? Taking a somewhat radical view, Bajpai says: “It is simply not possible to create a global manager. However, one important trait of a global manager is the ability to handle ambiguity and change. The person should have an open approach to life and situations.”

For most managers, the first challenge in their global journey is to understand local cultural nuances and ensure relevant adaptability of approach. “It is imperative to be sensitive to and respectful of cultural diversity,” says Natrajan. Industry players say that true global managers adopt a consumercentric approach when it comes to running overseas operations.

This approach also applies to other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, financial institutions, etc., and involves understanding them and their motivation in terms of the practices of the land. What are B-schools doing to create these global managers? Says P. Venugopal, Dean, XLRI Jamshedpur: “It has become important for students to be prepared to take on global challenges.”

XLRI does this through its student exchange programme with B-schools in the US, France, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, Belgium and Sweden. It sends its brightest students to spend the September-December term in their second year living and working abroad. Besides, it brings faculty from different countries to instil a global perspective in its students. At the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, the faculty adopts the case study approach and other techniques to ensure that the quality of education is up to global standards. Most B-schools in the country have programmes that expose students to global business perspectives. Should there be a programme solely for the “global manager”?

SP Jain Institute’s Shrikant: Focus on customised assignments
M.L. Shrikant, Dean of SP Jain Institute of Management in Mumbai, doesn’t feel any need for it. He says Indian MBA programmes should concentrate on developing general skills like managing inter-personal relationships and instil in students the willingness to tackle issues related to implementation and teach them to take decisions under difficult situations. “The globalised aspect of business in terms of its environmental or strategic or cultural facets and the corresponding new courses to be covered need not be overemphasised in B-schools.

XLRI’s P. Venugopal:Tackling global challenges is the mantra
P. Venugopal
In the Indian context, this could be counter-productive,” he adds. According to Shrikant, MBA programmes should be customised for assignments that candidates are likely to undertake after passing out, of which “globalisation” may or may not be a critical component. He could have a point here. Rather than tamper with B-school programmes, the task of training managers for their global operations should be left to individual companies.

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