Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Novel on the Expat Experience 'Becoming Mrs Kumar' by Heather Saville Gupta

Random House  launches its new fiction title, Becoming Mrs Gupta by Heather Saville Gupta. The book is the first novel to address the increasing common reality of expats looking for love in the new India.



 Heather Saville  arrived in Mumbai in 2003, just before Diwali.  She’d been to India before, on backpacking and business trips, but this time  she decided she  was here to stay.  She had  garnered  an expat job with one of India’s largest advertising agencies, a comfortable salary, and a company owned apartment to live in. Once in India  her life took a total 360 degree turnaround.  It was a whole new experience for her and that is what she has tried to capture in her debut novel brought out by Random House titled 'Becoming Mrs Kumar.' She speaks to Johnson Thomas about her life in Mumbai and her varied experiences in the vibrant, lively and intriguing India that she has come to love and call her own.


From being single and fancy free to hitching up with an Indian , getting married and then having two babies it's obviously been a whirlwind for Heather Saville Gupta. She was single when  she arrived,  ready to explore and make the most of the  city. When she first came to Mumbai , the scene was totally different from what it is now.  Then the tony neighborhood was south of Breach Candy, Worli was too far away from the 'Life' while Bandra was a suburb. Andheri, Versova, Malad, Goregaon were all just words on the map.
Offices were in Nariman Point, Fort or Churchgate. Most Expats  hung out at the Breach Candy club which provided a lifeline of sanity for Expats in the chaotic environment of a bustling alien  city teeming with people.

The expat scene was small at first. Things started changing in early 2000. Globalisation was well entrenched by then . In 2009, The Sealink, and the Global recession changed everything. Heather moved from Breach Candy to Bandra  sometime in 2007 and  got herself acclimatised to the more cosmopolitan social scene there. The Global recession which started at the end of 2008 also re-engineered the expat presence in Mumbai .The number of Expats in Mumbai has increased tremendously. But Heather is no longer in that strictly 'Expat' zone anymore. Her marriage to Vivek has changed her total outlook on life. Today she is working as Production Head and Taking care of the HR at Bang Bang Films as well being mother to Jake and Noah. She isn't involved as much in the party whirl as once she was. There have been so many changes in her life and she has managed to embrace them all successfully. Mumbai itself has changed tremendously. The skyline today is totally different from what it was 10 years ago.  According to her , Mumbai’s famous spirit hasn’t altered one bit through all the change, though.
 

Heather's travels around India has improved her adaptability to differing  environs. She now finds it difficult to spend more time in England because in her own words 'the first week back at home is fun but thereafter it's terribly  boring!' India is her home now and her first attempt at fiction best exemplifies that!

Synopsis(Becoming Mrs Kumar):  Julia Robinson is bored. Her job at a top London ad agency is becoming a bit sameish. Her London rent is killing her and she has been rained ononce too often to find British weather amusing.Julia wants to shake things up and so jumps at a chance of a job in Mumbai. She now finds herselic cities f in the centre of one of the most chaotic and energetic  cities in the world. Will she find Mr Right in all this hullabaloo?




Thursday, May 10, 2012

A grateful Poland recalls the ruler of Nawanagar’s kindness towards its WWII refugee children


Little Warsaw Of Kathiawar
A grateful Poland recalls the ruler of Nawanagar’s kindness towards its WWII refugee children

“When others were killing our children, you were able to save them.” Emotional statements are not the stuff of formal interactions between high dignitaries, but this is precisely what Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said to President Pratibha Patil during his visit to India in September this year. It was a clear indication that nearly 70 years on, the heartwarming story of hundreds of Polish children who found sanctuary in the princely state of Nawanagar in the Kathiawar region of present-day Gujarat during World War II is still remembered with gratitude in their homeland. The celebrated ‘Kindertransport’ project, in which the UK rescued thousands of children from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe in 1938, finds an echo in the noble decision by Digvijaysinhji, the maharaja, or ‘Jam Saheb’, of Nawanagar to take in Polish children from war-torn, occupied Poland and Soviet prison camps. The Jam Saheb took personal risks to make the arrangements at a time when the world was at war, and when the exhausted refugees were denied entry at all ports. Digvijaysinhji, son of the legendary cricketer-prince Ranjitsinhji, built a camp for them in a place called Balachadi beside his summer palace, 25 km from his capital, Jamnagar, and made them feel at home. The Jam Saheb’s gesture is said to have paved the way for thousands of Polish refugees to be received in other parts of the world, including some other places in India.
Roman Gutowski, a Balachadi boy, in front of the Maharaja Jam Saheb School, Warsaw, in 2004. (Photograph by Anuradha Bhattacharya) Nearly 68 years after the children arrived in Jamnagar and 64 years after their repatriation, there is renewed interest in the story in Poland, possibly triggered by a desire to ensure that this valued slice of memory passes on to a younger generation of Poles. As part of this commemorative effort, a square or an important street in Warsaw is likely to be named after the Jam Saheb. (A prestigious higher secondary school in the Polish capital has been named after him.) Plans are afoot to honour this “Indian Schindler” with a posthumous award, and make a feature film on the subject. Meanwhile, Indian historian Anuradha Bhattacharya’s book on this humane encounter will be released in 2011. Prof Piotr Klodkowski, Poland’s ambassador to India, told Outlook that distant though the historical event is, it still stirs emotions in Poland. “This is a true and captivating story for the ‘aam admi’ in both India and Poland. It is a story hidden like a precious stone in history. We are not satisfied with the common man’s knowledge of this story and intend to popularise it and retell it in various forms,” he said.
Commenting on the significance of retelling the story, M. Krzysztof Byrski, Indologist and former Polish ambassador to India, said: “Each event in the history of our relations that exemplifies disinterested generosity should be remembered. After the nightmare of their morbid experience in the limitless, frosty wastes of Siberia, these children found a safe haven in India, which for them appeared like heaven.”
Polish children at Balachadi celebrate the St Nicholas day festival with a traditional dance. (Photo Courtesy: Sainik School, Jamnagar) So, what is the story? A warning before we dive into it: there is more than one version. Due to the loss or destruction of archival material in Jamnagar, it has largely been corroborated from material available in London and through the narratives of aged survivors. Inevitably, these contain discrepancies about how the decision was taken to allow the children on Indian soil; how the project was funded and what route (land or sea) the kids took to reach the shores of Nawanagar. The reconstruction one hears in Jamnagar has the benign flavour of mythology. It is a heroic tale, lacking in complications, and resting on one man’s generosity, courage and ‘word of honour’; by contrast, the historian’s version is far more intricately woven. However, in both versions, the Jam Saheb comes through as the moving spirit behind the mission.

When Delhi objected to him sheltering the Poles, Jam Saheb produced an adoption certificate, saying they were family. The Jam Saheb’s children Harshad Kumari and Shatrushalyasinhji say, on the basis of conversations with their father, that there were nearly 600 children and 40 women at the camp; and that all of them came directly from Poland, after the Wehrmacht attacked it. Hiding from the invaders, they were rescued and put on small ships that travelled from port to port—in Scotland, Ireland, Africa—but were barred from entering. Finally, they arrived in Bombay, where the British governor also refused entry (saying he did not have permission from the home office in London, and that they came from enemy territory). Enter the Jam Saheb, then an Indian representative on the imperial war cabinet in London chaired by Winston Churchill. Hearing of the children’s plight from the Polish prime minister-in-exile, he flew immediately to Bombay. He first went to the ships, saw the dreadful condition of the kids, spoke to the captains and went to meet the governor. “Our father tried to convince him, but when he failed, he was so frustrated, he went back to the ships and asked them to move to Nawanagar’s Rosi port. He took them all off and put them in tented accommodation for a few months before the Balachadi camp came up,” the siblings recall. Another extraordinary detail recounted by the siblings is that when the viceregal office in Delhi objected to him taking in foreigners, he said they were part of his family, and even produced an adoption certificate. “Our father politically adopted them,” says Harshad Kumari, adding that he bankrolled the project from his personal funds. Harshad Kumari, now in her 70s, but aged six when the children arrived, remembers being at parties with them: “They came to our Christmas parties and mingled with 45 of us cousins. A huge shamiana was put up in an open area. Once they came for my Bapu’s birthday and once for my brother’s birthday.” She also remembers attending a festival at the camp, with the kids dancing and singing in full skirts and dark velveteen shorts: “They made a costume each for my brother and myself. Mine is still lying somewhere in my trunks.”

Harshad Kumari, daughter of the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar. (Photographer by Apoorva Salkade) The narrative of events pieced together by Bhattacharya, and the more-or-less matching version provided by Wieslaw Stypula, a ‘Balachadian’ who wrote about his stay in a commemorative volume, Poles in India 1942-1948, differs in significant ways from the siblings’ account. While corroborating the fact that the princely state of Nawanagar was the first to offer sanctuary to the children, the historian says they were evacuated out of the Soviet Union (they were Polish refugees deported to the USSR and interned in camps after their country was invaded by the Red Army in 1939)—first by road—in 1942 and, according to archival documents, maintained out of charitable funds raised in India (Rs 6,00,000 between 1942-48), subscribed to by several Indian princes. Stypula, in his account, says: “After the Maharaja’s offer...a Polish Children’s Fund was opened with a Rs 50,000 grant from the viceroy of India, and Rs 8,500 collected by the Polish Red Cross.” He narrates a moving tale about the condition of the children who reached Ashkabad, Turkmenistan, the assembly point for them in the then Soviet Union: “A seven-year-old boy, after the death of his parents from typhus, was left with his 18-year-old sister—alone on the Uzbek farm. When news reached him that evacuations were being organised somewhere in town, the boy set out on a dozen-kilometre journey to Samarkand, with his sister on his back....”

The family’s account differs from that of historians. But they agree on one point: the Jam Saheb’s generosity. Discrepancies in the narratives, Bhattacharya says, may be explained by the fact that many batches of children and refugees arrived in India, including a batch of 200 Polish children who arrived by ship and a Jewish group that came to Bombay after being denied permission to land at various ports. The historian suggests there might be a “memory overlap” between the stories of the various batches landing up in Balachadi, and regrets the lack of conclusive palace documents. “However,” she says, “there is no denying that the Jam Saheb’s generosity is unparalleled. It was the cornerstone for other Polish people to get sanctuary in India.” That they found refuge here also, Bhattacharya says, “speaks volumes about the national movement, which was not xenophobic, and about the Indian people who showed no antagonism to the presence of the Polish children in a year of severe drought and famine.” In an interview in the November 25, 1942, issue of Polska, a weekly Polish magazine, the Jam Saheb spoke of his decision to welcome the Polish kids: “Maybe there, in the beautiful hills beside the seashore, the children will be able to recover their health and to forget the ordeal they went through.... I sympathise with the Polish nation and its relentless struggle against oppression.” The Jam Saheb’s extraordinary dedication to the cause of the Polish children is evident from Stypula’s account of their departure, after a United Nations-assisted repatriation began in 1946: “Farewell—good man from the good land. ‘Polish’ Maharajah Jam Saheb. Your tears and your voice trembling with deep emotion, when you spoke to us for the last time at the station in Jamnagar, said it all.” It is only right that Poland today wants posterity to remember him.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Expat living in India?

April 6th 2012! Important changes to UK Pensions & QROPS Legislation! We strongly recommend you speak to or request contact from one of our expert Advisers straight away. To find out how these changes affect you simply complete the form on the left! Did you know that as an Expatriate in India you can receive your UK pension income with no Tax deducted and ensure that your family inherit any unspent pension funds. How We Can Help You Understand QROPS and UK Pension Transfers. Read on to understand the benefits of QROPS and UK Pension Transfers abroad.

Find A Better Retirement Income Abroad It’s a fact that increasing numbers of Britons are choosing to retire abroad, and since the introduction of QROPS in 2006, many Britons have the opportunity to free up their UK pension from the restrictions of the British taxation and pension systems. However, with this uniquely beneficial pension transfer opportunity comes the burden of understanding whether a QROPS is the right choice for you personally. We have arranged to provide a free pension analysis for you, compiled by industry experts, to show you how you can Save Large Amounts of Tax, protect from IHT and improve the growth of your Pension! Many factors come into play when assessing whether an individual is best advised to transfer their pension or not, which is why it is critical that you receive qualified advice before making any decision or taking any action. As Britons living abroad who have already been through the battle to find best advice about our personal pension options, we are acutely aware of how difficult it can be to get answers to some of the most common questions, such as: - Do I have to pay UK tax on my pension when I receive it? Will the British taxman grab any unspent pension when I die? Do I have to buy an annuity with my pension now that I live abroad? If I transfer my pension to a QROPS, which is the best jurisdiction? Which financial services provider has the best QROPS for me? This is precisely why we worked together to establish QROPS Choices. You can read more about us and more QROPS elsewhere on this website, but here’s how our service works, and how we can help you… The Free Service We Offer You

At QROPS Choices we provide every single reader who contacts us with a free and comprehensive pension analysis report. This report is produced by one of our handpicked, qualified, regulated, experienced, recommended and independent financial advisers, and it is individually tailored to your own personal circumstances. This analysis report examines your current pension position and your transfer options; and if a transfer path is deemed applicable and advisable, your QROPS options are also explored in depth. To Receive Your Free Pension Analysis & Guide To QROPS Simply Complete The Form On The Left With your free and comprehensive report you will be able to see whether you will be better off transferring your pension to a QROPS. Your analysis will be written in plain English and it will endeavour to answer all the questions you may have, such as: - What benefits could I enjoy if I move my British pension abroad now that I’m living overseas? Will I be able to save tax by transferring my pension? Is a pension transfer right for me? What are the risks of transferring to a QROPS? What are the costs associated with transferring my pension abroad? How much inheritance tax could I potentially save by transferring my pension? How can I pass unspent pension to my beneficiaries upon death with a QROPS? How can I avoid having to buy an annuity with a QROPS? Can I take my pension income in a currency of my choice and avoid exchange rate and transfer costs? Can I transfer SIPPs, final salary schemes and occupational pensions? What’s more, if a QROPS transfer is not the right decision for you based on your personal circumstances, your analysis report will make this fact clear, and potentially save you from making a grave financial error. Testimonials

I thoroughly recommend that anyone planning to retire abroad gets a pensions analysis before making any decisions about QROPS. Joan Williams – Spain Your pension analysis certainly does cast a lot of light on the subject of QROPS. Tom Watkins – UAE Thank you, your pensions analysis is worth it’s weight in gold, glad I found you. Sue Price – Florida Perfect, just what I was looking for, thank you very much. Martin Busler – France QROPS Choices provide a first rate service, don’t hesitate to get your pensions analysis. Helen Robins – New Zealand Thanks ever so much, I was really concerned about sorting my pension out, you’ve been incredibly helpful from start to finish Barry Davies – Cyprus To Receive Your Free Pension Analysis & Guide To QROPS Simply Complete The Form On The Left How Your Free Analysis Report Informs and Enables Your Choices

By taking the short amount of time required to speak to one of our handpicked financial advisers, so that they can glean essential information about your current pension position and retirement ambitions in confidence, you will enable them to take the information and draw up your tailor made report. This report will lay out your projected returns currently, and compare them directly with your pension transfer and QROPS options and future potential benefits. With the information you receive written in plain English, and written to answer any specific questions you may have about QROPS and transferring a pension abroad, you will be armed with all the facts, figures, data and analysis required to enable you to make the right choice about whether transferring your pension is the best approach or not. Your personal adviser will remain on hand to answer any additional questions you may have, and to directly assist you should you decide that you would like to go ahead and move your pension to a QROPS. A QROPS is not the right choice for everyone, and not all QROPS offer the same benefits to each individual. Whilst the benefits available from these qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes can be broad and high returning, you need to ensure that you make the right choices – and to do that you need the right advice. How To Get The Right Advice

To receive your personalised and free UK pension vs. QROPS analysis and comparison report, produced by a fully qualified pensions expert, complete the form on the left hand side. You can specify exactly how you would like to be contacted. You have nothing to lose and a potentially much wealthier and secure retirement to gain!
QROPS Choices +44 20 8123 2488 enquiry@qropschoices.com

Welcome to QROPS Choices, an information service established by a group of British expatriates for British expatriates. Since QROPS (qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes) were first introduced in 2006, there has been an awful lot of confusing information disseminated about these exceptionally flexible and potentially high returning pension schemes. The worst offenders for causing confusion are often the QROPS providers themselves! We Create Clarity From Confusion

When we, as a group of interested expats who are living, working or already retired abroad started researching our own pension transfer options, we found it hard to know whose information we could trust. There didn’t seem to be a clear path to follow in order to determine whether we were better off leaving our pensions in the UK, or transferring them to a QROPS. And if a QROPS was supposedly the best way forward, we all received conflicting advice about the best jurisdictions for investment for example. When we got together to discuss the advice we were receiving from websites, forums, financial advisers, accountants and bank managers we discovered that there were those who clearly understood QROPS and pension transfers and whose advice we felt comfortable trusting, and then there were those who were clearly just attempting to hard sell us a solution. As Britons we were all acutely aware of the UK pension mis-selling debacle that affected many people in the late 80s and early 90s, and we felt determined that expatriates should not fall victim to bad advice when it came to their own retirement income options. Unfortunately however, there was seemingly no service available to expats where they could get free, independent and personally tailored advice. This fact led us to take matters into our own hands, and it resulted in the establishment of QROPS Choices. How We Pick The Advisers We Work With We invited only the expatriate financial advisories that we felt had offered the best advice to submit client testimonials to us. These needed to be from satisfied individuals who had received QROPS advice from the advisory in question. We followed up on these to ensure that best advice and ongoing financial guidance was offered by the company to the client, before we invited each company to submit to us their regulatory information, details of the qualifications held by their QROPS advisers, and details about the terms of business they have in place with financial services companies they may recommend. In other words, we conducted careful due diligence before we hand picked a group of advisers we were comfortable recommending. It is these qualified, regulated and experienced independent financial advisers who complete each individual pension analysis for QROPS Choices’ readers like you. If you’re interested in determining whether a QROPS could be the right way forward for your pension savings and retirement income, or you just want to know how best to invest or manage your British pension now that you’re living abroad, with QROPS Choices you receive a free, personalised and individual review and assessment of your options. How We Can Help You

At this point you may be wondering why we and our hand picked financial advisers offer this service, and how we can offer it for free… It’s quite simple. If your adviser determines that you can benefit from a QROPS by transferring your British pension abroad, and you then act on the free advice given and work with the adviser to establish your QROPS and move your pension, they will receive a commission payment from the financial services company with which you establish your QROPS – just like any other expatriate independent financial adviser. In turn we receive a small percentage of the commission. QROPS are specifically designed to benefit British expatriates; therefore it is quite often the case that a transfer is deemed to be the best option. This means that whilst our advisers do sometimes have to explain to interested readers that a pension transfer is not the right approach for them, more often than not they show clear reasons why a reader should transfer. The testimonials we receive week in week out show us that our group of hand picked advisers consistently deliver a high grade service to our readers, therefore a consistently strong number of qualifying individuals choose to use the service on offer from the advisers we recommend. This makes this approach sufficiently profitable for everyone involved to continue to offer their advice and support for free. Please note: we at QROPS Choices are British expatriates just like you. We are not qualified to give you financial advice. This is why your specific requests for advice are handled by one of our hand picked independent financial advisers, and why all pension analysis documents are produced by these qualified and regulated third parties. Your Next Steps

Any Briton living abroad or planning to retire abroad can contact us with their questions about UK pension transfers and QROPS. If we can answer a question then we will – but if we feel that a question falls into the territory of financial advice we will ask one of our hand picked advisers to help – as always this is without charge or obligation. To ask a question or to receive your personalised and free UK pension vs. QROPS analysis and comparison report, produced by a fully qualified pensions expert, complete the form on the left hand side. You can specify exactly how you would like to be contacted. You have nothing to lose and a potentially much wealthier and secure retirement to gain!

Friday, March 2, 2012

54 lakh foreigners work in India

54 lakh foreigners work in India
Fri Mar 2, 2012 4:58 am (PST)

India in top 10 global immigration hubs....Rukmini Shrinivasan New Delhi: The number of foreign immigrants living in India is steadily declining, but India continues to be among the 10 countries with the highest in-migration in the world. At the same time, India sends the fourth largest number of emigrants to other countries. In 2010, there were 5.4 million foreign-born persons living in India, according to new estimates released by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. These numbers make India home to the ninth largest number of foreign-born persons in the world. But this number has been on decline since post-Partition migration and an influx of refugees from Bangladesh following the 1971 war. In 1990, there were 7.5 million foreignborn persons in India, and by 2000 this number was down to 6.4 million due to the death of the older immigrants. In the 2001 census, 97% of all immigrants were from south Asian countries. Three million were from Bangladesh, followed by a million from Pakistan and 600,000 from Nepal. US home to most immigrants New Delhi: India is among the top countries when it comes to attracting immigrants. While a source country-wise break-up is not available for immigrants in 2010, past trends indicate that the likes of French diplomats in Delhi, American investment bankers in Mumbai and British techies in Bangalore form a tiny part of this diaspora. These numbers are de facto and should cover both legal and illegal immigration, a UN Migration Team spokesperson said. However, unnaturally high growth rates for some border districts indicate that undocumented immigration does exist. "There is a difference between historical migration, such as that from Bangladesh, and new migration flows which we in India need to acknowledge," says Binod Kharia, chairperson of the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University and director of the International Migration and Diaspora Studies Project, co-sponsored by the government of India. The US remains by far the world's biggest destination for immigrants, and this number continues to grow. Pakistan is at number13. India is also the world's fourth biggest exporter of people-in 2010, India sent out over 5.6 million people as emigrants. Mexico, China and Pakistan form the top three. Though not the largest group, Indian emigrants sent home more money in remittances-$39 billion-than any other country's emigrants. URL: http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2012/03/02&PageLabel=1&EntityId=Ar00105&ViewMode=HTML

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Expat experience

Watch out! An expat speaks out....Ranjini Manian The expat co-worker is often taken aback by the Indian twist to business communication
The other day I happened to meet a young American sent by a multinational on an assignment to India. Let's call him James.
James is the first Westerner to work in the Indian arm of the company. He manages a team of 10 Indians aged 25 to 40, and reports to the Managing Director of the India operations. James had heard good things about India and the MD. He had come expecting to find his new assignment interesting and challenging.
Well, he found it challenging all right, James told me ruefully. But not in the way he had hoped. Curious, I asked him what his concerns were, and got an exhaustive laundry list of problems, most of them 'small' in the sense of being not directly business-related, but 'big' for someone raised in a totally different work culture.
I divided James' concerns into various categories. Let's deal with them, one by one.
Talking the talk
James had been assured that Indians were well versed in English and communication would not be a problem. This was true for the most part. Yet, there were some hurdles which he found very difficult to cross - telephones, for instance. What about telephones? I asked. "Well", replied James, "when I call someone on his phone, he picks it up and says 'Tell me' instead of the 'Hello' that I'm expecting to hear. That throws me off track completely! When I finally get going, and ask him for information, he gives it to me, but keeps interrupting himself to say 'Hello' every now and then, or else repeats what he has said. I find that terribly distracting."
"While your team member is talking, what do you do?" I asked James. "I listen in polite silence of course," he replied, puzzled that I needed to ask.
"That's why he keeps saying 'hello' or repeating himself," I explained with a smile. "During conversations, telephonic or face-to-face, we Indians expect our listeners to acknowledge that they have heard and understood by making typical sounds such as 'hmmm', 'ah' and so on. When we don't hear those sounds, we wonder whether the other person is still there, or if she has grasped what we are saying."
"Oh, now I get it," said James. "And I also have this problem that people keep breaking into the local language when they're talking to me in English." "Yes, that can be quite distracting," I agreed. "But we Indians are at least bi-lingual if not tri-lingual, and we're used to interspersing our conversation in one language with words from another."
Following the trail
James found communication via e-mail quite a problem too. He kept getting long e-mail chains from his team, with terse messages in the latest mail asking him to read through the trail and respond to some point or the other. He had to go through reams of material and pick out the point that needed his attention.
And then there was the issue of copying people on e-mails. James' mailbox was clogged with e-mails from one team member to another which had no relevance to him, but which he had been copied on. He found this quite annoying.
After listening to James, I wished that I had the power to ensure that basic telephone and e-mail etiquette is made a compulsory subject at the school and college level!
Who's the boss?
Protocol was another issue which James found difficult to understand in India. For one, his team addressed him as Mr James, which he found odd. They called him by his first name, but prefixed Mr to it. "Why do Indians do that?" James asked. I explained that we use Mr as a term of respect, and we don't give the same importance to the first and last names as the West. But I understood his irritation, and thought it was a Watch Out! point to share with readers.
Though there seemed to be a fixed pecking order, James found that people often jumped the line. When someone felt that a matter needed quick attention, they would simply contact a senior person, even in another country, by-passing direct superiors. He found this habit hard to tolerate.
"In India, decision-making is hierarchical, we are conditioned to think that if we go to the top, we'll get the job done, and fast," I told James.
Clock work
Finally, the problem of time management: James found his colleagues an intelligent, hard-working lot. Perhaps too hard working! They worked long at the office, much beyond office hours. When he asked for reports of work done, he got it in minute detail - down to the last nano-second. While he expected brevity and quality, they gave him quantity, eager to please him or prove to him that they were working hard.
"Why don't they realise I don't want a minute-by-minute account, I just want to know how they're progressing in their task? By giving me such reports, they're wasting their own time and mine," said James. "Put it down to our education system which focuses on writing copious pages rather than distilling knowledge in bullets," I said, flagging it as another Watch Out! point.
James' laundry list made me realise that although our people have come a long way on the road to doing business in a globally acceptable style, there are still many kinks we need to be aware of and iron out. So, new Indian managers, let's get our act together.
PS: James was smart enough to realise he couldn't change the work ethics much, because the problem started at the higher levels. He figured out that the best way of handling the situation was to get himself some training in Indian work culture!
The writer is Founder CEO of Global Adjustments, a relocation and cross-cultural services company, and can be contacted at globalindian@globaladjustments.com
URL: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/newmanager/article2860612.ece?homepage=true&ref=wl_home

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Job seekers need to be more creative and flexible

n 2012, creativity and adaptability will be key to landing and keeping a job for many workers, as staff levels remain lean and employees are expected to respond to a wide variety of demands, experts say. Economists don't expect loads of job growth, but there could be opportunities in areas such as health care, professional services, retail and some manufacturing, says Harry Holzer, a public-policy professor at Georgetown University. Also, continuing churn in the labor market means that even in areas with few new jobs, there will still be openings when workers move around. Enlarge Image mw mw Thomas Kuhlenbeck Technical knowledge and experience will be required for certain spots. "For professional services you usually need a professional degree. In health you usually need some training," Mr. Holzer says. "Manufacturing needs some occupational training. Retail is different. It doesn't require specific occupational training, but it does often require some interpersonal skills." In addition to the standard prerequisites, employers will be looking for workers who are able to quickly adapt to new responsibilities as companies respond to changing economic and industry trends. So workers should highlight their creative skills to differentiate themselves, says Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard University. "Firms have so many job seekers per opening. They are going to want candidates with clear credentials, but also a little extra shine in interactive skills and creativity," Mr. Katz says. "They are less willing in a weak labor market to take chances." Here are other skills experts recommend workers should pick up and enhance. Technical literacy. It's important for workers at a variety of levels to be familiar with some of the technical, if mundane, processes that keep organizations running smoothly. Take the health-care industry. Providers are bringing on more technology when it comes to record keeping and billing. "A knowledge of electronic data handling is just a really big plus. That goes for receptionists to the doctors who are becoming employees of larger hospital systems," says Warren Bobrow, president of All About Performance, a Los Angeles-based skills-assessment consultancy. Workers also need to be good users of social media. There's a fine line between letting interested parties know about the latest news and bombarding them with too much information. Still, individuals shouldn't be afraid to use networking sites such as LinkedIn to make employment connections. Business acumen. As companies remain concerned about demand for their products and services, a wide variety of employees need to think about sales, experts say. Even those outside of marketing should care about revenue, and making sure customers are happy. Mr. Bobrow has clients in Colorado, an orthopedic practice with more than a dozen doctors, and those doctors don't become partners until client-satisfaction surveys are reviewed and good results are found. "They are in a competitive marketplace because so much of their work is based on referrals," Mr. Bobrow says. "The doctors realize that their revenue depends on all of them bringing in more patients and having patients come back." Being savvy about pleasing customers isn't about spin, says Ben Dattner, a New York-based organizational psychologist and author. Rather, workers need to illustrate the advantages of their products and services to please employers dealing with an ultra-competitive environment. "Try to get to know your customer, the market and figure out how you can put things together in a package that adds value," Mr. Dattner says. "Law firms are increasingly recruiting professionals who [bring clients with them]. The actual practice of law is becoming commoditized to some extent, but the ability to bring in customer relationships and be flexible is what companies are increasingly looking for." General proficiency. Companies are looking for workers who are flexible and can take on functions in various jobs as market demands change, says Greg Barnett, director of product development at Hogan Assessment Systems, a Tulsa, Okla.-based personality-assessment and consulting firm. That is, companies want workers who are "solid organizational citizens"—quick learners who are compliant, Mr. Barnett says. "People are being asked to do more," he says. "There are concerns when applicants are good workers, but not people who are able to learn and change direction and change their performance." Dan Ryan, principal at a Nashville, Tenn.-based executive search firm, stresses the importance of project management and communication skills, which also happen to be transferrable. "The ability of people at all levels to clearly communicate is not what it used to be," he says. People "who can do that very well can differentiate themselves." Write to Ruth Mantell at ruth.mantell@dowjones.com —Ruth Mantell is a reporter for MarketWatch. Read more at marketwatch.com.