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HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014

Global honchos, Indian roots

Gaurav Choudhury, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 19, 2012
First Published: 20:58 IST(19/10/2012) | Last Updated: 23:32 IST(19/10/2012)

Vikram Pandit's rather sudden stepping down as the Citibank chief may have taken the corporate world by surprise, but the number of Indians in the world's C-Suite cupboard is far from being bare.

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There are a still a large number of Indians in C-Suite positions - a widely-used term used to collectively describe a company's most important senior executives.

C-Suite gets its name because top senior executives' titles tend to start with the letter C, for chief, as in chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief information officer.

According to Egon Zehnder, one of the world's largest privately held executive search firms, the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) economies are increasingly being targeted for directorships in European countries, although there are additional hurdles in recruiting executives from these countries: it is not easy to identify prospective directors who have both the quality of relevant experience and can devote the time that serving on a board requires.

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Egon Zehnder found that there were more Indian CEOs in S&P 500 companies than those from any other country, excepting USA

The recent prostate cancer diagnosis of Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, more famous as investment guru and the world's third richest man, has once again fuelled speculation of his succession, with India-born Ajit Jain seen as front-runner for the position.

Jain heads the $1,43.7 billion (Rs 747,240 crore) investment conglomerate's reinsurance division - a vertical that he has helped develop from scratch.

Experts said that with an educated and hard-working workforce, and an entrepreneurial spirit, India is an exciting and thriving place to do business. This is driving the talent pool for global giants to tap into for driving their businesses.

"In our research together with Bharat Petroleum, we found that there are four specific competencies common to the most outstanding Indian leaders - socially responsible business acumen, team leadership, inner strength and the ability to manage a complex web of external stakeholders," said Gaurav Lahiri, Managing Director, Hay Group India.

Both India's private and public sectors constantly deal with a complex web of external stakeholders, so the ability to effectively manage outside relationships is crucial to success in Indian business and is a key strength of Indian leaders.

"India teaches to survive the low purchasing power and high volume economics which turns out to be a very useful tool box while operating larger roles globally," said Manish Sabharwal, Chairman, TeamLease.

"Indians are good at handling uncertainties and public policies which are absolute requirement for doing business anywhere in the world," Sabharwal added. 

Experts, however, sounded a caveat. All those who have broken through the glass ceiling has got to do with merit and individual competence. Emerging countries, such as India and China, however, ingrains the ability to adjust new markets and culture.

"Though Ajit Jain has relatively little experience of big-ticket acquisitions, his discipline and ability to take risks without looking foolish has earned him an enviable reputation," said a Mumbai-based analyst who did not wish to be identified.

"Coming into play primarily when dealing with the government and the media, Indian leaders turn to their skills in networking and stakeholder influence to protect the enterprise from the time-consuming concerns of stakeholder groups," said Lahiri.


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