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Indian CEO aspirants need to be practical

business Updated: May 07, 2007 22:27 IST

All Indian CEO aspirants raring to work in Indian operations of foreign companies need to hang up their thinking caps and put on their working boots, according to job consultants specialising in recruiting top bosses.

According to studies done over the last decade by consultancy firm Tecnova, foreign companies looking to set up shop in India do not want strategists as their ideal CEO candidates. Rather, they need people at the helm who are more willing to approach a dirty job hands on.

“Companies no longer need strategists for their top jobs. Rather, they need people who would actually work with the team to tackle a particular situation,” said Ajay Muttreja, President, Tecnova India.

That however, does not mean the CEO needs to stop thinking, said Ramgopal Rao, President of Agora, a Pune-based executive search firm. “Foreign companies have a tendency to hire someone who is practical; a team player who has the bandwidth to think, and at the same time go down to the rank and file,” he said.

The CEO also needs to create trust between the Indian operations and its foreign bosses. He or she, should be able to ‘interpret Indian realities adequately for foreign bosses’. The CEO should also be able to handle red-tapism and bureaucracy, among other things.

Being able to adapt to global best practices is another very important quality companies look for in CEOs. This means that the Indian CEO should be able to talk the language of the foreign company.

Perception towards Indian CEO designates still suffer from a trust problem, said Rao. “People abroad still think we are snake charmers. A bit sophisticated, but still snake-charmers,” said Rao.

Mostly, CEOs of Indian operations need to be good in carrying out orders from their global bosses. It is especially important for leaders of Indian subsidiaries. CEOs of large acquired companies in India though, need to be strategists, said Muttreja.

“A CEO of Hutch, for example, needs to have a vision as to the future of the company in India. Now that it is going to be owned by Vodafone,” he added.

At least 1,500 foreign companies from the US, European Union and countries like Mexico have set their eyes on Indian shores. These companies of the size between $50 million and $10 billion are eager to set up shop in India.