Archives for posts with tag: America

I can picture child labor returning. My daughter is a college sophomore hunting for internships. My high school senior son, seeking university admission is counseled that his lack of internship experience puts him at a disadvantage and he is only 17!

interns-wanted

I remember the time when as a returning sophomore at Williams, a freshman asked me about my summer holidays. I had spent the over 3 month vacation at home in Delhi, mostly relaxing with friends. My day started with a sumptuous breakfast that was followed by another round of sleep, wake up and meet friends, have lunch followed by an afternoon siesta and then again hang out with friends until dinner. My freshman American friend Hal was shocked. It was so unlike an American student’s summer break, often used to earn sufficiently for term-time pocket money. I was glad India was not fast paced then.

A few years ago, one of the students from Williams contacted me during her summer break, asking to meet me. When I met her at home, I learned she was already doing an internship with a leading consulting firm. What a shock! Americanization of the Indian summer break was at my doorstep.

My family has not remained untouched by this new-spreading norm and last summer I had to see my daughter spending her entire vacation as an intern in Gurgaon. It has become a norm in the current times. However, the internship is an added bonus on her resume while she sends off her cover letters. Proof of success is yet to be confirmed.

internship-pic

As my son applies to study Engineering at foreign universities, he was told that many successful applicants at leading programs demonstrate their interest through internships they have held. Does that mean that 16 year olds are interning at General Electric (GE) now? If not GE, well somebody must be accepting them. What starts as a favor to a friend’s son, will well soon enough open the floodgates for survival of the fittest.

This trend of organized child labor or internships is certainly advantageous and helps the youth in making informed choices based on firsthand experience. But will they not be sacrificing their youth experience, is one concern that still rings my thoughts…

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Most of my writings to date have recommended a course of action on a general basis that challenges the status quo of International business in the current scenario. However, earlier today, when I read The Economist’s recent article on Hitachi, I was gladdened to see that President Hiroaki Nakanishi is following my prescriptions, points that I made repeatedly to my then boss Mr. Yasunori Taga, the Chief Executive for Asia (CEA).

When I had joined Hitachi India, the sub-continent subsidiary was controlled by Hitachi Asia in Singapore. Despite my strong desire to relocate to Singapore, I remember telling Mr. Taga (against my personal interest) that it would be difficult to control an emerging economy like India from a developed city-state Singapore. President Nakanishi, finally upgraded Hitachi India to a regional Head Office in 2011.

I also agree with Nakanishi’s reported goal of attracting the best talent and allowing them the freedom to move around across business units. Other MNCs would do well to adopt this strategy. I often see foreign companies preferring to do things “their original global way”.  It takes some longer than others but eventually they have to adapt to local ways. It is either adapt or accept losses.

What can be true about human talent is also true about products. International business giant McDonald’s is good at this. It adopted vegetarian menu for India right from the start, and additionally was quick to give up the mutton offerings, substituting them by the more popular chicken. It has taken longer for America’s Kentucky Fried Chicken, or more lovingly known as KFC, to abandon its “original recipe”; they now serve only “Indianized” versions: spicy chicken or fiery grill chicken. The choice is between “hot” and “very hot”.  Hitachi’s appliances business unit has its own development center outside Ahmedabad, in the rapidly industrializing state of Gujarat. GE, Denso, Bosch etc. are leading global companies that are going native and understanding India better.

As European, especially German, companies look to Asia to grow business they would do well to heed these points about local talent and local products. Remember Brand India is noted for affordable products and superior global managers. Hitachi took over 50 years to learn such important lessons for doing business in India. Fortunately for European followers, they have a visible short-cut.

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