Archives for posts with tag: Times Of India

We sat on the edge of our seats in the cinema theaters while watching Bhuvan’s (Aamir Khan) team play its last cricket match in the movie Lagaan, despite knowing the fact that India will win. Why did we do that? It was a plain scripted match in the movie, so why was there so much of thrill and excitement about the same. We still watch the same movie over and over again with the same fervor as the first time, even when we remember each and every move of the Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Team 11.

Half my children’s generation has grown up watching World Wrestling matches between those Hulk Hogans, Shawn Micheals and The Undertakers, regardless of knowing that every punch thrown or even those TLC (Table, Ladder and Chair) matches in the same are scripted. So, why is there so much of Gung-Ho about the spot-fixing happening in IPL, when it had and has been promoted as ‘Entertainment Ka Baap’ (= Father of Entertainment) by its airing partner, Sony Max. Why are Fast pacer S Sreesanth and spinners Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila being bestowed with Life Bans for spot fixing?

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Any façade that in the international business that IPL has become, cricket was more of sport than World Wrestling, came off when Ajay Jadeja, Hansie Cronje et al were caught in match fixing. My own conjecture is that the play-off slots too are pre-decided, and who will or will not make it is pre-scripted. This is similar to the laughter we hear in our favorite sit-com shows on television. Irrespective of whether the jokes are funny, the audience at home hears the laughter. Similarly, irrespective of any proven sports ability, the audiences at home or in the stadiums see what the organizers want them to see.

As we have seen over this season of IPL 6, Team Rajasthan Royals have “performed” real well and have qualified for the Play-offs, regardless of its team players involved in match fixing and “under-performing”. It might be a different matter that there are parallel organizers, the official IPL and the unofficial underworld. The problem is created because there are two conductors, whose intentions do not coincide. Hence, it is bound to become a way of making money by scripting it like a movie, when the matches are tagged as entertainment.

County cricket is tagged as a serious affair; so are ODI and other forms, hence charting out Life bans to the likes of Ajay Sharma, Danish Kaneria and Hansie Cronje were justified; ten years later when T20 has degenerated to mere entertainment, a ban on Sreesanth is not justified (perhaps it is a part of the drama). Superficially, the ban is just a way to cover the suddenly uncovered but usually ever coveted parallel conductor here. If we consider the parallel with politics – Bangaru Laxman of BJP (India’s leading opposition political party) was caught accepting a 100, 000 rupee bribe (approx USD 2,000 at current exchange rate) He was despised not because he was corrupt, but for two other reasons:

a) He got caught and

b) The amount was so small.

Now, Sreesanth is “caught” for charging Rs 60 lacs for performing badly in one over. Here, the 6 million rupees (approx. 110,000 USD) taken is a lot of money for me and most people I know. It would exceed lifetime earnings of many in India. Yet in the entertainment world of cricket, this sum being relatively small or large is still unclear to me. Should he have asked for more? Was he despised and therefore released to the police for undercutting others who charge more? There are many such questions that remain unanswered.

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To the point of MS Dhoni or Harbhajan Singh being blamed or counted responsible for his arrest is away from my area of understanding. The motive for targeting Sreesanth this time is not clear. However, I remain convinced that there are many more players, bookies or the parallel conductors that are engaging in entertaining cricket and will continue doing so.

People in our country still follow cricket as their religion and live in the state of constant denial that IPL is a scripted game. I can still understand that Sreesanth reigns the Twitter trends list, but I am amused by the seriousness offered to this by the main-stream media. Times of India and Hindustan Times make it a headline issue, while IBN Live covers it on a jungle fire scale. I don’t think it does deserve that much of news space or air-time. However, if this scheme of scripting business is followed in the world of international business, I hope it makes it as friendly and loved as the world of Cricket.

A recent Times of India strategy piece “Why Ghana is ideal destination for Indian IT companies” caught my attention, because of my own personal experience of visiting Ghana five years ago. It was a time when Ghana celebrated its golden jubilee of nationhood, it was hosting the African Union Summit and also its currency got re-denominated.

The Times article was a timely reminder. As Chinese historical anger towards Japan inflamed recently, many Japanese are now turning to India, not only for the market potential here, but also as the base to springboard into Africa. For early adopters of a See Africa policy in international business, India and Africa are a close link. The step into Africa could be through Kenya, where my cousin is enjoying the wonderful weather of Nairobi, but based on my own experience I think Ghana is just as good, if not better.

The Ghana I saw even five years ago was a nation with the potential to lead its continent out of the developing world into the developed. Ghana has already been a leader by virtue of being the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain independence. Even at that midnight hour in 1957, leader Dr. Kawame Nkrumah declared, “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of the African continent“. Ghana was instrumental in helping to found the Organization for African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1963.

Ghana has demonstrated a commitment to education, a touchstone for transitioning to a service economy. Literacy level of 75% in the 15+ age group is continuously rising, with almost 100% school enrollment achieved. It enjoys one of the highest per capita GDP in Western Africa and with unemployment at over 10% there is sufficient slack for finding educated labor for growing business.

Except for the pioneering Chinese, I suspect international businessmen will still not rush into Africa. Many highly educated businessmen still harbor such stereotypical fears as – “Africa is no place for a woman to do business”. Memories of kidnappings in Nigeria persist. The point I want to make is that Ghana is not like the rest of Africa. Accra’s lively beaches, casinos and nightlife tell a different story. Ghana is relatively safe, full of the self-described “friendliest Africans.” Nevertheless, Ghanaians again need to lead Africa in reassuring the international world that there is a respect for human rights and rule of law.

Five years ago I went, saw and concluded that Ghana can be a valuable investment destination for international business, with its increasing political stability, educated workforce and budding will to establish rule of law. It can pave the way for Africa’s long road to economic independence. International businesses can help strategically to create role models for Africa. By doing so, international business will share in the benefits reaped by such progress.

I came across an article on the website of Times of India, “What’s on the to-do list of expat CEOs in India”, which discussed the Dos and Don’ts of expatriate CEOs in the Indian market. The article made an interesting read and also initiated an argument between my Indian self and my global self on the abilities of Indian managers in the global scenario and the need of an expat CEO, especially considering the recent Adidas/ Reebok fracas. Being a part of the current international business environment, it really intrigued my Indian self to the extent of questioning my Global self on these stances taken by MNCs driving on the road to success in the Indian market.

The conversation begins:

Indian Ashok: Does the Indian market really require an expat head?

Global Ashok: India as a huge market base comes with its own pros and cons. It is a part of the new growing world and a marketing strategy that has worked with others countries, might not work here. Every company/MNC planning to enter the Indian realms has to come up with a marketing strategy and road map exclusive for this country. Hiring an expat CEO or an Indian manager is a part of the same.

Indian Ashok: Is Maruti’s decision as an evolved company, to replace its Indian MD with a senior Japanese professional representative of a newer marketing strategy?

Global Ashok: Maruti/MUL replaced its Indian MD, Jagdish Khattar, by Japanese Shinzo Nakanishi. The step, it seems, was initiated to ensure that the company has a better leverage at its Japanese Head Office. Khattar played his role to establish the trust factor in the Indian audiences/customers and replacing him with a Japanese member was required for that cross-border coordination. In a masterstroke, Maruti brought back R C Bhargava as Chairman to retain communication with the Indian interface. Maruti is a perfect example of a company evolving leadership strategy as it matures in the marketplace.

Indian Ashok: In that case, why when there are companies with two or more heads representing the same section – one of them always seems to be an expatriate?

Global Ashok: Depending on the stage of its evolution and based on the strategy to meet business targets, a company might want to hire an expat Manager with more global experience and try to groom their local team to adapt to that corporate DNA. Many Japanese companies in India, from Toyota to Honda to Hitachi, have an expat head because the Indian managers have still not developed that global corporate DNA. However, some Japanese companies like the logistics leader Nittsu decided as a matter of strategy to hire an Indian to lead the company. Senior Japanese were appointed as segundos to ensure that the local flavour remained in harmony with the global.An expat head may well be removed when the MNC gets more comfortable and evolved in the new market.

When business was not moving fast enough due to Head Office resistance, GE brought in a senior person from USA and stationed him in India. The head was entrusted with the agenda of influencing Head Office business units to enter the market.

The above examples demonstrate that bringing an expat is purely dependent on what the company needs to do to grow in the market.

Indian Ashok: Do you really believe there is a trust factor involved in hiring expatriates for any company entering a new market (especially Indian market)?

Global Ashok: Keeping expat heads does also bring in the trust factor. Any company might want to start their work with people they already know and whose abilities they have seen over a period of time. Each company comes with a unique work culture and expat heads seem to be well aware of that. An expat CEO might align the subsidiary company in a better way to its parent.

Indian Ashok: Does keeping an international head bring in the idea of a better watch or supervision for the parent HQ?

Global Ashok: Yes, that’s another good aspect of keeping expat heads – it offers better supervision. An expat head might give out a signal of the subsidiary company to be under close supervision of its parent. There would be regular sharing of reports in a way that the parent would have a better understanding of the overall scenario. Of course this is not necessary, as the Nittsu example reveals.

Indian Ashok: Okay, I understand now that “Leadership is not about nationality but about business targets”. It is more about the company, its strategy and growth plans rather than an individual leader or their nationality. Hiring an expat CEO or an Indian head can only be decided as per the requirements of an organization and their level of evolution. And, now I think I can sleep with a clear mind.

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