You have rich and multiple experiences. Which life event put you on this journey?
My mother and India, I should say. My mother Rukmani Ramani rose to the level of a General Manager in a Nationalized Bank way back when women hardly went out to work. She set very high standards for me and gave me an upbringing of healthy doses of Indian culture, that included Chinmaya Mission teachings, south Indian traditional rituals and simultaneously inculcated the love of foreign languages in me. The love of languages and constantly learning was inculcated by my father. How important positive parenting is! Today I am grateful to realize how lucky I was that they filled me with so much positivity!
But the seed for Global Adjustments was sown by Joanne Grady Huskey, an American diplomat’s wife when we were hosting sessions on religion and culture for the IWA (International Women’s Association). Joanne suggested that it may be a good idea to start a relocation services company which was a popular concept in the West. Thus, was born Global Adjustments in March 1995. As it turned out, it became the need of the hour with so many global conglomerates looking to invest in India.
The global dynamics is shifting towards the east, in this context if you were to republish your book (Doing Business in India for Dummies) now, what would be the specific changes?
To be honest, I think the book is still relevant in more ways than one. And it will always be relevant. But if I were to revisit, I would certainly add a chapter on Millennials and how the world belongs to them. Yet another aspect that I would love to add is the spiritual richness of India and how it can teach many lessons to the world.
What has been one of the biggest challenges in the corporate executive movement? How did you overcome it?
I would sum it up in one phrase: They come crying to India, and they leave India crying as well.
The biggest challenge, especially in my initial years, was how the foreign business community would land with a whole bunch of wrong assumptions about India. From poverty, snakes, yogis, contaminated water, to burglary they feared India and it was tough to change these misconceived notions. I worked hard on this and taught them to not expect home here, but a different and colourful land that has so much to offer. I worked with them constantly to teach them to be curious, ask questions and laugh and have fun and to stop comparing. I am proud of this and the battle is won when you see them letting their hair down and enjoying the cultural richness of India.
You have front ended several mergers and acquisitions. In this context, what weightage should organizations give to cultural competence vs the financial metrics?
I have been in the middle of several such mergers and have been collaborating vastly with varied teams. At the end of the day, it’s the software of the mind. If the parties are not coming to a consensus, it’s a deal that is going to fall through the cracks. Meeting of the minds must happen. Most often valuable deals fall through because of unnecessary ego clashes and people not speaking up. If business leaders are transparent and articulate a lot of things can be easily resolved.
We have spoken much about the genders. What has changed today and where do you see us heading?
Agreed. A number of debates and discussions have happened on this subject. But the fact remains that 80% of the workforce today remains male. The ratios need to speak for themselves and they need to gather more momentum. Our women must have strong Indian roots with global wings, build emotional intelligence, spiritual focus and build their emotional strength. We teach our women to be PROUD – Proactive, Respectful, Orient to Solutions, Understandable and Direct.
Gender sensitization is happening and so much of women empowerment is going on. How do you see it all? Is there still a missing link?
These are positive trends indeed and I am happy to see all this happening. From the women standpoint they should be seeking support and not hesitate about this. I am happy to see the young millennials actively involved in parenting, cooking and other home chores. There is still a missing link, the pieces still have fall into place.
Women don’t support each other; women don’t enjoy reporting to women bosses, are some statements that we hear. What do you think of these? If there is a blind spot, how can we course correct?
We are wired differently, that is the fundamental truth about women. That said, yes there is a crab mentality and instead of holding hands and pulling each other up there is a tendency to push down other women. This can be corrected with self-awareness, spiritual resilience, developing maturity and a positive mindset.
What are some books that you would recommend to our readers?
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith.
- The Moment of Lift How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
- Bhagawad Gita for daily living by Eknath Easwaran (specific book, arguably the best translation for modern times – I read and re-read pages every single day)
Let me end with an interesting story from the book by Melinda Gates where she explains how Melinda was hard pressed for time and requested Bill to drop their daughter in school. He did that for a day and loved the chit chat with his daughter and volunteered to drop her every day at school. Seeing this many other mothers told their husbands to do the same. At the end of the day, this is all women empowerment is all about.
QUOTE IN FOCUS
We teach our women to be PROUD – Proactive, Respectful, Orient to Solutions, Understandable and Direct.
QUESTION IN FOCUS
What would be your advice to senior executives to move across geographies and cultures?
As I have said earlier, this is a new land, a land of myriad hues, diversity, each state having its own regional and beautiful flavour. Please come with an open mind, make the most of this diverse country and enjoy its people who are known to shower love and affection.
Founder & CEO, Global Adjustments Foundation
Ranjini Manian is the Founder and CEO of Global Adjustments Foundation. An organisation that pioneered relocation services in India by offering end to end expatriate services including cross cultural coaching. Ranjini is also the matriarch overseeing ‘Championwoman’, which is a non-profit movement that empowers women through life coaching workshops. She has served on the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board and is on the managing committee of MMA (Madras Management Association). She has travelled the world to promote Indian business culture. She has authored and co-authored several cross culture and business books.