Tuesday, March 26, 2013

India: An Italian corporate honcho’s reactions


Book review

By
Randeep Wadehra


When not in Rome, don’t do as the Romans do by Stefano Pelle
Sage. Pages: xiii+203. Price: Rs. 450/-

Although the terms ‘globalization’ and ‘global managers’ gained currency in the latter half of the 20th century, the phenomenon is of hoary vintage. Recent discoveries of populations with Indian gene-pools comprising Australian aborigines is a fine example of how the ancients used to roam all over the globe and settle down in places that now are described as foreign, alien or exotic. After all, humans have been interacting over long distances for millennia. Such interactions resulted in transworld exchanges through such “infrastructure” as the overland Silk Road that connected Asia, Africa and Europe. There are historical records that show that, even during the BC era, Greek and Jew traders used to visit the ports of peninsular India, and Indian traders populated settlements in Egypt and elsewhere in West Asia. In recent times, the East India Company could be described as among the pioneers of globalization. At every stage of the globalization process there have been cultural clashes, exchanges and assimilations. The 21st century is no exception, except that the process has become much bigger in size with greater reach, and far more sophisticated in nature. Among its several consequences is the restructuring of global economy causing intercontinental movement of highly skilled manpower on an unprecedented scale, giving birth to a specie called ‘Global Manager’. Stefano Pelle, from Italy, belongs to this specie.

Pelle had no real intention of relocating to India – for money or love. In fact his first trip to India, as an unwitting tourist, in the 1990s had ignited a strong desire in him to never visit the country again. The reasons were familiar – dirty international airport, stinking cabs and grimy taxi drivers, not to mention all sorts of shady characters out to fleece Pelle on one pretext or the other. However, as he admits in this humorous, insightful book (which is understandably filled with familiar plaints and clichéd images of cows and chaos on the roads) the destiny had already earmarked him for a second and far more rewarding tryst with India – where he found love as well as a satisfying career.

After returning to India – this time as a corporate manager – he gradually became acquainted with different aspects of the country’s culture – social, corporate and, to some extent, political. The chapter on his wedding, “An Indo-Italian Wedding”, is one of the most readable ones in this book. Actually, here the term ‘country’ is slightly misleading because the India narrative mostly focuses on Delhi, the NCR and adjacent regions. Be that as it may, Pelle also devotes quite a bit of attention to two other South Asian countries, viz., Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. There are also chapters on the Middle East and Russia.
This entertaining and thought provoking book shows how the Western corporate managers react to and deal with the various aspects of life in India. On the other hand, one gets an insight into the mindscape of the typical 21st century global manager.

Published in The Financial World dated 26 March, 2013

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