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The cultural connect

SUDHISH KAMATH
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BOOK Ranjini Manian's Upworldly Mobile offers an insight on cultural intelligence for Indian managers and expats

Building bridges Author Ranjini Manian Photo: K.V. Srinivasan
Building bridges Author Ranjini Manian Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

There is a fine line between stereotyping people of different cultures and understanding the unique traits and practices every culture brings with it. Ranjini Manian's book Upworldly Mobile offers an insight on cultural intelligence for Indian managers and expats.

At the book launch last week, the author discussed the relevance of cultural intelligence with Jennifer McIntyre, Consul-General of the U.S. Consulate, Chennai, and V. Sumantran, executive vice- chairman, Hinduja Automotive and chairman of Nissan Ashok Leyland Powertrain.

“There are over 3,000 foreign companies registered and operating in India and 1,00,000 MBAs from India are or will be filling up positions in those companies. But they seem to lack in cultural and behavioural aspects of management. I wrote this book for supplemental reading in B-schools,” said Ranjini Manian, CEO, Global Adjustments explaining her motivation to write the book.

It all started with a newspaper column. “I was doing training programmes with expats when I got a chance to write for Business Line . It soon became an interactive piece. The interactions encouraged me to write this book.”

Ranjini believes that the book would serve as a beginners' guide to ironing out inter-cultural issues. “I always tried to map the training programmes so that participants are aware of the basic differences right at the beginning. The frequently-asked questions are included in the table of contents so that this book serves as a text which will take students from the campus to the corporate world equipped with the cultural intelligence tool.” “We need to become a little more savvy about ourselves,” she added. “Confidence in explaining ourselves comes only when we know ourselves first.”

Earlier at the discussion, V. Sumantran, who lived in the U.S. for 21 years and in Europe for four, and now works with a Japanese partner, observed that cultural intelligence is about “curiosity, observation and having an open mind to let in new ideas.” Jennifer McIntyre added: “And sensitivity and ability to understand your own culture.”

Sumantran pointed out that western work structures are about systematic product development and discipline while Indian work cultures carry a lot of adaptability. “There is virtue in this ability to adapt,” he said, illustrating the difference in Western classical music's discipline and Indian classical music's improvisation. “We should be able to create a balance and get the best of both worlds to come up with a work culture that has discipline and adaptability. We need both.” McIntyre said that she admired India's multi-cultural society.

“The world would be boring if it was homogenous,” said Sumantran.

Upwordly Mobile published by Penguin India is priced at Rs. 250 and carries a foreword by Shashi Tharoor.

Meanwhile, Ranjini has already moved on to writing her third book.

“It's called Why Do Indians Do That because that is the question I am always asked,” she concluded.

SUDHISH KAMATH

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