Expatriate (expat) managers

A new study suggests that the superior competencies of a rapidly multiplying expat workforce in the Indian corporate sector are posing a distributing challenge to local talents, especially in key leadership roles.

A Research firm’s findings suggest that are not only the wind beneath the wings of the Indian corporate sector but also the real messengers of cultural harmony and innovations in new-age workplaces.

According to the study, there are roughly 40,000 expats working in India at present, of which 15% are in top leadership roles. However, in contrast executive director of the American Chamber of commerce, India’s largest international business association say in the last 10 years, while membership has grown from 140 companies to 420, the percentage of expats in leadership roles has declined from 35% to as little as 5% . Called Expat-Fluence the study examines the influence of expatriates since the opening of the economy, drawing from inputs from HR managers, functional heads and executives at all levels in major industry sectors like BPO, retail, aviation, hospitality, tourism and energy.

The study credits expatriate managers with above par adaptability cultural variances with evidence of them displaying more patience with their peers than Indian managers, Expat managers show demonstrably higher levels of transparency risk-taking and individual accountability. Expat managers are also more, vocal and practice what they preach. The study illustrates with an example of expat managers in GE’s office walking faster than others to demonstrate energy and commitment to corporate goals. However, the head of a search firm is quick to point out that GE Money has had to sell its business India despite successes in other geographies and the onus of this rests squarely on the shoulders if an expat leadership.

MNCs sending expats to Indian in leadership roles in today’s day and age exhibits poor understanding of the Indian market and talent pool. It is a vastly inferior choice.

Ranbaxy employs people from over 50 different nationalities and one of the top directors has himself served under expat CEO, Brain Tempest who worked with Ranbaxy for 12-13yers. A leader is a leader. Global businesses need the right man for the job and nationality becomes irrelevant during this search. However, he believes Indian leadership is globally recognized for passion, commitment, risk taking and the ability to deal with diverse situations.

Indians remain the first choice for top leadership positions, though there is demand for expats in specialized areas. Indians understand the country’s complex environment better, which helps in effective decision-making. Longevity is also an issue, since expats are unwilling to stay on beyond three to four years. For expertise roles with a strong technical orientation, expats may work well, but where there is interface with operating and functional heads expats successes are often mixed because of cultural challenges.

There is unanimity that heavily regulated sectors, which require considerable government interface are least suited to expat intervention.

In conclusion expats are suitable to lead an organization in India where minimum interface with government may be necessary and the organization is in the initial stages of set up with high technology content. The expat manager’s experience abroad in the high technology area comes in as an asset and drive to the organization.