MANAGING PROJECTS IN A BORDERLESS WORLD
Dr. R. Thiagarajan
Adviser, Department of Science & Technology, New Delhi - 110016.
Managing Proiects in g Border less Wor Id
W i t h the globalisation of the Indian economy, Indian managers have been subject to a number of challenges. Such challenges as : (i) Management of Indian companies abroad; (ii) Management of MNCs in India; and (i i i) Management of facilities & services in other countries. While managing a borderless world might have been learnt on-the-job so far, it has become necessary to offer structured training on this aspect in the schools of management in India.
This paper seeks to address some of the issues related to management of projects in a borderless world.
With the break up of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, our world has entered a unipolar stage. Though countries l ike Japan, USA and China can dictate terms on the quantum, type and the nature of products entering their countries from abroad, for developing countries such as India which are dependent t o a large extent on international loans, protectionism seems to be a thing' of the past. Thus, it seems that we have to live wi th the fact that even simple items like toothpastes, tooth brushes, biscuits and so on would continue to be sold on the Indian soil by multinational corporations under the garb of bringing in foreign money for investment.
2. Be that as it may, Indian managers, as compared to managers in Hongkong, Singapore etc., so faF have not been confronted with the problem of managing projects in a highly competitive and border less wor Id.
3. Management of projects can be broadly classi- fied under the following headings:-
(a) Working for an Indian company whose plants are in other countries.
countries in one's own soil. (b) Working for companies belonging to other
(c) Offering services as a professional manager in other countries (in banking, railways, hotel, transportation, construction etc. sectors).
Manaaers sent abroad by parent companies
4. Normally, Indian companies such as Tata, Birla, Bajaj etc. who have their plants in South-East Asian countries such as Indonesia as also Oberois who have their chain of hotels in various parts of the world, would like to send Indian managers in senior positions t o manage their products. Such managers would be reasonably at a senior level. Since the managers are likely to go t o a different climate and meet with people of different culture and language, some basic inputs would require to be given to these managers. These are as follows:-
(a) Orientation of the country where they would be going along with information about its custom, people, culture, language, climate, and so on.
hazards and how t o overcome them. (b) Must be told about tt- !ikely occupational
(c) Should be taught to be more diplomatic than what they would have been when working in their own country.
(d) since they would be required to take their families along, such personnel would have to be provided with some minimum level of socio-cultural environment and educa- tional facilities to the extent possible.
5. Before we analyse the t;pe of activities that a manager would have to undertake in a different environment, it would be proper to evolve some paradigms. Even though these are quite obvious and
well-known, these are to be stated nonetheless. Some of these are as follows:-
A borderless world is a utopian dream. As long as human beings inhabit this earth, there wi l l be a protectionist appro- ach towards their own goods, house, lang- uage, dress, customs, food habits and so on.
It is more di f f icul t to do business with a neighbouring country that with another country.
When a company wishes to set up its plant in some othef country, quality of its products and after-sales service must be of a much higher order than in the home country.
Even i f the quality of products imported from some other country is better than home made goods, i f diplomatic relations between the two countries are not cordial, people may boycott the imported goods.
Even though everyone expresses his desire for a brandless products, brand names continue to rule the roast. While people associate IBM with computers, Ford with cards, Boeing with aircrafts, and so on, it wil l be di f f icul t to imagine purchase of aircraft or other products i f there is no brand name.
The performance of a company in the country of its origin would be of equal importance to its success in the country in which it sells or manufactures its goods.
Since, like water, technology flows from a higher t o a lower level, the corporations setting up their units in other countries are expected to take technologies which are higher than those prevalent in the host country. Exceptions, of course, are of the multinationals manufacturing tooth pastes, tooth brushes, biscuits and so on in India.
Pride in one's culture, language, value systems and people are a force t o reckon with when the 'Acceptor' country allows a 'Donor' to step in. We may define the country of origin of the multi-national corporation as a donor and the country offering its land and other facilities as the acceptor. Donor companies may faci- l i tate the following in an accept country:-
(i) Higher technology. (i i) Skill upgradation.
(i i i) Clean surroundings and places of work.
Opportunities for the work force and families to travel abroad and possess more material goods.
Ac t as a spring board for export t o third countries.
Donor companies come to acceptor countries not out of any philanthropic motive. The former are driven by profit, expansion in new markets, reli- gious brotherhood or similar motives. I f a Japanese company were to set up an electronic goods factory in India, it would be foolhardy to imagine that the Japanese wi l l part with their latest technology.
The acceptor country would have t o lay the red carpet to at t ract the donor companies as, otherwise, other countries wi l l hijack the donor companies.
Normally, donor companies would appoint sons, sons-in-law and other near rela- tives of decision makers in the acceptor countries in the init ial stages. Connec- tions rather than compatibility or competence would be on the priority list while selecting such managers.
6. We are now in a position to look at managers who work in companies belonging to other countries in their own countries. Such managers, being locals, would expect more emoluments and perks than what their domestic companies would offer. While being locals has an advantage in respect of language, culture, value systems and so on, such an advantage itself may prove to be a disadvantage when the manager is not able to adapt to the work ethics of the donor company. For instance, when the Maruti company in New Delhi started manufacturing Suzuki cars in their Gurgaon plant, workers had to adopt the Japanese work ethics and habits.
7. Managers and workers who are locals are quite likeiy to be unaware of the parent company's expecta- tions and, therefore, have to be trained suitably.
Managers who offer their services in other countries
8. It would seem that the greatest challenge to not only schools of management but also practising mana- gers in India would be to explore avenues and seek opportunities in various other countries where Indian managers could handle projects, without being on the payroll of companies in India. In order to do this, one wil l have t o consider how the worker population such as Keralites in the Middle-East, Sikhs in the UK or Canada and so on have made a success of their attempts. We also find Indian teachers or research scholars doing very well in the teaching profession in
US or any other English speaking country. Whereas a skilled worker such as a carpenter or construction worker may live even in highly unhygienic conditions, a manager is not expected t o do so. Further, many of our f i rst generation immigrants in other countries have accepted very low wages in a particular job when compared t o a local worker. This has been one of the major incentives for employers in other countries t o accept our workers.
9. When we deal with the subject of sending managers to other countries to manage projects in those countries, obviously we wi l l have to te l l them about certain aspects. These are as follows:-
In the f i rst place, our managers would have to learn the language of the country where they wish t o migrate.
While language is a necessary requirement, it is not sufficient. Our managers would also have t o learn the work ethics as also the customs of the country to which they are going. Apart from this, the compe- tence of our managers would have to be of a very high order - much higher than the local managers in those countries.
The qualities such managers are expected to possess could be largely found only in the existing managers who have had an exposure to foreign countries. Nonetheless, there is a need to groom a new generation of managers in the context of the large number of opportunities being opened up for our Indian managers to practise as professionals abroad.
Consideration by schools of manaaement in India
10. Realising the importance of sending Indian mana- gers to man projects elsewhere in the world, it would be appropriate i f we can encourage students of various
management in India t o -
Learn a t least one foreign language other than English.
Form a group and discuss various countries from al l angles giving special attention to project management, in small groups.
Institute some award mechanism through which a few selected management students can be sent abroad t o see management of projects in actual practice.
Prepare case studies relating t o the mana- gement of projects elsewhere by Indian companies.