India takes your heart way before it stimulates your mind

India has been a recent discovery: I visited the country for the NYSE in 1997 for the first time. Like most visitors, I was fascinated. Almost 20 years after, I continue to be attracted to India and I created friendships with Indians that are long lasting and very close.

 

It has been an exceptional set of experiences with Governments, cultures and businesses. Going to Mumbai Taj Mahal Palace is like having a home away from home, from the bell man to the hotel management. A few days after the attack of Pakistani terrorists on this magnificent hotel, I visited with its CEO, Raymond Bickson, the floors where so many people died with deep emotion.

 

However, I am concerned by the distance that widens between local Indians and what they call NRIs (Non Resident Indians). The gap is such that they hardly can work together. India’s future is unclear. Having lost ground over the past few years under Manmohan Singh leadership (or lack thereof), the country is now trying to make sense of its new administration, under Narendra Modi. So far, the charismatic leader has not (yet)  produced the reforms expected from him.

Brilliant academics, artists, philosophers, engineers, doctors and business people, they all keep a form of rigidity that makes dealing with Indian companies and authorities a constant challenge. Internal communication is weak and the “not invented here” makes change immensely difficult. While agreeing conceptually, they might not implement decisions as a result of that agreement. I remember a statement of an Indian top executive: “we know how to manage. We do not need the Americans to teach us how to do it in America”.

My main journey through India has been in the footsteps of Ratan Tata, who was leading one of the most complex and successful Indian conglomerates. It made it also a global company while keeping its integrity, a challenge in India. While there are many reasons to blame governments and regulations, very few Indian businesses abroad have truly become global. Led and staffed by Indians, they tend to apply what works in India. That makes the success of Tata Consultancy Services, the largest IT Company in India, so much more impressive.

The most significans strategic initiative was the (re)entry of the Tata Group into the field of financial services. It was an honor to present to the Board of Tata Sons the creation of Tata Capital, a growing and substantial financial services company.

The backbone of India is groups and companies created by entrepreneurs. The quality of education is impressive. India should become a world leader if it is able to overcome its linguistic, religious and ethnic divisions.

I have a particular respect for Indian women: they are impressive and have to navigate between machismo, rape and political pressure. However, we should not forget that India had  powerful female political leaders, starting from Prime Minister India Gandi who became their prime minister. India would collapse if it were not for their ability to keep the country together.