To be successful, ‘Make In India’ will require greater focus on multi-cultural management

by Tarun Dalaya 04 Mar 2016


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I am not new to the ‘Make In India’ theme.

Having promoted the Indian auto component sector for 15 years and seen and worked for the automotive sector through three critical phases of its development, excluding the phased manufacturing programme stage during which I had entered the sector, I know the great potential that manufacturing in India has, not only for the country but for the world.

If there is one sector which has really walked the talk about making in India, it is the auto component industry. This sector has had a rich heritage of manufacturing since the late 1950s.  By the late 1990s and early 2000, many manufacturers were exporting their original equipment parts to not just Tier-1s, but to leading global vehicle makers as well.

So while this theme and scheme of the present-day government may sound impressive, as many of its carefully worded and important-sounding schemes do; ‘Make In India’ has actually been a proven idea since different tenures of earlier governments.

Again, if there is one sector in India which can boast of the maximum number of foreign partners and of managing them successfully, then it is the Indian auto component industry. I have personally seen the educative and strategic way in which industrialists from the industry have made untiring efforts to understand the cultures of different countries with which they have done business and nurtured relationships with businesspersons from a variety of nations.

A key focus of ‘Make In India’ is to encourage foreign investors to bring their manufacturing to India. The defence sector is emerging as one of the sectors to be spurred by this theme and also by an offset clause. The clause requires the foreign original equipment manufacturer, with which the Indian government would enter into a deal, to reinvest a percentage of the contract into the country in the form of manufacturing, etc. Similarly, other sectors like the capital goods sector could also see an influx of foreign companies into the country.

As the government continues to pursue the scheme, this push could invariably create partnerships between Indian and foreign companies in the country. And if ‘Make In India’ has to be successful, it will require greater focus on multi-cultural management.

A quote in a report titled Doing business in a multicultural world: Challenges and opportunities, by Jorge Sampaio, the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations and former president of Portugal, aptly expresses the importance of this subject, which reads, “The private sector has a vital role in generating new ideas that address inter-cultural issues…”

Recent reports state that the manufacturing index of ‘the factory for the world’, China, fell to its lowest in more than six years, this year. China-watchers also feel that the country could see further decline. The factors leading to this development in that country could inevitably encourage investors to think more about manufacturing in India – eventually leading to a greater inflow of foreign players.

There is still much to be desired in the way Indian organisations manage foreign cultures – to the importance and priority that they give to this subject, to begin with, among their scheme of things. Quickly getting lost in financial, technological, regulatory, recruitment, and other matters; disallows them to give adequate time and thought to what should actually be the first objective.

A vast knowledge pool is readily available to come to the aid of an organisation in the form of academia, cultural experts, desk research, etc.

Sensitivity to and effort spent on multi-cultural management through simple, yet effective, means such as orientation programmes for managers (about a country with whose people they have to interact); investing in procuring and sharing credible country analyses and reports with employees; buying and distributing reputed books by well-known historians, to managers; are some very useful ways for multi-cultural management, provided the will is there!

Paying attention to this crucial aspect will, in my strong opinion, help to not only solve initial adjustment and other teething problems. It will have a positive, long-lasting impact on cross-country managers who are face-to-face with each other, in any kind of organisation – not-for-profit or for-profit – and catalyse the process for India to increasingly develop into a manufacturing hub for the needs of many overseas sectors.


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