Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New 100-Day Plan

I am back again with a 100 day plan.

Yes, I previously tried and failed, but this time, I think I can successfully pull off a real transformation. Two reasons. First, I have taken the difficult decisions that I needed to - walked out of my job and taken time to reflect and reorganize - something that gives me greater control over my own life. The current scheme of things will also mean less travel, which means greater predictability of how I am spending time, which will help. Second, I believe I can be more transparent and honest, which was always my intent. So far, cultural car-crashes, huge misunderstandings primarily arising out of inadequate cultural and business understanding, were far too frequent for my comfort. I had to stop reflecting on my work life altogether, because, despite my caution and discretion, the chances of being misunderstood were far too high. This changes now, because I am starting fresh and this time, I am doing something that I love. I am not under the scanner, because I am largely my own boss, and this will allow me to live the life I want - open, honest and transparent.

So, I start a new plan. Something new starts tomorrow. I have to surrender my Indian passport, as required by the law, and as a prerequisite of my application for an Overseas Indian Citizenship, which will take away my political rights in India, but will restore some of the economic privileges, like being able to stay and work in India if I wish to do so at a later date and being able to buy property, which I may need to do. The process is quite complex and long, I am told this will take about 12 weeks, and there is a sense of being unwelcome in the feel of things. This is quite in line with the ordinary disregard and suspicion that Indians have for the diaspora Indians. Tarun Khanna contrasted the attitude of Indians and the Chinese towards their respective diaspora. The overseas Chinese is actually seen as a source of support, enterprise and an extended part of the domestic Chinese community; the overseas Indians, unfortunately, are seen as people who have no sense of national loyalty and those who have 'betrayed' the motherland. I must admit that I was swayed by these feelings myself; it took me quite a while to come to terms with the idea of giving up my Indian passport. However, having lived outside India for almost 10 years now, I know such animosity comes from the very inward looking culture of modern India - a propensity to judge the world with its own benchmark and a sensitivity bordering adolescent insecurity about own self-image - and not from any particular act of Non-resident Indians.

The Non-Residents, at least those I know, are, well, non-residents, who suffer from deep insecurities in their adapted land, struggle everyday to assert their equal rights with the indigenous population, and when dealing with cousins at home, try to project an air of superiority and adapt an unfailingly patronising tone. That surely is irritating. I know a friend who will always introduce himself as 'Sanjiv from London' irrespective of where he is actually calling from. But then, this is usual non-resident characteristic. A non-resident Chinese will not be very different, except for the fact that most Chinese may agree that things can get better in China. For India, there is an emergent self-confidence, a will to conquer the world, and hence, such patronising tones sound wholly unwelcome. That is entirely reasonable. However, I also think that Indians need to engage with the world - it is not unusual to meet people in India who does not know that one needs a visa to come and work in Britain - and once that is achieved, the non-residents, their pain, insecurities and ambitions, will be better understood.

The second thing I do tomorrow is finalize a contract at my new place of work. I have accepted the offer to work with a local college in London. This is a highly successful, private training college which is experiencing quantum growth in the International markets. I like the people and the sense of dynamic chaos there. As usual, I am excited - I see great potential to work with this truly 'international' organization - and this is the real, hands on work that I was wishing for.

My keenness to work for this college is certainly triggered by my long term ambition to create a truly international education network, which I have talked about often on this blog. While my last position gave me an opportunity to engage in the international market and understand the potential, I could not do much. There may be several reasons, some outside everyone's control, contributing to the lack of progress, but one clear thing stood out all the time - to become successful internationally, a company needs to adopt an international mindset first. One needs diversity inside, of people, customers and partners, before one starts getting it. Otherwise, as I have seen, one tends to fall back on stereotyping and defensive mechanisms when the complexities and challenges of the international marketplace confounds the executives. When I looked at the college I am joining for the first time, the chaos, the multi-nationality appearance, the united nations of the staff room, are the factors that appealed to me most. This is a successful organization which has already become Global from inside; it will be far easier for them to take advantage of the emerging International opportunity.

So, this is what I do next. And, I am sure I shall learn, experiment with my ideas and observe. I am considering this to be the chance of my life. I would keep recording the goings-on on this blog.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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