Indian talent is going places as an increasing number of professionals are grabbing top jobs in the corporate world globally. The trend isn’t new but the movement has intensified of late with leading multinationals across sectors more inclined than ever to elevate Indian executives to international roles.
The past year alone has seen more than a dozen such elevations, experts said. In July, Philips Lighting moved up South Asia head Harsh Chitale as chief executive of its B2B arm, Business Group Professional.
In April, Japan’s leading white goods maker, Panasonic Corp., appointed the CEO of its local unit Manish Sharma as vice president, making him the only Indian that’s part of its global team. The same month, Gaurav Chaturvedi, executive director, HR, at Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, took over as CEO of Coca-Cola Pinya Beverages Myanmar, the company’s unit in that country.
Manu Kumar Jain, Chinese handset maker Xiaomi’s India head, was elevated to a global role as vice president in February while in January, Noshir Kaka, former managing director of McKinsey’s India office, transitioned to a global role, assuming co-leadership of the firm’s advanced analytics practice.
Other recent examples include Amit Sharma, chief operating officer at IBM India and South Asia, who was elevated as global COO, IBM GBS (Global Business Services) Application Innovation Consulting, in December and Ericsson’s Sameer Khanna, former head of HR in India, who is now the global HR business partner for managed services networks and IT.
“India talent is increasingly being identified for senior and better roles in a global structure. Even among multiple choices available to fill critical roles, India has an upper hand,” said James Agrawal, managing director of BTI Consultants.
Indian executives bring some traits to the table that are in high demand for global roles, he said. They are multifaceted, agile and adaptive besides tending to be more eager to embrace challenges and adapting to new cultures.
US food and beverage company Pepsi-Co has this year elevated four senior and seven mid-level managers in India to international roles outside the country. The senior leaders who moved out of India include Samudra Bhattacharya (vice president and general manager, India Franchise Commercial Unit, who became president, Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines) and Anshul Khanna (director, marketing, PepsiCo India, who took over as marketing director, portfolio transformation, global beverage group, New York). Priya Khanna, who was director, insights, for the beverage category at PepsiCo India, is currently based in Dubai as director of nutrition strategy for PepsiCo Asia, Middle East and North Africa.
“PepsiCo India talent has been regarded highly across markets due to their strong ability to manage cultural diversity, managing strong operating roles in tough situations as well as the large spectrum of brands in a highly competitive landscape,” said Suchitra Rajendra, vice president, HR, PepsiCo India. “It is not only our senior leaders but also middle managers who have a strong pull.”
It’s a similar story at Philips, which moves about 4-5% Indians into leadership roles in other global markets or business groups annually. Indian women’s presence in global leadership roles, too, recently got a boost with the appointment of Rekha Ranganathan as CT core segment leader at Philips USA. “With an increasing inflow of millennials in our workforce over the past few years, talent in India also is very keen on undergoing international stints and honing their leadership skills and cross-cultural sensitivities by moving to different geographies for a definite tenure,” said Smriti Handa, HR head at Philips Health Systems India.
At French information technology consulting company Capgemini, close to 30% of global CXO positions are held by Indians. “We expect more to follow in their footsteps,” said Hubert Giraud, head of people management and transformation. Consulting and auditing firm Deloitte is seeing an uptick in Indians taking up global roles, talent leader SV Nathan said.
Fertile ground for talent
“India is one of the largest markets globally that cannot be ignored and it has a pool of world-class talent,” said Suresh Raina, managing partner, Hunt Partners. British consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser, which has about 10 Indians in leadership roles globally, is currently grooming mid-level managers, including several women, to take up global positions, according to a leading search firm. Gurveen Kaur was recently appointed global HR head.
At Coca-Cola, several high-potential candidates from India have moved into leadership positions in other countries. “The experience gained in India is so extensive due to the diversity in the Indian market that it helps in preparing for the global market,” said Manu Narang Wadhwa, vice president for HR at Coca-Cola, India and South West Asia.
Coca-Cola runs programmes such as Pegasus and Catalyst spread over several months that allow employees to test new roles while in their current jobs. “They essentially seek to prepare allrounders who, in future, could take up top jobs within the company,” said Wadhwa.