There was a time, not too long ago, when being sent to work in India could be considered a punishment posting; when an India stint would include a ‘hardship allowance’. Well, times surely are changing. Today, getting an India (and/or China) experience is becoming increasingly significant for American executives. And thousands of them are opting for a two to five year stint in Bangalore, hoping for a big career boost when they return. The word ‘Bangalored’ is assuming a new meaning altogether.
I noticed this when I returned to Bangalore last year. The expatriate population in Bangalore had simply exploded in the 2 years I had spent away from the city. I could see Americans and Europeans everywhere – in shopping malls, movie theaters, clubs, and on the streets. Recently, I met with the president of Bangalore Expatriates Club, Arvind Chandra, who opened my eyes to this interesting trend. Apparently, getting the Bangalore box checked on one’s CV has assumed great importance for ambitious American executives. And it’s not just the technology industry, executives in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals, media, legal and manufacturing are flocking to the outsourcing capital of the world. About 12,000 foreigners live and work in Bangalore and, according to Bangalore’s Foreigners Registration Office, this number has been on the increase each year. Bangalore is preferred, mainly because of the large expatriate community and favorable weather. Other cities of choice include Pune, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai.
Typically, those opting for the India stint are young (usually in their 30s), smart, well educated, on a fast track career, and ambitious. They take middle to senior management responsibilities with American or global firms, and sometimes with large Indian companies like Infosys and Reliance. Some are single and find the move easier. Others move with their families and have to deal with issues such as children’s education, health etc.
So, what is it like for an American to live in Bangalore? While complaints about adjusting to a foreign culture, traffic, pollution are common, most admit that their lifestyle in Bangalore is superior to what they had back home. Most of them live in affluent suburbs like the Palm Meadows or in downtown Richmond Road / MG Road areas. In Bangalore they can afford a cook, a driver and a full time domestic help. They hang out in 5-star hotels and take time off to explore the Himalayas, the wild life and adventure sports. Expat wives join the ‘Overseas Wives Club’, whose members meet every Thursday at the Leela Palace, Bangalore’s most plush hotel. Some of them are so contented with their life here that they don’t want to go back.
Does the CV of the 21st century CEO read like this… an American MBA, sales stint in Europe, outsourcing operations experience in Bangalore and production in Guangzhou? Is this the new-age corporate success mantra?
Anupam Mukerji • Bangalore, India • www.mmi-india.com