Corus acquisition by Tata Steel in 2006 was a trendsetter in many ways. This was India’s first major overseas acquisition of that nature and stature. It announced India’s global aspiration to the world in no uncertain terms. While it took 15 years coming after opening our economy, after that landmark Corus acquisition, India Inc has consistently been acquiring businesses worth $ 6.25 billion per annum globally and has invested another $ 500 billion on international expansions in the same time period.
Interestingly enough, Accenture in its assessment of these businesses in their report called Indian Paths to Global Growth indicated that while there is very high commitment from India Inc towards these businesses (92%), only 35% of them met their own revenue and profit targets in this period and many of them are struggling to survive. This data clearly spells out one reality that acquiring businesses and running them successfully are two entirely different things and require completely different sets of abilities. While the former requires business and financial acumen, later largely requires leadership skills and numbers clearly indicate India Inc’s strength in the former and major challenges in the later. Accenture report points to a leader’s readiness, credibility, and cultural dimensions.
Ivey Business Journal supports this view saying `there is leadership talent deficit, experience deficit and there is also leadership talent war in India resulting in overall leadership capability deficit’.
In the last few years, India’s leadership challenge was exposed far too often, in just too many ways whether it is politics, business or any other walk of life.
I have often wondered about this leadership challenge and observed this phenomenon with a spirit of enquiry to make some sense of it. I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to engage with clients who acquired businesses globally and struggled with them, as well as those who faced severe competition from international businesses domestically. Through years of these engagements, interaction with a lot of leaders, through the study of their psychometric profiling and discussions with my own fraternity of behavioral process consultants, I developed some understanding of this challenge.
I intend to present it here in the form of my hypotheses. This is not a presentation of my diagnostic but only an articulation of my understanding of India’s Leadership Challenges. I have broadly categorized them as Leadership Challenges related to the External Environment and Internal. No way is this list complete; neither do I intend to convict India Inc or its people of having these challenges. I am only giving voice to my thoughts, my meaning-making processes and encourage your thoughts in support or to counter mine so that we enrich our collective understanding of what’s happening around. I believe that this collective wisdom will help us prepare ourselves better to face any leadership challenge today or tomorrow.
(A series on Leadership #1 Article)