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Saturday, November 30, 2013

MANAGEMENT/LEADERSHIP SPECIAL..............Leadership and the Cultural Conundrum of Body Language

Leadership and the Cultural Conundrum of Body Language

Leaders don’t all walk and talk the same. Staying true to one’s culture is integral to empowered leadership.
Li Huang vividly recalls her first impression of a particular junior-high English teacher in her native city of Xi’an, China.
On the first day of class, Li says, the foreign-born teacher “sat down, putting his feet up on the desk…” In talking with the teacher months later, she found out that, although committing an obvious Westerners’ faux pas in the eyes of his East Asian students, “He felt a great sense of authority when he was striking that pose.”
Now an Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, Li says in addition to shaping our standing in the eyes of others, how we carry ourselves can affect whether we feel in control in many life situations. “The mind and body are so closely tied together,” she argued in an interview with INSEAD Knowledge. “They work in tandem; they have a reciprocal relationship. And body postures can actually lead to neural-endocrine shifts such as increased testosterone and decreased cortisol as well as have a causal impact on how we feel and act.”
Researchers argue the link between physicality and feelings of power has an evolutionary component, citing the expansive postures associated with dominance among several species in the animal kingdom. But for Li, culture plays a critical yet often-overlooked role.  As leadership researchers and practitioners have come to realise in the last few decades, physical gestures meant to convey leadership in one cultural context can undermine one’s authority in another. For example, Li’s English teacher later discovered to his dismay and surprise that, instead of thinking he was very teacher-like, Li and her classmates thought, “‘He’s such a big kid.’ Acting in a very rude and haphazard way.”
More important, just as the body language of leadership sometimes sends drastically different messages to audiences with different cultural upbringings, Li argues, body postures do not always shape leaders’ thoughts and actions in a universal way either. East Asians striking a feet-on-the-desk pose would not only appear overly casual and even arrogant to other East Asians but may also fail to draw the same sense of power from the posture as the foreign teacher. In other words, if leaders aren’t careful, not only could their attempts to cut a commanding figure get lost in translation, they might actually make themselves feel less powerful too.
Taking Up Space
Li’s research into this topic is recounted in Stand tall, but don’t put your feet up: Universal and culturally-specific effects of expansive postures on power, a paper she co-authored that was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Li and her collaborators administered a series of studies where participants of Western and East Asian descent were instructed to hold a range of postures that “were being pilot-tested for a separate study”, and immediately afterwards underwent tests designed to measure how powerful they felt and how inclined they were to take decisive action. As Li expected, both Westerners and East Asians experienced a greater sense of power after striking most of the more expansive poses (e.g., leaning forward with both hands spread out on a desk), than after adopting a more constrictive attitude (sitting with hands tucked underneath their thighs).
However, the two cultures parted ways on perhaps the most expansive pose of all: leaning back in a chair with both feet propped up on a desk, just like Li’s English teacher. For Westerners, the extremely casual but dominant pose appeared to serve as a confidence booster, sending power indicators shooting up. For East Asians, it had the opposite effect, leaving them feeling even less powerful than the constrictive posture.
Pride versus Humility
Li attributes these results to a divergence in Western and East Asian cultural norms. “In Western cultures, the self is construed as independent, unique and separate from others,” the paper states. “In contrast, East Asian philosophies such as Confucianism and Buddhism conceptualise the self as inherently interconnected and interdependent with others.” This fundamental distinction means leaders from the two cultures are likely to conduct themselves very differently in certain situations: compare the modest posture of Toyota’s CEO Aiko Toyoda to the triumphant stance of GM chief Daniel Akerson. It also means that the same posture may lead to different neural-endocrine responses, feelings, cognitions, and behaviours in leaders from the two cultures.
Indeed, when self-assertion appears to cross over into arrogance, East Asians see it as a violation of their cultural norms of self-restraint, and their sense of power withers as a result.
Li is quick to point out that all the experiments for the paper were conducted in the United States. “Even though [the participants] were in a Western context, the cultural values that they were raised on were still very much an integral part of their cognitive structure,” she said. This suggests that even among multiculturals, the norms of one’s original culture inform ideas about what constitutes “proper” conduct for leaders and to act against these values by adopting certain body postures can create negative feelings and actions.
The Expansive Perspective
Why do feelings of power matter? Do they impact work performance as well as perception? Extrapolating from her findings, Li said, “Another very important cognitive consequence of the psychological experience of power is the ability to see the big picture, seeing the forest for the trees. Since we find a consistent effect of these culture norms and postures on [to what extent you feel powerful and to what extent you take action], [posture and culture] may also interact to affect to what extent you’re likely to see the big picture. [They can influence your] having a more overall view of the strategic issues you have on hand and [your understanding] of where the company’s going as opposed to the nitty-gritty [operational perspective].There are so many consequences of power that we can derive from our conclusions based on these findings.”
So perhaps in today’s globalised workplace there is a danger for multicultural leaders in going completely native, when doing so would quite literally place them in a culturally compromising position. Li’s foreign teacher might not have felt so empowered if he’d been asked to exchange bows with students as many East Asian teachers do. By the same token, for a Houston office to expect an executive from Taiwan to adopt a Texan swagger in order to “fit in” could violate the sense of cultural integrity that executive needs to feel confident and perform at his best.
At the same time, leaders must temper diversity with civility to avoid treading on another culture’s toes. “We have to pay attention to the symbolic meaning of our postures, of our motor movements in a particular society and context. Not just culture, but even social context,” Li said.

Li Huang, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, with Benjamin Kessler, Web Editor 

PERSONAL SPECIAL.............. Learn to express yourself

Learn to express yourself 
If you are good at expressing yourself outwardly — either through a creative pursuit or by speaking your heart out — it will free your mind and connect you to the here and now

    Do you realise that almost everything we do is a form of creative expression of our inner self? Each of us has aspirations, dreams and desires, not all of which have found their way into reality. And yet this inner self peeps out, it paces around within us, chaffing against the confines – seeking an outlet, a creative expression.
    People express themselves through creative forms such as writing, music, theatre, painting and dance. Almost everything we do, say or think is a form of self-expression that reveals a lot about us.
    Our imagination and the flights of fancy it takes in the form of fantasies is also a creative form of our self-expression, known to us alone, unless we choose to share it. Fantasies play an important role in revealing to us our innermost desires and also help us visualise goals and aspirations. These then, when tempered with reality, become the goalposts we strive towards. The ability to use imagination and suspend reality also helps us enjoy fiction, movies and theatre with keenness.
    Even as a man watches cricket, it is a form of selfexpression as he aligns himself with one team and totally identifies with them in his desire to compete and win. The vicarious victory is an important element of his self-expression and a balm to his ego. Another person may express himself through the food he cooks or a dress he designs. A poet, in his poetry; a singer in his song.
    As desires and aspirations grow, fed upon an explosion of available choices and exposure to success stories, the average middle-class finds itself able to think and fantasise about much bigger things. The 70-inch wall mounted TV no longer seems that distant a possibility, nor does ownership of a dream house, a luxury car or a world cruise. All this helps give expression to our desire for material acquisitions and expansion. Along with this, the fantasies embrace other modes of happiness, such as romance, love and relationships.
    Says Dr Deepak Raheja, psychiatrist and director, Hope Foundation, “When we talk of expressing ourselves, we are referring to our ability to sublimate the libidinal energy, which as Sigmund Freud says, is the basis of all biological fuels that drive us. For a long time, we have forgotten to sublimate this energy into creative expression. Today, we find more and more people able to do so. If the gap between the real and the fantasized self increases, it increases frustration in life. Self-expression helps us feel more complete and helps bridge the gap between the real and the imagined self. This brings us to a more philosophical and spiritual fulfillment.”
    How does expressing yourself help you? Expressing your inner self through various means gives you an opportunity to sublimate your impulses into identifying with something that gives you catharsis. Expression gets us into a consistent tranquillity, explains Dr Raheja. If we are good at expressing ourselves outwardly, thus allowing bits of our inner self to find real expression, this helps bring us to a state of what Dr Raheja calls “consistent bliss and tranquillity”. This naturally then helps us in real life as well. Because now the state from which you will approach all your mundane tasks and even your critical business decisions, is a more consolidated, tranquil one. The big difference is that now, apart from giving importance to material acquisitions, you have also simultaneously learnt to be happy. And in that state of tranquility, you are able to see your circumstances more realistically since you are better able to connect to the here and now.
    Creative expression brings about changes in the brain. Research has quantified those changes. It helps the brain move to a meditative state from where we are able to act in a state of calm that helps us synchronise our actions better; what occurs is a convergence of energy . This convergence leads us to a state of consistent bliss and this bliss eventually begins to make the difference in our everyday living and is what eludes us, almost like a butterfly we are chasing, which at will may come and perch on our shoulder, suggests Dr Raheja poetically.
    Self-expression is a way of beating stress, detaching yourself from the burnouts of day-to-day reality. It is a self-defence mechanism where we let ourselves go into a state of meditation and return healed.
    So then, what is your favourite mode of self-expression? Is it to talk aloud, listen to music, garden, play tennis, indulge in charity, paint or to write? Or, is fantasy your favourite way to express your innermost being?

FOOD SPECIAL ......................Nuts are Out, How About Hot and Spicy Chocolates?

Nuts are Out ,How About Hot and Spicy Chocolates? 

Spices Board starts selling chocolates infused with chilli, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and cumin in Kochi; to rope in partner for the venture

Nuts and raisin are passe. Chocolate connoisseurs can now satisfy their sweet cravings by indulging in chocolates laced with traditional Indian spices. Chilli, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and cumin could be some of the flavours targetted at the niche customers and the hospitality sector.
The Spices Board of India is currently selling flavoured chocolates in Kochi and is scouting for a partner to venture into mass production. Other regional chocolatiers see a growing demand by expats and NRIs.
Sale of spice-flavored chocolates in gift boxes has just started at the Board’s signature store ‘Spices India’ at Lulu Mall in Kochi. The chocolates are sold under its popular ‘flavourit’ brand at . 900 for a 180-gm pack.
A Jayathilak, chairman of the Spices Board, said the outlet is a pilot project with various valueadded products including the spice-flavoured chocolates. “Depending on the success of this stall, the Board may go for more outlets across the country and in overseas as well,” he said.
A person in the design and development of the spice-flavoured chocolate said there is much more to spices than its use in cooking. “By coming up with these chocolates, we aim to increase the consumption of spices and bring the global experience to Indians,” he said, acknowledging that they were in talks with a leading domestic chocolate manufacturer. The industry pegs the chocolate market at . 5,000 crore with an annual growth of 15%. Increasing purchasing power and gifting trend in the country are expected to boost the market. The flavoured chocolates remain a niche product with global players like Lindt, Heidi, Torres, Valor, Whittakers selling various flavours at specialty stores and airports. Globally, chocolates with flavours of salty cashew nuts, beef, bacon, barbequed potato chips, peanut butter, banana are popular.
“There is a particular segment of consumers who prefer flavoured chocolates. We produce cardamom and orange-flavoured chocolates to cater to this growing segment. Overall, the demand for chocolates is moving up by 20-25 % a year,” said Suresh Bhandary, MD at Mangalore-based Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Co-operative (Campco). Campco, which markets chocolates in its own brand, plans to raise its annual chocolate production capacity to 21,000 tonne by 2015 to meet the growing consumption of chocolates.
“Demand is coming from fivestar hotels, corporates and a niche client segment. Just like cheese and wine, flavoured chocolates are an emerging market which will grow with the expansion of modern retail and confectionary shops,” said Renny Jacob, MD, Cacobean Chocolatier. The cocoa supplier to Cadbury India and chocolate manufacturer for Spices Board, Starbucks, CafĂ© Coffee Day, Costa Coffee and supermarket chain Metro cash and carry is currently having a cacpity to manufacture one tonne per day.
Discerning customers, largely expats and NRIs, are also driving the demand for new flavours, said Nikhil Mittal, a leading chocolate manufacturer in Chandigarh.
His recent order for an NRI groom was chocolate flavoured with vodka and chilli to be gifted along with the wedding cards.
“A national player who introduces these varied flavours might bring products at a competitive price as limited orders ensure that these value-added chocolates’ prices remain high at . 2,000 a kg compared to . 500-1,000 of normal chocolate,” said Mittal.
Gourmet chocolate manufacturers rue that the country has not been able to cash-in on the advantage of its natural resources and flavours to market it globally. “Chilli chocolate is synonymous with luxury swiss chocolate company Lindt and coconut chocolate by American chocolate brand Bounty. None of the raw material is grown in their country. A chocolate with paan can be an Indian specialty for at least domestic taste buds,” added Jacob.

ENTREPRENEUR SPECIAL .............Returnee Entrepreneurs

 Returnee Entrepreneurs 

Despite a sluggish economy and terrible infrastructure, India is an alluring challenge for people returning as entrepreneurs to their motherland

    Turning their back on the American Dream has proven to be a fortuitous decision for a number of technology entrepreneurs who are crafting multimillion-dollar businesses within a few years of returning to India. Mostly in their early thirties, these highly-skilled professionals are building ventures that focus on the Indian market and offer a range of services from online retail to car-rental services, telephony products and refurbishment of used electronic products. “It’s like when people climb the Everest or go to the North Pole. There is a sense of achievement in coming back to India and participating in this unimaginable growth,” said Ambarish Gupta, who gave up a career at Microsoft to build a cloud-based telephony product in India. While he was still plotting a comeback, Gupta, 36, convinced his IIT-Kanpur batchmate Pallav Pandey to join him. He worked after-hours to build a prototype and landed in India convinced about its potential. It is an assessment by the former McKinsey consultant that has proven to be correct. This fiscal, Knowlarity, which has received venture funding from Sequoia Capital, is slated to earn revenue of 60 crore. And the Gurgaon-based company boasts a roster of clients including Medanta Medicity, Dr Lal Path Labs and “I am unwilling to accept a broken system, there is an oppurtunity to to fix everything,” said Gupta, who plans to return the coveted US Green Card, next year as he puts down permanent roots in his native country.
Land of opportunity
For a number of others, too, India is proving to be the land of opportunity. Among those creating companies that cater to the rising demand from an expanding middle-class are Kunal Bahl of online marketplace Snapdeal, Hitendra Chaturvedi of electronic refurbishment venture Reverse Logistics Company and Gaurav Aggarwal of Savaari Car Rentals. “If you can do business in India, you can do it anywhere else in the world,” said Chaturvedi, a US citizen who was posted to India by Microsoft in 2006. He came with plans of returning in two years but never did. Instead, spotting an opportunity in selling refurbished seconds from major electronic brands, Chaturvedi launched Reverse Logistics, which sells these products through an online portal GreenDust as well as through offline stores. The Delhi- based firm expects to double revenue to 500 crore by the end of next year. Such strong growth has also attracted the attention of investors. Last year, Vertex Ventures, Sherpalo Ventures and Kleiner Perkins together invested 171 crore in the company.
Global experience
The combination of global work experience and an understanding of the local market is driving the success of these professionals. Venture capital firm Canaan Partners, which recently completed a study of funding patterns in India’s startup sector, found that almost one-third of companies that raise capital are launched by entrepreneurs who have returned to India with at least three years of international experience. “A slowdown in the west has proven to be a blessing in disguise as we now have a skilled pool of people who have seen technological change at least a decade ahead of India,” said Rahul Khanna, a managing director at Canaan Partners. “They are not afraid to wear failure as a badge of honour.” For many of those who return with high hopes, doing business in India can be a trying experience. “In the first few months, I was flabbergasted to see a large number of inflated payslips and forged CVs,’ said Chaturvedi, 43. Swati and Rohan Bhargava, a couple who moved from London to Gurgaon this year to start Cashkaro, a cashback and discount coupons startup, discovered soon that infrastructure issues such as poor internet connectivity can be a drag on business. “We have four internet connections and all of them trip several times a day,” said Swati Bhargava, 30, a former Goldman Sachs executive. “The documentation to create a subsidiary is also a nightmare,” said Rohan Bhargava, 32. CashKaro has received about $750,000 ( 4.6 crore) as angel investment from UK investors this year.
Ample support
For those willing to stay the course, there is enough money and mentoring to see them through, apart from the lure of the market itself. IIT Delhi graduates Sameer Maheshwari, 37, and Prashant Tandon, 33, returned to India from the United States to start Healthchakra. com, a startup focused on scheduling medical appointments. “After six months we started wondering whether we had taken the right decision to return,” said Maheshwari, who found their business was stagnating. They turned to a few mentors to help them through the rough patch and changed their business model to ecommerce. The pivoted company, now known as, has raised close to $22.5 million ( 140 crore) from a group of investors including Intel Capital, Sequoia Capital and Omidyar Networks.
Red tape
For many technology professionals, a tough visa regime in the US is also a reason for returning. Many aspiring entrepreneurs are not willing to wait for a green card or citizenship to start up, as in the case of Snapdeal’s founder Kunal Bahl. “I was working for Microsoft in the US and they applied for my work visa, which was rejected. This was a catalyst for me to move back to India,” said Bahl, 30, who has since built one of India’s most successful online retail ventures that is estimated to clock turnover of 2,500 crore this fiscal. “Once you are past the initial stages of friction and have escape velocity, a startup in India can grow much faster with relatively lesser competitive dynamics than in the US,” said Bahl. His company has till now raised a total of $90 million ( 500 crore) in equity capital from a consortium that includes eBay and Japan’s Recruit Co as well as six venture funds.
Cycle effect
As more success stories emerge, the number of Indians keen to return continues to grow said investors. “But only when they return with their families to settle here do we take them seriously,” said Ashish Gupta, cofounder of Helion Venture Partners, who returned in 2005. “It’s the biggest hurdle they will ever cross in their lives,” said Gupta, who has funded companies such as internet advertising venture Komli Media. “It has been a crazy ride doing business every day in India. In the US, I could predict my life and career with almost 90% accuracy for the next ten years. In India, I can’t predict even the next six months,” said GreenDust’s Chaturvedi. 

The Return of the Native Startups by Returnees
HEALTHKART: Online store for Health and wellness products
KNOWLARITY:Cloud Telephony Company
SNAPDEAL:Online Marketplace
KOMLI MEDIA: Digital media network EXOTEL: Cloud Telephony Company
GREENDUST: Reverse Logistics Start-up for Electronics
ATTERO: Electronics Recycling & Management company
SAVAARI : Online taxi aggregator
CASHKARO: Online cashback & coupons platform
FOODPANDA: Online food ordering platform
VOTERITE:Online Social media platform for political campaigning The Reasons To Return:
Internet Subscribers:
205 million
Mobile Subscribers:
900 million
No of Users of Mobile Web: 130 million
No. of college going kids that are active Internet users: 60 million
More than 50% of its population below age of 25 years
More than 65% of population below the age of 35 years
Average age of an Indian will be 29 years in 2020
Indian Middle Class: 300 million people (almost equivalent to size of US population)
Per Capita Wealth per adult risen from $2000 in 2000 to $4,700 in 2013
India graduates 5 lakh engineers per year
Salary for techies India $22,000 per year vs $116,800 in US
Salary for non-tech grads 15k-30k per month
Per Capita Wealth per adult risen from $2000 in 2000 to $4,700 in 2013
2.8 million people have net worth of over $100,000
1,760 ultra high net worth individuals with wealth over $50 million
770 UHNWIs with more than $100 million in India
No of Dollar Millionaires: 180,000

Troubles to Expect When You Return:
Poor and Lax Work Ethic & Commitment from employees
Difficulty in Hiring for startups
Corruption not only in Govt but in the private sector
Broken Systems;
Lack of efficiency in basic requirements for a startup
Little funding for start-ups without revenue traction
Poor telecom and broadband infrastructure
High regulations in telecom and financial sector 

Keep a longer term perspective in mind
Relocate with family to display commitment to investors
Don’t compare the West with India on every count
India work culture is seas apart, don’t take recruiting decisions alone 
Harsimran Julka ET131122