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EXPATS – the Modern day Indian Maharaja

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Editor – Human Engineers


Exbusinesstraveller-300x222Expat hiring  has been on the rise in India for over some time now. The trend has been there for some time but gathered momentum recently as technology is changing rapidly. In an increasingly globalized world, skills and competencies can never be available in all geographies all the time. So in high technology areas, demand for expatriates is rising.

Expatriates are hired primarily to fill knowledge gaps that exist in certain sectors in India for which local talent is not available.

Some MNCs have traditionally preferred to bring in experts from their offices or headquarters abroad. “We do this routinely as a subsidiary of a US organisation,” says Chaitrali Singh, Director – HR, ZS, global sales and marketing consultancy. 

The trend of hiring expats is on the rise because of two factors: There are lots of segments that organisations are looking at that are new businesses that did not exist in India earlier. So expertise from the west are required. The expats are willing to come for a fixed period to India and share their expertise here.

Then, there are many Indians who have lived for long in the west and now want to come back to head or be working at senior positions in India. Once India has achieved this critical expertise, there will be a lot more local talent in leadership roles here.

The number of expats being hired in niche positions is going up each year with the figure for 2015 so far showing an average of 30,000 to 35,000 of them working here. This number is set to increase by around 10-15 percent each year as Indian economy starts reviving, says Moorthy K Uppaluri, CEO, Randstad India.

India is home to around 30,000 expats. According to one estimate, they include the second largest proportion of expats (18%) drawing a salary of $250,000 or above annually, after China (29%).

Now how do these Expatriates cope up with India and how do they lead their life here in India.

Expatriates living in India often have gripes, for instance about the heat, the dirt, how difficult it is to find good cheese.

But when it comes to other perks, including opportunities for travel, ease of raising children and a low cost of living, India comes out in the top 10 places to be an expatriate, according to a survey of 9,000 expats conducted by HSBC.

An HSBC report published last year says expats favour India for a variety of reasons, mainly to do with low costs.

The modern day MAHARAJA

My last 4 assignments spread over 20 years were with Multinational Corporations and have had many Expatriates deployed to India, Phillipines, China and Vietnam besides the usual Singapore & Hongkong.

I have had the opportunity to work with Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, French, Americans & Australians spread across 20 years in 4 different Multinational Organisations.

The Western Expats posted to Asian Countries especially India, Phillipines, Vietnam lead a super luxurious life and often like a “Maharaja”. The word “maharaja” literally means a Great King, but here is referred to more for the  maharajas’ opulent & luxurious lifestyle.

No one and especially as a HR Leader, I don’t crib about their opulent & luxurious lifestyle but fail to understand that when it comes to meting out treatment to their local employees, they apply a completely different yardstick and laughably all in the name of “Business Interest”.

There are  CEO’s drawing Million Dollar salaries per annum and in the same organisation there are people at the bottom of the pyramid drawing less than 120 Dollars per month, especially in Multinational Organisations and those operating in Emerging / Newer economies.

In a specific instance I have seen Country President’s drawing nearly a million dollar salary in India and have Plant Managers fighting & negotiating for a Rs.100/- per month (2 USD) increase to Contract Labour drawing a meagre 100 USD per month.

In another case the Head of a Business Unit (a expat) was vociferously negotiating (to bring down) the increase in Blue Collar Labor compensation. The average compensation was around 150 USD per month. There was no union and the proposal was to give an average 12% increase in salary. The BU Head was resisting such a increase saying that it will increase the Product Cost (Cost of Goods Sold) and will make the company un-competitive. Great at first sight. At the same time this guy, presented a bill of Rupees 45 lakhs INR (75,000 UD) for reimbursement of tuition fees for his 3 children studying in India (An International School in Bangalore and all below high school). What an irony. The entire proposal for salary increase of the Blue Collar workforce of nearly 500 people was less than 10K USD and he was complaining about Cost of Goods Sold, company becoming noncompetitive  to an already low paid staff but here he was rewarding himself such luxuries. He was entitled to go back to his home country 4 times a year and a global vacation.

I have seen highly paid Top Executives (drawing in excess of 400,000 USD) submitting bills for Rs.50/- reimbursement of parking tickets, Rs.250/- reimbursement of Hair Cut charges etc.

In another case we had a peculiar problem.

We have had requests of Expats bring dogs – in one case 2 and we spent nearly 8000 USD just for clearing & forwarding in India and placing on quarantine (Indian Government regulation).

In another case we spent nearly 3000 USD to help a Expat bring in a CAT and spent another 500 USD to train the cat to acclimatize to Indian condition.

In another case a loss making MNC, the Country Manager insisted on renting a Fully air-conditioned Farm House in the outskirts of Gurgaon for Rs.2.5 lakhs rental per month in 2002– a 3 acre property with a private swimming pool, a mini golf course and a servants quarters bigger than most Indians could afford. Mind you he was just 2 of them. He and his girlfriend living in a mansion. The house had 12 air-conditioners. Power was a major issue in Gurgaon those days and we had to install a generator worth around 200,000 USD to power his house. So much so when he left, we shifted the generator to our factory in Chennai and it could power the entire factory. He insisted that he rides only German Cars (because its unsafe to drive Indian Cars) and we had to import a Volvo Car from Germany at a cost of around 200,000 USD those days. To serve him we had 2 Security Guards, 2 drivers – 1 for him and one for his GirlFriend, 1 cook, 1 Fulltime maid/care taker and visiting housekeeper. We used to spend Rs.1 lakh on diesel every month and also another 1 lakh + for maintenance of his garden, golf course, swimming pool etc.

The company was on perennial losses and the lowest paid workman would be less than Rs.5000/- per month ie. Less than 100 USD per month.

Even before the Olas and the UBER, the Drivers Salary was on the rise because of the Expats. When an average Driver Salary was around 15-20 K, we have seen Expats offer Rs.50K per month + Uniform, Shoes etc.

Another Expat insisted that he wanted a BMW Car, when he was only eligible for a Toyota Innova, because he felt unsafe in Toyota Innova and safer in BMW. We had to get special approval from his Boss to meet his demands.

Their Induction to India is a Royal Induction. Agencies are hired to receive them from Airport, house them in expensive Hotels (Leela Palace) and then shown around houses (villas / appartments) before they are settled in.  When decent, good Villas / Appartments are available, they prefer to stay in places like Palm Meadow (Bangalore), Gurgaon Farm Houses. A decent 3 BR Appartment would cost around Rs.40-50K at the best of the Appartments in Bangalore and a Villa around 60-90K per month. However at Palm Meadows, one would pay around Rs.2-2.5 lakhs per month. That’s nearly 3-5 times the normal cost.

Besides they would engage, expatriation-a-letrangera cook, a caretaker, a couple of car & drivers (one for self), one for family. The employee & the family would be given a Cultural Acclimatization Induction program, enrolled into a Expat Club besides the normal club. Most of them enjoy 4 trips back home and an annual world trip (holiday).  Most Americans have small family, but the Europeans have large family (really large families).


In one instance, we even had to hire a Dog Trainer to train the Dog to adjust to Indian conditions.

In one of my earlier assignments, I worked for a Japanese Automobile company and in their Project Stage. Every day lunch would be organised for the Expats from Oberoi (Bangalore) and would cost Rs.550/- per box (as late as 1997). No issues. However when as a HR Professional we told my boss (Japanese Director) that we need to provide lunch to our Employees in office, he said don’t encourage such practices. There are plenty of restaurants nearby or they can bring their food from home. All their costs are covered under CTC.

On atleast 2 assignments with different companies, when I was serving a French Country President at Gurgaon in 2002 and a German MD in 1994, my Junior’s (Assistant HR Manager) Performance Appraisal was dependent on the service rendered to their personal life & the satisfaction of the Girl Friend/Wife of these Expats. My Junior in Gurgaon had a harrowing time. He was called many a times at Midnight and on holidays to attend to their problems and I had a gun on my head to fire him, because they felt he was not good (the lady was not happy). Same is the story of the other Junior with the German Boss. They were changing homes and my Junior was in charge of the interiors and resettling and they took the shit out of him. He would be pulled out of Interviews to attend to the Lady’s call.

Both these guys worked 24×7, seven days a week and would dread a call from the “Memsaheb”. They were supposed to be available at the beck & call of them. I used to oppose many a times. In one case I did manage to get the Expat replaced by an Indian but not so lucky in the other case but did manage to move out very quickly.

Wow what a Maharaja LIFE these Expats live in India.

It becomes even more intriguing and vulgar when we compare their lifestyle to that of their colleagues in the very same Company, Business Division they work and have most often seen them cringe when it comes to Indian employees but at the same time coughing up opulent & luxurious benefits to themselves & their family.

Despite being pampered and living a Maharaja’s life, they are unhappy. I have heard these comments. “ India is a lousy place to live, its dirty, its unsafe”.  The InterNations Expat Insider 2015 index, based on responses from 14,000 people, places India at 55th place among the 64 nations it surveys. This makes India among the 10 worst places for expatriates to live in.

Another Expat an Australian had the temerity to tell me that Indians are greedy and always hankering after money. This when I was fighting for a salary increase hike for India when the average Compa Ratio was 25%, 70% of the employees were below Market Median and we had an attrition of 40%. After a few futile attempts, I resigned from the Company and then the whole Organisation woke up. The APAC Business Leader flew me to Singapore, met me with my Boss and asked me to withdraw my resignation and assured to look into the Indian Operations People Issues.

Believe me, we did a market Correction of 47% hike with many people even getting 100% Increase (spread over 2 installments). In a span of 6 months we brought down the attrition to around 8%. I lost my battle with my Australian Boss ( a lady), she felt that I was more loyal to the Business than HR. I was given a low Performance Rating and a low increment as a consequence.

Conversely its not true of the same when Indians are posted abroad. They don’t lead the life of a Maharaja. In fact most of them used to crib saying that they are leading a lesser lifestyle than that they were used to in India.

An Indian Country President, was selected for a Asia Pacific role and posted to Singapore. He was drawing around Rs.50 lakhs Per Annum (around 8 years back). To his dismay, when he was given the offer at Singapore he was offered around 140K Singapore Dollars (roughly Rs.60 lakhs) per annum. He was livid and had to literally beg (not negotiate) to improve the offer and finally it was settled for 180K Singapore Dollars. He had to manage everything – Housing, Car, Education and Living.  Even to this day, he is livid with HR for he thinks he was given a raw deal.

An Indian who was living in the Middle East moved to India to take up a Leadership role in another company. The MNC refused to match his Gulf salary in India and offered around 60% of his Gulf Salary. No extra perks, except the luxury of House Rent Deposit and a Toyota Innova Car (not even driver). Here is a senior Executive of the same company, posted to India but not given Expatriate Assignment and paid local salary. Again he was livid with HR because he felt he got a raw deal and especially when he later came to know of the Maharaja Life Style of the Western Expats posted in India.

In another case, an Indian Professional was posted to France at their Head Quarters. They offered him a 20% increase over his Indian Salary and converted into French Francs and told him to manage. I happened to visit him in Paris and he was reluctant to show his house as he was living in a lowly paid house in a poor suburb of Paris. No induction, no special house, driver, cook, childrens education, induction for dogs, reimbursement of hair cut fees, piano classes etc. Travel by Metro to office, think 10 times before visiting home (India) and put his children to Government Schools in Paris.

RacismQ1Its this differentiation of treatment that makes us livid and at times wonder if Multinational Corporations tend to exhibit Racist tendencies and believe in White Supremacy & a philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior. The Whites need special treatment to work in India, whereas the brown colored can work under any condition any where.

The common feeling amongst these employees isRacism2 that when the color of the skin is white, there is a certain level of treatment and if the color of the skin is darker then it’s a different yardstick.

Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It’s a self-centred falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated.

Its time that Multi National Organisations realise that “ the white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the coloured man’s misery.”RQ2

RQ1As Abraham Lincoln said, “No human race is superior, Achievement has no color” and that every form of discrimination should be shunned. We should believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected & treated the same as such, regardless of their colour.


RanjanLRamesh Ranjan is the Founder & Chief Editor of Human Engineers  an organization being formed to help Organization’s to make the most of its People” and co-creating value thro’  People”. He is also the Founder & Head of URNEXTBREAK, a Staffing solutions organization aimed at helping employees plan their NEXTBREAK.

He is a certified CEO / Leadership Coach, Mentor for Startups, Blogger & a Speaker. In a career spanning nearly 3 decades, he has been Head of HR and held leadership positions in India & globally in organisations like Schneider Electric India, American Power Conversion (APC), Chevron Texaco/Caltex India, Praxair India, Co Systems India, Indian Herbs & ITI.

He was the Honorary Secretary of the National HRD Network, Bangalore Chapter – 2000-2002, Cluster Lead – NHRD Bangalore Chapter (Whitefield & ORR) in 2014 and currently the Vice President – NHRD Bangalore Chapter. He was the member of the India HR Council of the AMCHAM, New Delhi, Panelist on the Roundtable of HR Directors of Petroleum Companies, ISP Mumbai and Member of the India HR Council of Conference Board.

He strongly believes that HR is not for faint hearted professionals. He believes that “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going” and can be reached at rameshranjan@humanengineers.com

 

 

 

 

 

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