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India is no longer a hardship posting for expats: Arun Das Mahapatra, Heidrick & Struggles

India is no longer the hardship posting. And expats are coming not just at the top - but at different levels of corporate hierarchy to have India on their resume.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 14, 2012, 12.06 PM IST
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Two decades after the Indian government threw open doors to MNCs, number of MNCs operating in India have multiplied. Keeping pace with them, number of global executives - or expats - too has increased. Two important trends are discernible. India is no longer the hardship posting. And expats are coming not just at the top - but at different levels of corporate hierarchy to have India on their resume.

What are the important trends and patterns? Arun Das Mahapatra, parter-in-charge, Heidrick & Struggles, speaks to ET reporter on the issue:

Appointing an expat at the top - has it got to do anything with the nationality of the MNC?

In some ways yes. Most American companies today have handed over the top job to local executives. They would be happy to find somebody who has a global experience but for them, India knowledge is very important. Europeans are little more traditional than American companies. Koreans and Japanese are lot more conservative about it.

A large number of European companies in India are headed by expats.

What do you think are the reasons?

It is lot to do with the culture. Koreans want to be in total control and do appoint expats in all critical positions. Japanese, like Europeans are slowly warming up and thinking about appointing locals. For example European Bayer never had an Indian CFO. Now it has one. As their experience grows, they become more comfortable to experiment.

Does this have sectoral pattern?

Complex technology driven where talent is not easily available are more likely to appoint expats. Tech-driven companies like BMW understandably have expats at the top.

But consumer driven companies, which require local understanding, lean more heavily on hiring local CEOs.

What is the flip side in appointing an expat?

The negative side is that many expats when they come they take time to settle down. Typically their stint could be anywhere between 2-4 years. And by the time they settle down they are already beginning to wind up - at least mentally - from India. So we find that not many of them are very effective.

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