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Letter from Bangalore: Bosses Abroad

A recent article in The Economist titled "Manager, offshore thyself" caught my attention because the subject -- top executives (CEOs, CFOs, et al) relocating to far corners of the world away from their headquarters in order to meet the changing needs of their business -- resonated with what we have been seeing in the market. So I asked my colleague Thomas Sebastian, based in TPI's Bangalore office, to share his perspective on this trend.  His dispatch follows.

"Corporations are indeed going places
: They're going where they can find markets, capital, talent and sources of goods and services. And they're taking their most trusted executives along for the trip.

For example, Wim Elfrink, chief globalization officer (a real title), has just moved to Bangalore, where he will oversee the execution of Cisco's globalization strategy.  Cisco believes that India, with its educated workforce, market opportunities, rich history and supportive culture, is a great location from which to execute its globalization strategy. In an unprecedented move, Cisco will move one-fifth of its top brass to India over the next three to five years!

The following points are anecdotal but illustrative:

>     There are a whole cluster of global professionals of Indian origin who have decided to head back "home" and seek opportunities similar to those they went in search of when they first left India. Depending on whom you talk to or what sort of magazines you read, the estimates of RNRI (Returned Non Resident Indian) professionals vary between 25,000 to 50,000. My own colleagues Siddharth Pai (managing director of TPI in India) and Guruprasad Krishnamurthy (a recent addition to TPI's advisory team in India) are both Americans of Indian origin.

>     Last year I spent 40 weeks on four continents advising several global clients across a host of industries on their global sourcing strategy. Many of my colleagues had similar work schedules.

>     I also happened to work on a client engagement in India in which TPI, a Texas-based firm, was retained to advise on a multi-tower sourcing transaction for the Indian branch of an Australian subsidiary of a Scottish company. That company had an Irish CEO, a Canadian COO, an English CFO, a Dutch head of engineering, a Scottish HR chief and an Indian IT boss, all of them physically located in southern India. The company sources services from an Indian company, has full-scale business operations in Bangladesh and India and just recently raised equity financing from the Indian capital markets."

As the Cisco globalization chief, Wim Elfrink -- a Dutch polyglot from Silicon Valley -- gets settled in Bangalore with his wife, two daughters and the family dog, it's time for me to catch my next intercontinental flight out to support yet another one of my valuable clients who also has global ambitions.

As Thomas' insights and experience shows, in an increasingly virtual world, leaders still like to feel the pulse of opportunity up close.