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“In India, every meeting starts with a chai": Charles Frump, MD, Volvo Cars India
Charles Frump, MD, Volvo Car India, talks about the uniqueness of Indian culture during an exclusive fireside chat with Dr. Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld and exchange4media Group at BW HR Excellence Awards 2020.
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While PM Modi may have popularised ‘Chai pe Charcha’, there is one expatriate who has literally enjoyed it at every meeting in India. “I was interested to find that every meeting I ever have, starts with a Chai. I never drank so much chai in my life and I am enjoying every moment,” reveals Charles Frump, MD, Volvo Car India, during an exclusive fireside chat with Dr. Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld and exchange4media Group at BW HR Excellence Awards 2020.
Talking about his learnings from India, Frump maintained, “After I moved from Sweden, I really absorbed this culture and way of doing things. I really wanted to test it out in a different place. And I have to say with my team here, Indians are willing to accept the new way of doing things and change very quickly. It influences the culture. To this day, I have very good relation with individuals because I have taken time at the very beginning to know them.”
He also acknowledged that Indians take criticism very well, “The people I have worked with in India crave inputs (and) will not be satisfied with (just) positive input. They want to know the improvement areas that they can work upon. This is vastly different from some of the other cultures that I have seen. Without calling out any specific culture, People in Europe have a pride in their own abilities which is great. But at the same time, you should be open to coaching constructive feedback. This is what makes India great. You are a culture that is constantly judged and tested. This to me is a breath of fresh air when I work with my Indian colleagues.
When asked to shed some light on the Swedish work culture, Frump maintained, “When I have worked in American companies, it is very much like working in Indian companies. The titles are important. With a Swedish approach, there is no hierarchy. My team was surprised when I first came here, I spent my first-month meeting individually with every single person in my organization for at least 30 mins. This is a very Swedish approach I can’t imagine American managers to be like this.”
Believing in the notion of reverse mentoring, Frump maintained he never has an assistant, but management trainees and hires people directly from the top institutes. “As a manager, many people will reflect what they will see in you. How many wells do people know you, how much are you willing to share (about) yourself. If we are willing to do that, maybe we will see that coming back. That person works with me not only as an assistant but also sitting at all the management team meetings, understanding how the business is run, attending strategic meetings, offsite meetings. So that person is always there,” Affirms Frump.
Frump also harped on the principle of two-way communication rather than just giving instructions. Sharing his own set of experiences, he states, “When you are coming into a new organization in a leadership role, people are nervous. People are most afraid when you are coming into a new organization especially in a leadership role. They don’t know how you are going to run things, how you are going to treat them. In those situations, if you choose to be nice to people, and meet them regardless of hierarchy, this is very important. If you think, you know what the problems are then you are fooling yourself. Regardless of the country, you are coming from, if you have an open mind and are willing to trust what people tell you, this is a good practice regardless of what you are doing.”
Frump also asserted that with more technology assimilation, the more is the value of human touch and face-to-face and human interaction, “When I think about working with my colleagues, to me email is the lowest form of human communication. The laziest thing you do (is you) send an email and (mark a) copy to all of your bosses. I am all about face to face kind of person. So my prediction is that more and more people will step away from technology rather than embrace.