Executive dearth

Germany's Absent Asians

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Sanjiv Lamba of gas giant Linde is one of only a few Indians in  German firms.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Unlike other countries such as Britain, German firms have failed to successfully integrate many Asian businessmen and lack a global competitive edge as a result.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • German firms have traditionally viewed exotic markets only as export sites and not as hotbeds of talent.
    • Only a handful of top Indian executives work for German companies, such as Deutsche Bank’s Anshu Jain.
    • Asians often find it difficult to adjust to German business formality and directness.
  • Audio

    Audio

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It isn’t easy for Sanjiv Lamba to engage in small talk about soccer, a classic pastime among German businessmen. The executive board member of Linde, a gas company based in Munich, is a passionate cricket fan – a sport few Europeans outside Britain know much about. “In the past eight years, I certainly learned more about soccer than my colleagues did about cricket,” he admited.

Mr. Lamba is one of the few top Indian managers in Germany. But this could be set to change. Despite some lingering concerns, German firms still consider the subcontinent to have potential for growth.

Many want to do business in India. This year it is a partner country of Germany’s Hanover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair. Yet Asians remain an exotic minority among Germany’s senior managerial echelons.

There are also historical reasons for this, as Mr. Lamba points out. Ties to Great Britain are much closer due to the colonial past.

But that alone does not explain the phenomenon.

Michael Stuber, strategy consultant at Ungleich Besser Diversity Portal, a management consultancy, says that for a long time German companies saw faraway countries simply as targets for export.

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