Weekly Startup Profiles > Global Adjustments

Global Adjustments
So, are we on schedule? asks the American manager. Indian counterpart responds, "Yes, we're working very hard on it." Which, translated for the American would be, "Heck no - please send help!" - if only he knew. With the cross-border stampedes occasioned by the BPO boom, it's become a business necessity to bridge the cultural divides. A role played by Global Adjustments.

Quick Facts
Entrepreneur : Ranjini Manian
Age : 47
Company : Global Adjustments
Based in : Chennai
Founded in : 1995
Industry : Recruiting/ HR/ Training

Business Summary


Provides end-to-end relocation, cross- cultural training and destination services for people moving to and from India.

The Idea

Joanne, a US diplomat's wife relocating from Beijing to India, suffered a major fear. She had a two-month-old baby: what if the first mosquito bite gave the baby malaria? "I helped her out," says Ranjini Manian. And that was the beginning of Global Adjustments.

Many expats faced similar issues. "I realized that they could not go to any single place that helped settling expats. They needed help, and I felt the need to make the transition an easy one for them," explains Ranjini.

Founded in 1995, Global Adjustments was Ranjini and Joanne. Their first steps were taken out of Ranjini's mother's apartment. Their assets were a phone line, a word processor, and some expensive stationery, a cost they quickly regretted.

The company started by providing end-to-end relocation services: everything from pre-departure orientation, help with housing, schools and down to shopping tips.

Then, with the beginning of the business process outsourcing (BPO) boom, Ranjini realized the need for cross-cultural training for Indians and expats from the corporate sector and launched that service as well.

The Opportunity

In last few years, the fast-growing BPO industry has generated a host of ancillary businesses. Relocation and training is one of them. Today there are Indians traveling overseas for jobs, expats relocating to India and Indians working at multi-national corporations within India. And the numbers keep growing.

Global Adjustments is focused on the need for these individuals to work effectively in their new environments. "The global Indian and the foreigner have to get familiar with the ways of the outside world," says Ranjini.

For instance, "Americans don't understand indirect communication: If you can't do something you simply have to use the word 'no' in the sentence," explains Ranjini. Not something that comes naturally to Asians.

These gaps in understanding between team members or between managers and clients result in substantial costs to the businesses. And with more and more teams comprising individuals from multiple cultures, the need to connect grows even greater.

Though no longer a problem, initially Global Adjustments had a tough time convincing customers of their value. Corporates would bargain with them on price. Ranjini's explanation to them was "We do not raise or reduce prices based on what car you arrive in." "It took 2-3 years to overcome that," Ranjini reminisces.

Part of the problem was the novelty of the service: back in 1994 relocation services were relatively unknown, never mind cultural training. And the competition was perceived to be "the shipping companies and the real estate agents," says Ranjini.

When Global Adjustments launched their magazine At A Glance - Understanding India, "It was a conscious effort at brand-building since we didn't have the funds to advertise," she explains.

The Money


The Team

In 1995, Ranjini and Joanne were the startup team. Ranjini's training in French, Japanese and Spanish, in addition to English and several Indian languages was a great boost at the early stage.

So how did she build her team? "Well, when the client list grew, for every ten clients I added two employees," she says.

Today Global Adjustments has 50 full time employees. They have offices in five cities but "We service more than 5,000 locations, because we have consultants all over the place," explains Ranjini.

The Company - today and tomorrow

When they started out they had 4-5 corporate clients, but now Global Adjustment serves more than 1000 clients, representing 70 different nationalities.

In addition to their services, Global Adjustments has added a 24-hour phone and email helpline for customers and a real estate division for property buying advice.

They also recently launched Global Indian, an e-learning portal that features cross-cultural classroom training sessions. "We have picked up subject matter expertise over the past 12 years, working with 72 cultures. We want the youth of India to take advantage of this knowledge," she says.

Today with the economy continuing to grow, more and more cultures are mixing and the opportunity is even larger. Ranjini estimates that the number of expats coming into the country will grow exponentially over the next three years. 50,000 expats are expected in 2008 alone and the market for cross-cultural training is becoming much larger.

And to prepare to deal with this volume, Global Adjustments plans to strengthen their infrastructure and build their resources.

Ranjini is currently talking to VCs about investment. "I'm still trying to figure out if I want VC investment or if a strategic partnership works better." Either way, she wants to be a global leader in the field.

What keeps you awake at night?

For Ranjini it is the human element that is a source of concern. "Running a business is something that you can learn, but where do you learn how to deal with your own employees?" she asks. "Attrition is catching on and you can't compromise quality. So, how do I manage my team?"

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