FOREIGN DESPATCH

IN THE LAND OF KANGAROOS

When Mahesh Kaskar headed for Australia, he was not prepared for the great cultural shock that was in store for him. But it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with down under. Even after five years, the land of Kangaroos and myriad sports continue to fascinate him in more ways than one. The ag & auto operations head of Mahindra Australia takes a wide angle lens to provide an unforgettable insight into his life in the smallest continent on earth.

I began my career with Mahindra in International Operations 18 years ago. At present, I am heading the Ag & Auto operations of Mahindra Australia. Mahindra Australia is now based in Brisbane and the operations commenced more than 10 years ago. I moved to Australia in 2011 and now lead a team of around 20 people, of which only two are expats, rest all are locals.

Mahindra Australia is a medium-sized company with around AU$ 25 million annual turnover. Australia is one of the world’s most competitive and advanced markets; and we are trying to make headway in the Ag & Auto industry.

In Tractors, we are among the top five players in the relevant HP segment, whereas in Auto we have just launched the XUV500 Automatic model. This new launch is expected to help us foray into the mainstream auto competition. Even though our team is small, we are committed to take challenges in our strides and script an enduring success story. Our aspiration is to emerge as the top three players for Ag Business; and rank among the top 20 players for Auto Business by 2020.

Australians are brutally honest in their interactions with others. I mean, it’s either black or white; there is no grey shade involved. If you are from the Indian subcontinent, then you could be inviting a big cultural shock. My advice would be, ‘Be ready for that shock; otherwise do not step into their territory’.

We all know Australia is a sporting nation, but you need to be ‘here’ in Australia to really understand its meaning. Indians are mostly obsessed with cricket; but Australians are equally passionate about tennis, swimming, car racing – formula 1/v8 racing/drag racing, horse racing, boat racing, rugby league, football, cycling, hockey, net ball, basketball, among many others. This nation is crazy about sports; and that has done a world of good to the population. Sports have helped instil a culture of competitiveness, aggression, love for discipline and hard work in people.

In my 18-year career, I have been to so many interesting places in the world. I will still rate Australia as one of the best places to explore.

Australia has its own cultural identity and the characteristics of people in the continent are amazing. You can easily differentiate Aussies from people coming from other parts of the world. My take would be, you can either love or loathe Aussies, but you can never ignore them.

My wife too works here; and in the last five years of our stay, we have never faced any bitter experience, which is worth mentioning. On the contrary, we can recall numerous memorable experiences. Before we came here, we were a bit sceptical about life in Australia. But after staying here for five years, I will count Australia among some of the best places on Earth. We also have one more reason to be thankful to Australia, as our son, Shivanshu was born here.

I was fortunate enough to travel across the country; and have seen the beauty and splendour of the continent, which even many natives may not have seen. The first thing that strikes the eye is the size. Australia is huge. You will be driving on a straight road without any turn for around 500 kilometres; and still not encounter many vehicles on road. Flights from one city to another can take around six to seven hours, if you are travelling from the East Coast to the West Coast. Considering its size, Australia’s population is miniscule; and that is also a part of the charm of the place. Vast terrains of land, presenting the allure of an easy, carefree life.

We always think about the rivalry between India and Pakistan, but one will be surprised to note that Australia and New Zealand love to hate each other. If you are watching a Rugby match between the two nations, then be prepared for some ‘nasty banter’. And yes, you cannot watch any sport without beer or a wine glass in your hand. It’s an insult to the social occasion.

I know, my readers will be a bit disappointed, if I do not talk about kangaroos. Australia and not a mention of kangaroos! Well, my dear reader, kangaroos are beautiful creatures that are a part of the identity of the little continent called Australia. But let me also tell you that you may hit a kangaroo while driving on roads, if you are not alert, especially during the night. Kangaroos often get killed on road accidents; and they are not really loved the way we think they would be in this part of the world.

Australia still remains the land of opportunity for businesses. It has abundant natural resources, and mining here is still a major economic growth engine. Moreover, sectors like agriculture and tourism also have equal potential for growth in the continent. The Indian community here is strong and growing; and we as a community are also contributing to the local economy. We celebrate Indian festivals and Indian food is easily available in most cities.

Overall, Down Under has been a great upside in my life and career. It’s a different world altogether. A world that never ceases to fascinate!