FOREIGN DESPATCH

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”
- T S Eliot

When I started on my journey to Mahindra USA or MUSA as we affectionately call it, this phrase by the iconic poet, Thomas Eliot meant less to me other than it being a mere phrase. Today, as I pen my thoughts on what has transpired in the last three years, it has taken on a new significance. I have understood that humility beyond learning, wisdom and attitude brings a man joy.

The move to MUSA was a surprise for me and came just when I was thoroughly enjoying my stint in corporate finance at Mahindra. It has proved to be an experience of continuous learning and has encouraged me to challenge my limits under the guidance of some of the best teachers one could ever hope to have.

A move to a foreign land - even if it is the USA - comes with it its fair share of trepidation and anxiety. This was made worse by the fact that I lost my mother to complications related to Parkinson’s disease a mere two weeks before I was expected to join MUSA. Being the only son and I must admit my mother’s favourite, this was a blow I found very difficult to overcome. However, I didn’t let this get me down and looked forward to my new posting with great enthusiasm.

The things one tends to see or expect about a foreign land is conditioned by the media in a big way and my expectations of America were similarly tempered in large part by the movies I saw. I had envisioned Texas as a place with big trucks and macho cowboys, not to mention large cattle ranches. Reality was all that and much more, as I found Texans to be a bunch of people who are very warm, hospitable and welcoming to strangers.

When I came to Mahindra USA, it was a ~ 300 million dollar enterprise having pulled itself out of a recession and ready to embark on the brave new quest for a billion dollars. It had found its mojo and was ready to challenge the entrenched players in the field. It was ready and rearing to embark on the quest. All this meant that accounting, which I was heading in my new role, had to find its feet and step up to shoulder its share of responsibility in the endeavour. And boy, I couldn’t have asked for a more energetic team!

Not all days are good but being blessed with a team which strives to find excellence at all times is half the battle won. My team has worked long and hard to rise up to the challenge of our billion-dollar goal. And along the way, I have found friends who I shall cherish for the rest of my life.

Even in a modern Indian set up there is an element of deference to the head of the team. The American system, however, is completely different; no ideas are sacrosanct and even the head of the team must earn respect and justify his decisions. Initially, this system came as a bit of a shock to me but I quickly realised its benefits. It fosters a sense of consensus and ensures a very critical evaluation of all decisions.

Another interesting facet of the American way of working was the need to draw up a thorough plan before starting the task at hand, as opposed to simply going with the flow. This meant a great deal of rewiring at my end as I had to sit and think through what I needed from the team before asking them to embark on a task. This actually led to better clarity in my communication to the team.

All this might give the reader the impression that it is all work and no play at Mahindra USA which is not the case. This posting has also given me the opportunity to enjoy the US’s famed southern hospitality and let me tell you that the average southerner is no different from an Indian when it comes to starting a conversation with an absolute stranger! There is no reticence whatsoever and this makes me feel very much at home! My love for the outdoors has also been rekindled. As a student in Pune, I enjoyed trekking in the western Ghats during the weekends and this love for nature and the great outdoors has continued as I have had the opportunity to explore the country’s famed national parks, enjoying long hikes along the park trails.

Mentioning Texas without mentioning food and especially Tex – Mex food is like mentioning Agra without the Taj Mahal! Tex – Mex is a blend of Mexican cuisine with a Texan twist and we have absolutely fallen in love with it. Most weekends are spent trying out new joints that serve this unique cuisine

My wife, who had to put her HR career in India on hold when we shifted to Houston, is the happiest as she works with special needs children. A stop gap job to keep her busy turned into a calling. I can see the joy in her eyes when she describes her day at school with her students and loving colleagues.

It would be a lie if we said we didn’t miss amchi Mumbai but here in this distant land we have found kindred spirits who have welcomed us into their lives and hearts and made Houston a home away from home. An experience we will always cherish.

- Sheejo John, Controller, Mahindra USA Inc.