Germany plus India Corporate Culture

In autumn of 2015 executives from mostly family-run businesses in India visited the Munich and Upper Bavaria region. The main goal was to set up a joint venture or other type of business cooperation with a German company. The company representatives were surprised by how many of the companies they visited had already had dealings with India and were prepared to share their experiences. In addition to the companies Schletter, Knorr-Bremse, Data M and König Ludwig Schlossbrauerei Kaltenberg, it was the firm hubergroup that had many years of experience with business relationships with India.

hubergroup produces printing inks and has been in operation for over 250 years. The Indian visitors wanted to know what motivates a German company to establish business relationships with Indian firms. And what turned their undertaking into a success story? The explanations provided by Ursula Borgmann, one of the managing directors who has been with the company for over 28 years, all pointed to similar factors: recognise intercultural differences, maintain a high level of communication, establish as much personal contact as possible on location, and achieve a common understanding of business processes.

The participants also wanted to know what made India, of all places, so interesting. One factor was that hubergroup had been looking for an additional location that would already have local resources. All of the locations they checked in Germany and in Europe were either unsuitable or too expensive. It happened to be that then owners of the company Firma Micro Inks in Gujarat wanted to sell their company in the mid 2000s. Family member Heiner Ringer of hubergroup subsequently met with the three brothers and was pleasantly surprised by their openness, enthusiasm and creativity. It did then take a while to reach an agreement with Micro Inks, but the acquisition did offer a lot of advantages in retrospect. hubergroup was able to produce resins and pigments in India on their own and then process them directly, making it possible to maintain their own standards and minimize costs.

2,000 employees now work in India, twice the number of workers at their European lo-cations. The former owners helped with restructuring for an additional year. So things were not: Now the Germans are coming and want to change everything… but: We can find solutions together, the Germans will learn some Hindi, the processes can be ana-lysed in detail and then gradual changes can be introduced.

Without their Indian site it would have been difficult for the Huber Group to have man-aged the 2009 financial crisis and redirect their focus from the dwindling newspaper industry to packaging printing.

During their visit to the company the participants toured the production facilities and Venkteshwar Balasubramanian from the chemical producer Madras Fluorine was im-pressed: “Extremely well-organised production, clean and well-structured. I have never seen anything like it at a chemical company before. They really serve as an example to us!”

Even though there were no concrete business contacts following the visit, the managers viewed this visit as the best during their time in the training programme. They were able to get a feeling for what you need to focus on to ensure a successful business cooperation or joint venture.

By Katharina Bömers
Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria, Westerham