Made in Germany: Perspectives of an Entrepreneur from India
Investor and entrepreneur Debjit D. Chaudhuri speaks to members of Young DGAP– Frankfurt Regional Group
The investor and entrepreneur Debjit D. Chaudhuri, director of ValueWerk inter alia, was the guest speaker at the second roundtable of the Young DGAP held at the offices of the immigration law firm Fragomen Global LLP in Frankfurt. The presentation was part of the “Made in Germany” conference series.
The evening was introduced by Fragomen’s Frankfurt practice leader, Uta Behrens, who briefly outlined the importance of the German “Mittelstand” – its small and medium-sized companies – in forming the basis for innovation and progress. For this reason, a qualified workforce is especially important for Germany’s future.
Behrens gave the floor to Christoph Kehr-von Plettenberg, who gave a brief introduction to Debjit Chaudhuri. He began with an anecdote: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was once asked by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair what the secret of her country’s economic success was, to which she famously replied “Mr. Blair, we still make things.” Chaudhuri began his presentation by emphasizing that the basis for Germany’s economic success lies in its industry and the innovative “Mittelstand” He stated four main topics that explain this phenomenon, namely, “location, population, innovation, and politics.”
For the past few decades the world has become increasingly “flat,” and time as well as space have become more and more compressed. Access to the Internet and technology allow innovative ideas to come from anywhere in the world. There has been a shift of global markets and sources. For example the market for movies or mobile phones (e.g., for Hollywood and Nokia) is moving to other continents like Asia. Chaudhuri outlined the emergence of competing centers of gravity regarding new markets and opportunities. This flattening world accordingly requires a new perspective on local markets. As an example, Chaudhuri described the Mercedes S-Class, which clusters all its sophisticated electronic extras around the driver’s seat. The Indian owner of a Mercedes S-Class, however, generally has a driver and sits in the back; the electronic devices are thus not accessible to him but rather to his chauffeur. German innovation is famous and sophisticated, but it needs to adapt to local demands. In the course of globalization, local needs remain of high importance, Chaudhuri emphasizes – and businesses should be aware of that. This is also emphasized in the example of “frugal innovation.” From the point of view of German business, everything new needs to be faster or marked by modern design, etc., but the Tata Nano (a car made by the Indian auto manufacturer Tata motors, which only costs 1500 Euros and is made with German parts), is also a product of innovation. Moreover, producing simple products for local populations (water filters or tampons, for example) could well be more relevant and profitable than making the next, faster BMW.
Chaudhuri also talked about the relevance of education. Compared to global trends, he sees a lack of flexibility and a lack of elitism in the German education system. Universities should facilitate their alumni networks, work together with job recruiters, and promote job opportunities for their graduates. Germany could thereby pave the way for the future workforce and become decidedly more attractive for foreign students.
German politics, by shifting decision-making processes to broader levels like the European Union and NATO, is facing new challenges with regard to nationality, society, and identity. “What is it to be German?” Chaudhuri asked. Special markers like the Black Forest and Oktoberfest are of course a noteworthy part of German culture, but they do not define it in its entirety. Instead, career opportunities should be offered in order to attract skilled people. There are many successful and positive role models for immigrants that could promote Germany’s colorfulness and opportunities. The country’s demographic hurdles remain the biggest challenge for its sustainable development, which means that immigration is of major importance for the country’s future.
Another obstacle hindering the immigration of skilled professionals to Germany is the labor market restrictions placed on spouses Until recently the spouses of skilled immigrants were not generally allowed to work in Germany. This can become a burden for the whole family, not to mention a loss of workforce for the country’s economy. In view of that, “soft factors” such as family are another important factor for immigration decisions.
Chaudhuri also mentioned that politicians in Germany are more independent and responsible compared to most other Western nations but that business interests are increasingly influencing politics as it occurs in other countries.
Chaudhuri concluded with some positive recommendations for Germany’s future economic success. To attract highly qualified immigrants, it will need to internationalize its education system, promote role models, and facilitate access to the labor market for the family members of immigrants. If it does this, Germany can remain one of the leading industrial locations in the world, and the label “made in Germany” will continue to signal the highest quality.
Report by Rüya Kaya