By Shonali Muthalaly, the Hindu, India – 12/24/2007 – 12:00am
Shonali Muthalaly meets Ranjini Manian, author of the Dummies series’ first book on India
Yet another first Ranjini Manian
The popular Dummies series finally has an Indian author. And about time too. Chennai-based Ranjini Manian, Founder and CEO of Global Adjustments — a destination and cross-cultural services company — has written the series’ first boo k on India, on what’s probably one of the hottest topics in the world right now, ‘Doing Business In India For Dummies.’
Launched in 1991, at a time when new technology and fancy gizmos started sweeping the world, the path-breaking Dummies series bravely used irreverent expertise to break down complicated concepts. They began with ‘DOS For Dummies’ and were such a huge success, they currently have 125 million books in print. Dummies is now available in about a dozen languages, including French, Arabic and Bulgarian. Hungry Minds Inc., the company that started the series, was bought over by John Wiley & Sons, a venerable old company founded in 1807.
“It’s an automatic ‘Go To’ in America,” says Ranjini, holding up the distinctive yellow and black book… Whether it’s cooking or bringing up a Labrador retriever.” The astonishingly comprehensive series actually does seem to have thought of everything, whether it’s ‘Dating For Dummies,’ ‘Grieving for Dummies’ or a cheerful title called ‘Reconstructing Clothes for Dummies,’ which — among other things — tells you how to “turn your old pants into a new hat.”
Ranjini says acquiring the Dummies brand of humour was one of the most difficult challenges, although the American Wiley team really helped. “I’m not really funny,” she says, as the photographer directs her to hold the books up for a picture. “I should have been 25 and good looking for this,” she states wryly, looking surprised when we collapse into giggles. This unpretentious, down-to-earth tone, which she carries into ‘Doing Business In India For Dummies’, is actually her strongest point as a writer. The book is filled with anecdotes culled from the twelve years she’s run Global Adjustments, giving practical and logistic help to the many expatriates from about 70 different countries, who have all moved to India to do business.
It all began a little more than a year ago, when Dummies sent her an e-mail asking her if she would be interested in writing a book for them. “I had already done a piece on India in Business Etiquette for Dummies by Sue Fox,” she said. A similar book on China was commissioned simultaneously. “Suddenly India and China are important to Western audiences,” says Ranjini, adding, she’s actually been seeing the boom. “When I started Global Adjustments to help people relocate, there were maybe 50-60 people coming in every year,” she says. By the year 2000, she said the number had not only gone up but started doubling, then tripling. “Now it has gone up ten times,” she says, adding once people got ‘hardship allowances to come to India and now they’re lining up for a posting here” because, among other things, Indian work experience looks good on resumes.
While a good part of the book is based on personal experience, she has used her wide network of clients and friends to fill in the gaps. “I learnt so much when I put this together,” she says, flipping through the book, pointing at chapters on understanding investment routes, exploring industrial relations and demystifying the Indian legal system. In classic Dummies style, everything has been broken down into bite-sized chunks, with cheery icons to help readers navigate. This includes a lotus that Ranjini came up with, points out ‘Distilled Wisdom,’ which features helpful little stories. “Dummies is actually for very intelligent readers,” says Ranjini, adding it’s designed to let readers dip into specific chapters, to quickly learn what they need.
Ranjini and her editorial coordinator Susan Philip have evidently tried to think of everything: from trade unionism to how to greet colleagues. There are thoughtful tables on the Indian states, and diagrams explaining everything from Indian currency to “How to do the namaste.” And then there’s the essential etiquette, like one earnest page on ‘Making small talk over a meal,’ which lists topics that work well: “Cricket. Family. Cinema’. And then in a separate table, (beside an icon of a ticking bomb) lists those that don’t: Money. Poverty. Sex.
‘Doing Business In India For Dummies’ has been recently released in India and is available at most big bookstores, including Landmark and Odyssey.