Mandarin on business skills wish list
for Leadership Network member

Leadership Network member Rasik Makan has been part of a team in Sydney tasked with advising a group of Chinese investors on the acquisition of a solar farm. He says the experience has underlined to him the importance of understanding that different cultures have their own ways of doing business and doing a little homework can really pay off.
Rasik Makan photo at 2017 Induction

Rasik Makan speaks about the Foundation's Leadership Network: “Someone who I did my induction with has been pretty helpful for my career…the network does help.”

Rasik crossed the ditch from Auckland six months ago to work as a senior consultant at Ernst & Young.

His specialty? Infrastructure. Specifically, helping clients allocate capital to infrastructure projects, like solar farms.

Rasik says his latest project was a whole new ballgame.

It was the first time he had worked with potential Chinese investors.

And there were learning curves, he says.

“In meetings Aussies and Kiwis are very casual and we have a transactional style of doing business. But with Chinese clients our work was conducted through existing relationships, and meetings were a lot more formal.”

Sometimes, it meant adjusting his own modus operandi in a meeting, he says.

“You sort of had to almost stand back a little bit and let people who had done it before start off. You went through those channels first…and then followed on and elaborated from that.”

On his business-skills wish-list: Mandarin.

Huge chunks of the proceedings on his latest project were in Mandarin, and he relied on translators from EY’s China-based international business desk to “keep up with the play”, he says.

“They [the investors] did a pretty good job given that English was their second language but, naturally, doing business for them in Mandarin was a lot easier. So, you’d have parts of conference calls and meetings where you’d go for a good 40 minutes and it would all be in Mandarin.”

However, improving his understanding of the Chinese business market was an area where he was able to do his homework and easily upskill.

Knowing the names of large Chinese conglomerates, what their roles in markets are and what their roles in the projects could be put him a step ahead, he says.

And it’s as simple as spending a bit of time googling, scouring websites like Bloomberg, and reading the National Business Review and Australia’s equivalent, he says.

“Then it means you can keep up with the play a lot faster rather than having to ask ‘what does this company do, how big are they, what’s their turnover’ and that sort of thing.”

Another way to prepare: “Just ask people you know.”

Rasik’s fresh from participating in the Leadership Network’s Australia Hui – a chance to build on Asia knowledge and awareness and deepen connections among members based in Australia.

“It was nice seeing Kiwi faces again and hearing their stories about how they moved over and what they struggled with and what they’ve succeeded with as well.”

A highlight for Rasik was the hui’s “mihi masterclass”.

Introducing himself in Te Reo is not something he’s incorporating into his daily grind in Sydney, but the experience was worthwhile regardless, he says.

“You can use it in other ways, in your understanding of other cultures…I also think it helps in understanding indigenous rights and how they think about doing business, their way of life, their relationship with the land.”

He was looking forward to developing further the connections made at the hui as he knows first-hand the benefits they can bring.

“Someone who I did my induction with has been pretty helpful for my career…the network does help.”