An Indian Abroad: New Blood
Karthik Naralasetty is an Indian entrepreneur who moved to the United States to start his business — and according to him, East and West are still excitingly diverse when it comes to conducting business living life and, er, going to the gym.
When we surveyed thousands of Indians on what constitutes a full life, we were flooded with replies on a hunger to live and work abroad. What can Naralasetty’s experiences tell us about packing your bags and setting sail for new horizons?
MOVE WITH YOUR PASSION
Naralasetty started the social networking site Socialblood in 2011, after reading about a young girl suffering with a rare blood disease called thalassemia.
Thalassemia, a disease in which abnormal haemoglobin attacks and destroys healthy red blood cells, requires regular blood transfusions. The girl in the story struggled to find sufficient blood donors to supply her treatments, which got Naralasetty thinking. Today, Socialblood connects hundreds of potential donors with people that desperately need blood.
The biggest value of working abroad is the people you meet, says Naralasetty. “You will get to meet people from different cultures, different ethnic backgrounds,” he says. “Working along with them will give you a feeling of ‘One world, one family.’ There is a lot you can learn if you are ready for it.”
It can be an intimidating move, but Karthik believes the secret of a successful life abroad is to have no fear. “Be like an eagle. The eagle has no fear of adversity and [the] fearless spirit of a conqueror. Don’t be afraid to venture into a new territory. As humans we have an amazing ability to adapt to any place and culture. Don’t depend on career consultancies. Instead do your own research and analysis.”
OPEN YOUR EYES TO NEW VIEWPOINTS AND SKILLS
The young innovator, who made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 list last year, says the single most important aspect you will notice about the working culture in the US is how they admire every profession. “The respect you will earn will not depend on what kind of work you do — but rather on how well you do it,” he explains.
A good chance to test yourself, then. Not just professionally, but on a basic social level. “I believe ambiguity is what makes your life exciting. Being in a comfort zone is a sign of no growth. I learnt to smile and greet random strangers walking by. I learnt what dignity of labour means. I realised every day and every minute counts and learnt the value of money,” explains Naralasetty.
He tested his confidence in other curious ways, too. “Going to a court to fight a petty traffic violation and making my point in front of a judge and walking out of it without paying a fine. I would have never done that in India. Similarly, working at a restaurant as a part-time waiter to earn my monthly rent was something I would have never done in India,” adds Naralasetty.
ENJOY THE SMALL DIFFERENCES
He reflects that certain aspects of American culture were not what he expected.
“McDonald's and KFC isn't worshipped here as much as in India. Everybody, even a complete stranger, smiles at you and says ‘Hello!’ when you make eye contact or just pass by. Nobody gives a damn about gold or jewellery. Nobody honks while driving in the road even when there is heavy traffic. It’s considered rude to honk. The vehicles stop for you to cross the road, [rather] than you waiting restlessly for the vehicles to pass before you can walk across the road.”
Oh, and one more thing, he chuckles. “Locker room nudity at gyms — get used to it, you don’t have a choice!”
BROADER HORIZONS MEANS BETTER POTENTIAL
Still, despite, or perhaps because of a wealth of cultural surprises, this has been a move that Naralasetty will never regret.
Perhaps that’s because travel abroad does more than fill your photo album. “People who have international experience […] are better problem solvers and display more creativity, our research suggests,” says William Maddux an associate professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD. “What’s more, we found that people with this international experience are more likely to create newbusinesses and to be promoted.” So what are you waiting for?