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Relocation business

A moving story

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With increasing numbers of expats from Europe and Asia, the relocation support business is booming.

When his company required Jeff Chapman to move from Boston to Bangalore, his wife Beth was apprehensive. "All too often, the stress (involved in these relocations) is too much for marriages to bear, " she says. Fortunately for the Chapmans, Jeff's company was willing to invest in a comprehensive relocation plan. "Relocating an employee is terribly expensive for companies so they see providing relocation support as protecting their investment. "

Relocation advice takes many forms. The couple got some excellent logistics support - from assistance in figuring out how to move their golden retriever and cat (and clear customs) to advice on what to bring, what not to bring, what to expect when the packers arrive, how to get the necessary visas, what inoculations to get, how to rent a house and so on.

The case of Edward Shiffner, the managing director of Allied Pickfords who came to India last year, is unique - he is not only an expatriate himself, but also facilitates the relocation of other expats to India. Allied Pickfords is one of the many relocation firms catering to the needs of a diverse clientele.

One of the first companies in India to provide professional relocation assistance was Global Adjustments, started by Ranjini Manian and Joanne Grady Huskey in the early years of liberalized India. Global Adjustments started off by offering advice to the families of Ford executives relocating to India and now advises a range of companies from all over the world.

Relocation experts say they now see an increasing number of non-English speaking expats move to India. "We are seeing a significant number of expats from France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, " says Jheetendra Sangram, CEO of Raffles Movers. He attributes the upsurge in European expatriates to the growth of the automobile, aviation, and telecommunications industries. "There are a number of French expatriates coming in now - mostly because Airbus has opened offices in India. "

At Global Adjustments, Arathy Madappa, vice president, Bangalore and Pune points to the rising numbers of Asian expatriates. "There has been a major inflow of Japanese and Korean expatriates over the years, " she says. "For example, our Japanese desk is headed by a Japanese lady, who provides us insights into the concerns and priorities for people from her country. "

Country specific orientations are now the norm. Sangram for instance takes French customers on walks in neighbourhoods that have a French connection.

"Every client has different needs, " agrees Shiffner. "You have expats who are already familiar with India and you also have those who are completely new to it. Aspects of living as an expat in India - like having household staff or drivers - can be a completely novel experience to some expats. "

"Small things can make a difference, " says Madappa. "One of our clients called us because she was told to recharge her mobile phone and she could not figure which socket to use. We had to explain that the mobile phone executive had used the word 'recharge' to mean a 'top up'. "

And while markets fret about FII investment or the lack thereof, relocation consultants remain bullish. "2010-2020 is a decade for mobility, " says Sangram.

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