Anita Shukla in Wiener Café, St Georg, Hamburg, where we met to talk.

India Week – talking to Anita Shukla

When I first started this blog, the plan was to do interviews just with non-German people, asking them why they came to Hamburg. Well not for the first time, I have decided to interview somebody from Germany: Anita Shukla.

This is because Anita Shukla is able to give a unique perspective from her own experience working with internationals, in particular Indians. And with India Week coming up (block your diary from 2nd to 8th November by the way), what better time to take a look at Hamburg’s ties to India?

What is it about India that makes it such a sought-after trading partner? Anita Shukla told me a bit about India, herself, and Hamburg’s relations with India.

Hamburg and India – historic links

According to the City of Hamburg’s website, links between Hamburg and India date back to the 16th century. The Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft, or Indo-German Society, was founded in 1942 and – bafflingly – at its founding ceremony in the iconic Atlantic Hotel, the song that was later to become the Indian national anthem was performed for the first time.

Trade with India is growing steadily: from €425m in 2002, it grew to €1.25bn in 2014. Or if you express that in shipping containers, as a city of mariners like Hamburg likes to do, there has been a rise from 76,000 to 236,000 between 2003 and 2014.

India-EU Training and Consulting

Anita founded her business, India-EU Training and Consulting, in 2008. Her company offers training and consulting services to German and European companies and individuals who are looking to employ Indians, or Indians seeking employment in Germany. She specialises in the IT sector; here, talent is desperately sought after and India is a rich source of it.

So she coaches German and international individuals – mostly Indian executives and specialists who are already in the EU and want to find work here. She helps them with career strategy tailored to the German employment market and advises them on their online profiles. But she also offers seminars and training on the business culture and the market both in India and Germany. The people she helps in this case are, for example, being seconded to India or looking to tap into markets there.

On top of that, she helps SMEs – the mighty German Mittelstand – and multinational corporations with strategy and international marketing.

She is a member of the expert team of BVMW (German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses).

High demand for Indian talent in Hamburg

Hamburg is fertile soil for Anita: she says there is a high demand for engineers and IT specialists because of the industries within the city.

Since 2008 when I started my business, the issue of highly-skilled foreign nationals has become increasingly prominent.

These are for example maritime, logistics, biotech, aeronautical, and aerospace engineering, media, gaming and more.

Airbus is one of the largest employers here, attracting engineers from near and far. More and more Indian companies are successfully establishing themselves and growing their business in northern Germany.

India, she says, is now a particularly attractive market. Chancellor Merkel’s recent visit to the subcontinent for the 3rd Indo-German Intergovernmental Consultations highlights this and strengthened existing Indo-German ties.

Why Hamburg? – from an Indian perspective

I asked Anita whether there are factors that make cities especially attractive for Indian people – here I was interested to find out whether our image of the “creative class” applies to people of all cultures.

Indian people mostly come to Hamburg for work. They want good jobs, interesting career perspectives and attractive salaries. They also like places with a large, active community and possibilities to celebrate the various Indian festivals. Generally, Indian people like the greenness. Whenever people visit me from India, I take them to the Alster river and it’s always a hit.

Hamburg’s startup scene is growing in stature (see interview with Sanja and Sina from Hamburg Startups). Indian people are getting in on the act too:

I often meet Indian people at events within the startup scene. The scene is attracting a new generation of Indian entrepreneurs – and this too makes Hamburg an attractive city for foreign people.

Indian community

There is a big Indian community in Hamburg, which helps Indian people feel at home. They organise festivals like the recent Ganesha festival, and there are several Diwali festivals approaching.

And what about Anita herself?

Anita values Hamburg’s openness, which she puts down to its history as a port city. Indeed, that was one of the reasons why she eventually settled in Hamburg despite growing up near Mannheim in southern Germany.

Her German family, however, is from North Rhine Westphalia, and since they had a soft spot for Hamburg she grew up with stories about the city and its people, the dialects of Northern Germany and phrases typical of Hamburg.

In its openness and diversity, Hamburg gives her contact to the various communities that constitute an important part of her identity. Being of German-Indian parentage with Indian relatives from across the world, she has a very international heritage. Besides German and English, Anita speaks several European and Asian languages – so interacting with different cultures comes naturally to her.

A significant part of her professional life is the integration of highly qualified international talent into the German labour market. Here, identifying effective strategies for a Willkommenskultur at work is key.

Language, she says, plays an important role in integration. Although she is fond of the English language, having grown up speaking both German and English, she recommends learning German – even if only the basics.

India Week

As somebody with strong ties to the Indian community in Hamburg, I wanted to talk to Anita about India Week in Hamburg.

India Week brochure
The India Week brochure – packed with events on culture, business, politics, society and more.

India Week takes place every two years, alternating with China Time.

Anita gave me a thick brochure with all the events that will be taking place from 2nd to 8th November. There is a wide range of events ranging from politics to culture via economy.

The India Week showcases Hamburg’s connections with India, as well as encouraging more. There is clearly an interest in encouraging trade links: the involvement of the Handelskammer (Chamber of Commerce) and the Hamburg Economic Development Corporation testify to that.

It seems to me to be an important statement of intent, and against the backdrop of what Anita told me earlier – that Indian people like to have a connection to their own communities when they are over here – it should help to make Hamburg more competitive in terms of attracting talented people to our city and helping them feel at home here.

Anita is involved in two events. One event her company is co-organising (see below) discusses how corporations such as Robert Bosch India have integrated talents from India, as well as requirements of a comprehensive welcoming culture from the perspective of Indian experts.

  • “Talents for Hamburg – Qualified Indian Specialists and their Potential for Hamburg”at 16.30 on 4th November, Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften (HAW), Steindamm 94, R. 0.04, 20099 Hamburg
  • “India – Market and Business Culture for the SME sector”, at “Challenges and Opportunities of Indo-German Business”, 15.45 on 6th November, Hotel Park Hyatt, Bugenhagenstraße 8, 20095 Hamburg

Thanks to Anita for telling me all about India and Indians in Hamburg – I’m sure with events like India Week, our great city’s ties to all corners of the world will only become stronger.