Call of the Kronor in Chennai

Bijoy Bharathan Chennai | Updated on September 19, 2014

Mikael Gislen (centre) with members of his team at his office

Entrepreneur Mikael Gislen has a unique POV on doing business in India

Mikael Gislen’s story could serve as a potent example of the power of cultural assimilation in India’s multi-cultural business environment. The soft-spoken Swedish entrepreneur, accompanied by his wife Maria, had arrived in India more than two decades ago and found it irresistibly charming. Having set his base in Chennai, he went on to found an IT outsourcing company called Gislen Software in Tambaram.

The company which started off with three people has now grown into a 47-member strong team serving a very niche, high-value clientele from Sweden comprising ABB, Scandinavian Airlines, Swedish Match and PostNord to name a few.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the firm, Business Line caught up with Mikael, the MD of the company for a quick chat. He begins by saying, “My wife and I had travelled to India and China in 1992, a year before we decided to settle here. We liked the warmth and hospitality of the people of South India. My three teenage sons have grown up here and they speak Tamil fluently. My youngest son, who is 13, takes Swedish classes for my employees, many of them who travel to Sweden for projects. The people and the city have adopted us like one of their own.”

Do the right thing

Mikael says, “The IT scene here in the early 90s wasn’t fully fleshed out. There were several formalities to take care of, being a foreigner setting shop here in MEPZ (Madras Export Processing Zone). I followed the advice of the then Development Commissioner of MEPZ and adopted a Zero Bribe Policy. I consider it intrinsic to my responsibility in contributing towards a better India. Where I come from, all the things one is rightfully entitled to, come to him or her without a bribe.”

Mikael’s business model is one that adheres to principles of sustainable living. He beams as he tells us, “A big chunk of the power for our office’s ACs is derived from the solar panels installed on the roof of our building.” The avid running enthusiast has also encouraged 26 of his team members to join the Wipro Marathon as a way to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Mikael’s wife is keen on helping with socio-economic developmental issues. He explains, “We have an educational trust supported by the company. It runs the Little Lambs School (for children from economically challenged backgrounds) and three hostels in North Chennai. My wife is the founder of the school, which has 250 students.”

Published on September 18, 2014

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