For financial services giant MassMutual, Bollywood and yoga are just not sufficient attributes to go with when trying to understand the nuances of the Indian community in the United States.
Over the past few years, the company has made a serious and targeted effort to really get under the skin of these people, in order to get an indepth sense of who they are and what they need.
Simple cultural parameters, like the importance of taking off one’s shoes when entering an Indian home, and not offering a hand to a woman (particularly an older one) when greeting her, all form part of the qualitative study that MassMutual has carried out on the Indian-American community–a study that provides a solid foundation for on-the-ground sales managers like George Eapen.
Eapen works with MassMutual’s strategic financing group in Houston, a city that is home to about 150,000-200,000 Indians. Most of them are professional, he says, they are engineers and doctors and business owners, and like any other ethnic community in the U.S., they have their own set of characteristics and their own specific investment and saving goals and needs.
Although Eapen is Indian–he came to the United States from India two and a half years ago–and has an innate sense of who an Indian is and what an Indian needs, he insists that MassMutual’s detailed approach to understanding the Indian community serves him well in his job.
“The company isn’t just looking at where the money is, it wants to understand the community’s heritage and cultural nuances very well, so that it can educate its workforce well,” he says.
MassMutual’s efforts have allowed Eapen and his counterparts who work in other heavily Indian-dominated parts of the country like Atlanta and New York/New Jersey to conduct seminars with different groups of Indians, and to understand specific needs, such as the need for long-term care in retirement and asset protection in the long-run, Eapen says. His discussions have led him to see how important education is for Indians and how one of their top goals is saving for their children’s college education.
According to MassMutual research, 63% of Indians in the U.S. feel saving for their children's college education is important so they can live the American Dream and 63% of this community expect their children to get a Master's Degree.
Eapen has also had several discussions with Indian business owners and has been able to see the pressing need they have for business valuation.
“For many Indian business owners, their business is everything and they spend so much time working in it that they neglect having it valued,” he says. “Many Indians are great entrepreneurs but they do need to know what their business is worth in case they plan to sell it or get another partner in. We have solutions for this.”