Friday, January 21, 2011

From Green Hills To Green Rupees

Barry Stowe grew up in the outer reaches of Green Hills, just a medium length bicycle ride from the Lipscomb campus.

It was a ride he made often as a boy attending Lipscomb campus school, then Lipscomb University where he graduated in the late 70s.

Today, he is chief executive of Prudential Corporation Asia, with more than 300,000 agents and employees in 12 Asian nations and more new markets under development. Their business units are in life insurance, funds management, and consumer finance.

The company is growing so fast Barry's people can barely keep pace. He describes his own physical condition as "perpetual jet lag."

Mike, Tom and I had dinner with Barry on Thursday evening in Mumbai. Barry happened to be in town for a board meeting of his Indian insurance company and we were the fortunate beneficiaries of his hospitality before he rushed off to the airport to catch a midnight Kingfisher Airlines jet to Hong Kong, a seven hour flight.

In the past year, I've dined with Barry on three continents as he has graciously entertained and educated our students--and me--on business in Asia.

He may have as good a view of what's happening in India and the rest of Asia as anyone in the world.

Joining us at dinner were Barry's CFO, Adrian O'Connor, and Graham Mason, chief executive of Barry's fund management business in Asia.

All are based in Hong Kong, where the company has its Asian headquarters. The parent, Prudential plc, has its home office in London where Barry spends considerable time.

A sister company, Jackson National Life Insurance Company, is relocating 500 employees to Cool Springs under the leadership of its new CEO, Mike Wells, who will be speaking at Lipscomb's next Nashville Business Breakfast on February 7.

We're in India this week and next because two years ago I asked Barry, on one of his trips home, where our next College of Business MBA study trip should visit. Without a doubt, he told me then, it has to be India.

I reminded him last night about that conversation and asked him if he still felt that way.

"Absolutely," he smiled.

When I commented on some of the logistical challenges and visual horror scenes we have witnessed as we've traveled this week, he said, "Look, the infrastructure in India is a train wreck but the future is in India's hands. The Chinese are ahead now but all of this chaotic democracy will be an advantage in the end."

From the lips of a man with more than $100 billion U.S. under management, I'll place my bet right beside his.

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