"a world of opportunity"

TÜV SÜD has become even more international for about a year now: with Ishan Palit we have a truly cosmopolitan chief operational officer as part of the company’s Board of Management. We spoke to Palit about the challenges of globalization, what customers can learn from TÜV SÜD and why a company needs roots.

Interview Jörg Riedle Photos Dirk Bruniecki

Mr. Palit, when was the last time you woke up in the morning and weren’t sure exactly where you were at that moment?

That actually happened just a few weeks ago: on Monday I was in Singapore, then flew on to Boston, which was then followed by a flight to Munich and then, from there, to Bangalore and, finally, back to Singapore - all within a week.


How do you handle a workload like that?

I’m really lucky that I adjust very well to different time zones and will counter jetlag by timing my schedule. For intercontinental flights, I will arrive in the morning and work until the evening, by when I’m usually so tired that I can just lie down and go to sleep. Of course, there are exceptions such as during the weeks when I practically circumnavigate the globe. Where possible, I try to visit one country per week to have enough time to speak at length with employees and most importantly, customers.


You grew up in India and the United States, have been living in various places in Asia for many years and work for a German company. So where are your roots?

Mumbai is my home as it’s where I was born and where my mother lives. But I also have strong roots in the United States, my wife’s country of birth. My children have spent their entire lives in India, America and Singapore. A lot ties me to all these places - and of course to Munich, where I have spent a lot of time during my career with TÜV SÜD  and where I’ve had my office since the middle of last year.





Asked about the reason for his success, Ishan Palit says, “Without the fantastic people with whom I’ve had the privilege to work, a lot of this would never have been possible.” After studying in the United States and Great Britain, Palit, who was born in India, founded the TÜV SÜD Indian office in 1994 in Mumbai with five employees. In 2008, when moved on to a Regional role, there were more than one thousand employees in India. Starting in 2009, Ishan Palit took over responsibility of the TÜV SÜD operations in the Asia-Pacific region, and from 2011 the global Product Service Division. In May 2017, as chief operational officer, he became a member of the TÜV SÜD Board of Management. Ishan Palit, born in 1968, is married and has two sons.

Should a company also have roots, particularly in the era of globalization?

As an individual, having an identity is a very good thing. Yet it shouldn’t prevent you from being open to new opportunities and embracing them. This also applies to organizations. In the case of TÜV SÜD: our German roots are one of our core attributes, something appreciated by customers globally. We represent quality, high technology and the drive towards constant improvement. But where would we be if we hadn’t learned from our employees and customers all around the world, from their passion, agility and speed? If you really want to act globally, you need to be open and understand that there’s a world of opportunity out there. Yet remain strongly rooted and know what your strengths are and where they come from.


What was the biggest challenge for TÜV SÜD to do business globally?

The biggest challenge and simultaneously, the biggest opportunity is our history. TÜV SÜD’s strength, built upon a very strong foundation of more than one-hundred-and-fifty-years, enables us to break out to new shores. However, this strength can also be enormously burdensome and inhibiting due to traditions and inflexibility. It’s a managerial responsibility to maintain the huge advantage of our legacy but, at the same time, leave it far enough behind you that it doesn’t obstruct the path to the future.  


Is this something that customers can learn from TÜV SÜD?

Definitely. We have multinational and multicultural teams operating out of offices in four-dozen countries, offering largely identical services at the same high level of quality and with the same technical expertise. For our customers, who haven’t had this experience yet, it can be motivating: if TÜV SÜD can do it, then they can do it, too - and we can support them in this process.

Truly Global

Worldwide services with the same technical standards and the same uncompromising quality—that’s the promise TÜV SÜD makes. The company operates a tightly-knit network of laboratories and testing facilities at almost one thousand locations around the world, supporting customers who wish to pursue global sourcing or need access to new markets. TÜV SÜD’s worldwide focus started back at the end of the 1980s with collaborations in Spain and other countries and its first foreign branches in Italy and the United States. Today more than half of TÜV SÜD’s 25,000 employees work outside of Germany, with China, India and North America as the largest regions. The international regions generate around 40 percent of the company’s revenues today.

Holding the Future in His Hands

Holding the Future in His Hands

Ishan Palit recommends a mix of traditions and openness for companies. “While we should be proud of our heritage, it shouldn’t stand in the way of progress” he says. 

How does TÜV SÜD support its customers along their individualized paths into globalization?

By giving them access to our experience and to a network that has grown over decades. Our customers can rely on the fact that they have the same technical standards, the same quality level and equal attention in nearly every relevant market. That is our biggest promise to customers. We have establishments in around fifty countries - and even where we aren’t located, we can still add value to our customers by relying on our global network.


And what specific services can customers expect?

Extensive seamless support either in worldwide market access, global sourcing, risk management, asset protection, and sustainability. If a customer wants to offer their goods in another market, we support them in getting local certifications and the necessary inspection seals. And if clients wish to purchase from around the world, we help them to draw up global procurement structures. Our long-standing presence and expertise in local markets really helps open doors in this arena.  We ensure that we manage the risk for our customers in their global plants and help them maximize the return on their plan assets.  We enable our customers to run safe, secure, and sustainable operations all over the world.


Decades of globalization are behind us. If you had to make a prediction, will this development continue as it has?

We can all see that there has been an increase in nationalism and political attempts to limit free trade in a number of countries. From an economic point of view, however, I don’t see any way to stop the wave of globalization. The efficiency in the use of resources is so dependent upon global trade that we’re more likely to be experiencing more globalization in the coming years, not less.  And Digitalization will contribute to an even accelerate this further.