Revisting 4 years of swissnex India with Balz Strasser

October 2017

Dr Balz Strasser spent four memorable years in Bangalore as the CEO of swissnex India and Consul General of Switzerland. His tenure marked several important milestones for swissnex India. From launching new initiatives to revolutionizing the organization’s CRM tool to expanding the team, there were several exciting moments in his stint. Balz shares his swissnex story with us…

What was your vision when you came to swissnex India in 2014?

To be honest, when I started I don’t think I had a big vision. I was simply excited to be CEO of swissnex India and discover how I could bring the organisation forward in a meaningful way. When I started I wanted to give myself the necessary time to understand what had been done in the years before, and what was needed for the next years. Further, I felt it was important to get a clearer idea on the needs of the very heterogeneous stakeholders, both in India and Switzerland. At the end, we need to be meaningful to them.

How much of this vision has been realised?

Looking back, I think we had some impactful projects and programs, though it can sometimes take a few years before you realise what the (sometimes unexpected) impact is. More important, we allowed ourselves to try out new kind of events, such as our Space Week, or Science Comm India conference, or the participation at the local TEDx event. Not everything worked out the way we expected it, but we learned a lot navigating those new waters. The Indian academic and startup landscape is fast-changing, and it requires a good feeling to discover the right niches of interest to Swiss stakeholders.

Has India taught you anything? What has been your biggest takeaway from here?

Of course! There is no way one can spend four years in India without being changed. The biggest takeaway was to recognise the importance that human relationships play in India. Both at a private and professional level, it’s all about relationships! And they matter if one wants to setup successful long-term partnerships. Further, an important personal learning as an expatriate in India was to discover where my personal limits were to tackle some of the more challenging situations I encountered. I strongly feel that both the Indian and Swiss cultures need to be understood as a basis for a successful collaboration. Last but not least, I definitely learned to manage unexpected situations, to become more flexible, and to keep smiling in critical moments…

Will you continue your association with India in anyway?

How could I not?! Since I am a kid I have returned to India in each important phase of my life with different projects. I guess there is no way I am going to escape India even in future! Jokes apart, I have no concrete plans so far, but I may come back for a longer personal holiday to enjoy the Indian sub-continent with a different perspective than the professional one. My four years here have aroused my interest for the many corners of the country which I would love to discover in more depth one day.

Since you are leaving the swissnex network, what are your thoughts on the network’s future? How do you think we can continue connecting the dots?

Despite a hyper connected world there is a strong need for creating reliable and locally adapted platforms where Swiss stakeholders can plug-in in the local context. All the swissnexes are very well positioned to co-develop and shape those platforms together with local partners. This is even more needed in places like India where the collaboration or business culture is fundamentally different than in Switzerland. Further, as the different swissnexes like to scout “The future of” many different subjects, I am slowly wondering how the Future of the swissnex work will be shaping up in some years from now. We need to re-invent ourselves as well!

What is the next step in your future?

Four years in India have been intense in many ways. In the next couple of months I will slow down a bit and recharge my batteries, while reconnecting with my different Swiss dots… It sounds strange, but during my time in India I have discovered many exciting institutions and organisations in Switzerland that were unknown to me before, now I am interested to know more about them.

Any advise or parting words for the team at swissnex India?

Stay the wonderful team you are! Bridging Switzerland and India is not an easy task, success stories take time to mature. As a team you need perseverance, a positive attitude and a good portion of intuition to steer Indo-Swiss collaborations into successful partnerships. I am very confident that with the experience and energy of the swissnex India team many more success stories will arise in the months and years ahead!