Expats, Expats Life in India, Employee Relocation, Relocation

Strong hierarchy is still the dominant approach in India – Jasper Fortuin

Micromanagement sucks! I have had micro-managers for some time until a new wave of managers within our company came to light. If I hadn’t moved to another role, I wouldn’t have developed myself to what I’m now. A brilliant young and modern manager gave me one of the most valuable drivers in corporate life: autonomy. I have been reading a lot about how to motivate people for the last couple of years. Every book is different, they write about this topic from various angles. However, they are all very clear about micro-managers: their approach only works in very specific companies and the success rate is very limited.

Daniel Pink: Drive

If you want to read about this subject I would strongly advise you to start with Daniel Pink’s masterpiece ‘Drive’. He’s a great storyteller and the book includes a lot of proof that already has convinced a lot of managers and CEO’s to change their management approach. More recently I just read ‘The Best Place To Work’. The book has been written by Ron Friedman, an award-winning psychologist and behavioral change expert who specializes in human motivation. If you want to draw one bold conclusion out of the many books on this topic, what would it be? The very brief and bold summary after reading thousands of pages is actually simple and logical: it’s important to give people a purpose in life, invest in enhancing their knowledge and give them the trust to work in an autonomous way.

We’ve moved to Agile

Usually I’m a bit reserved in talking about company-related topics, but our corporate Agile- journey has gone public in many ways, so I wouldn’t reveal a lot of company secrets by sharing any insights. A couple of years ago my former department chiefs decided to move to Agile. It wasn’t far from being easy, but the new way of working brought a lot of new energy and some of the latest innovations have been built based upon these new principles. The working ways of my recent department has also been transformed, we are completely Agile now. The result for me is that I don’t have a traditional manager anymore. My ‘chapter coach’ has some HR-responsibilities but he mainly focuses on my personal development. Apart from ‘having’ a coach, I don’t have any people around me to direct my work. The peers around me are responsible for creating an energetic working environment in which I can succeed. Furthermore: everything is centered on the actual (virtual) teams.

Most companies are being managed very traditionally

Working in ‘Tribes’, manage your work in short ‘Sprints’ and operate without managers for giving direction? You might assume that this would be a bridge too far in India. Let me start with some positive news: India has changed drastically in this aspect, especially if you look at the very flourishing start-up scene and some innovative companies in the corporate world. I’ve heard and seen a lot of good stories about companies adopting Agile, Lean or other ways of working in order to speed up the innovation process. Also our Indian partners have completely moved to Agile, often being an example for other (potential) clients. However, most of the companies and institutions in India are still being managed very traditionally. They’ve implemented a very dominant hierarchal structure, with checks and balances. The regular modus operandi of Indian managing directors and/or CEO’s; they treat their employees as family, with a lot of loyalty flowing in both directions. However, there are sad examples where employees are being treated very suspiciously.

Worship the owner or director 

As most of you, I’m also part of a lot of WhatsApp groups and I’ve recently received a very good joke about Indian working culture: ‘A manager told a joke. Everyone in the team laughed except one guy….Manager asks him: ‘Didn’t you understand the joke?’ The guy replied: ‘I resigned yesterday”. I probably will have enough material for writing a book about Indian office politics, but the joke actually says it all: the boss, owner, managing director or CEO has a very dominant role in the Indian corporate world. He or she is being worshiped. And to be honest: while being far from a comedian, a lot of people are laughing when I’m telling the joke….

Autonomy doesn’t exist in India; it’s a very ‘directive’ society

Unless one is working for a fancy or modern corporate in a responsible role, in India, people are regularly being hired to execute things. The owner, CEO or manager is on the other side of the spectrum. He or she is not only the boss, but also the full time strategists. They have been put in place to be very directive. Where most employees in Europe are only being told to get from A to B, in India they will also receive some extra guidance: please go from A to B, take this route and inform me about your whereabouts on every crossing.

Changing the mindset does work, but it will take years

It’s a pretty bold statement but unfortunately it’s true. However, things are changing and moving in a faster pace than one might think. After India opened up its economy for outside joiners, the service industries has grown very rapidly. The banking industry, IT and general corporates are still being managed in the Anglo-Saxon model, mostly with strong hierarchical structures and a lot of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to control employees. Fueled by the demands of western companies or people who have worked outside India, the newer ways of working methods are being introduced into India. I have spoken to some people who recently started their company and almost all of them have launched modern structures, based on trust and autonomy. Let’s all hope that the new ways of working will be adopted by more companies and institutions!

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

FRRO_FRO_ Rules_India_Visa_Immigration

Some Essential Things You Need to Know About FRRO Rules in India – by Preeti Roongta – Founder – Lexagent Expat Relocations

A key responsibility of Foreign Nationals who wish to reside long-term in India (typically that exceeds more than 180 days) is to visit the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) within the first 14 days of their arrival in India. It is the FRRO that has the role of regulating their legal stay in India. To that extent, the FRRO manages all the tasks related to foreigners residing in India. This may include issuing residence permits, converting specific kinds of visas, and addressing matters related to visa extensions related to foreigners. In short, FRRO deals with all the legal formalities that need to be completed by the foreigners intending to stay long term.

Bureaucratic processes in India have the reputation of being lengthy and cumbersome and involving long waiting times. Automation and IT are being deployed to ease these concerns but, for expats and the companies that employ them, it pays to stay informed and to understand the FRRO rules well to avoid frustration and hassles.

What is FRRO and what are its registration requirements?

FRRO is the primary agency which deals with the registration, departure, arrival, and movement of foreign nationals who wish to reside long term in India. This applies to foreigners visiting India on a student visa, business visa, employment visa or research visa. The FRRO is also responsible for the grant of extension of stay in India, if required.

The FRRO offices in India have a presence across most major Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Cochin, Goa, Calicut, Lucknow. They also function with the District Superintendents of Police located across all other districts. There are 13 FRRO’s and 674 FRO’s in India.

Foreign registration is necessary for all the foreigners arriving in India on a visa which extends to more than 6 months, except for certain exempted categories. Registration is required only once at the time of usage of the visa, irrespective of the times the foreigner exits or arrives again using a multiple entry visa.

The registration requirements at FRRO are as follows:

  • Foreign nationals including those with Indian origin who are visiting India long-term and intend to stay for more than 180 days on a Student Visa, Medical Visa, Business, Employment and Research visa need to register themselves with the FRRO. The requirement is to register within 14 days from the date of arrival at a registered FRRO/FRO office.
  • Foreigners below the age of 16 years(minors) need to report in person or via an authorized representative at the registered FRRO office in a specific location. No registration is required for children under the age of 16 years. *This regulation is applicable in select cities only.
  • Registration may also be required in cases where it is specifically mentioned as- “registration required”

Here are some top FRRO rules to keep in mind for foreigners living long-term in India

  1. Prepare a checklist of all the documents required

You must carry your original passport which contains the visa stamped by the authorized officers, a photocopy of the passport and the original visa, four photographs, and details about your residence in India. A copy of the marriage certificate may be required for those seeking an extension on the grounds of their spouse being an Indian national.

For students a bonafide certificate from the University or Institute may also be required. For employment or business visa, an undertaking from the respective Indian company may have to be produced for FRRO registration. For those involved in joint ventures, a copy of the approval from the Government of India must be provided to the FRRO. In case of an employment visa involving contracts or agreements, a copy of the approval from RBI will be necessary.

  1. Registration officers will provide the Registration Certificate / Residential Permit (RC/RP)

As a foreigner, once you apply for the Registration, the resulting certificate is called the Registration Certificate or Residential Permit. This is most often valid until your visa validity, or 1 year, whichever is shorter. This RC/RP is your valid address in India and can be used to open Bank accounts, Apply AADHAAR Card, Apply PAN Card etc.

  1. Seeking exemption from registration

There are specific categories which may be exempt for registration such as US nationals who are on a 10-year business or tourist visa and their continuous stay does not exceed more than 6 months in India.

-Foreigners with 5 year tourist visas who are engaged in tourism and who visit India frequently for extended periods of time, and whose visa states that, “continuous stay must not exceed more than 6 months”

  1. Restrictions in certain circumstances

If you are a foreigner coming from yellow fever countries, then you may be required to produce a vaccination certificate from a valid medical authority. You are allowed to visit restricted or prohibited areas by securing a valid permit as visa alone may not be adequate to visit these places. For Ex: North East India, Military and Cantonment Areas.

  1. Online services are now available

A new online system has been recently introduced. This enables foreigners to apply online using an e-FRRO application and to then avail of all the services through e-mail or by post, without the need for an in-person appearance at the FRRO. These are currently available only at 13 FRRO’s. This is much simpler as you can gain access to a portfolio of 27 visa and immigration-related services during your stay in India. The e-FRRO scheme has been operating successfully since February 2018, after it was initially launched in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and Mumbai. It has since been introduced in other Indian cities as well.

Like most countries, the government rules and regulations may appear to be complex and cumbersome, but with the right guidance, they can prove to be easier to navigate. Remember that the respective government departments are the final arbitrators of all the laws and rules, but we hope this information helps you as you engage with those authorities.

Lexagent Expat Relocations (www.lexagent.net) has helped thousands of expats, hundreds of Multi-national companies and several Chambers of Commerce and Industry to assist, educate, help with the maze of paperwork and dealing with the FRRO’s and FRO’s all across India. Write to us at info@lexagent.net if you want more information on this complex subject.

Culture In India, Cultural Assimilation, Expats Club in India,

The Why & How of Cultural Assimilation for Your Expat Employees

Business is going global rapidly. Companies are leaving no stone unturned to be the best in their industry. And, to be the best, companies need to employ the best talent, local as well as international. Sure enough, international talent has become an important part of the strategy of the modern business enterprise.

International talent, is by definition, likely to be more senior, potentially more valuable, and almost certainly more expensive for the company. It follows that these valued international employees need to settle well into their new surroundings for them to feel happy and to perform their duties up to their maximum potential. This is where cultural assimilation can play a vital role in helping these expats adapt to their new circumstances and role.

Living and working in a new country and surroundings presents employees with significant challenges even outside their new workplace. It is important for the international employees to understand the foreign culture and ways of the host country. The better they assimilate the foreign culture the sooner they will ease into their new life. Initially, many expats go through the so-called ‘Honeymoon’ phase where they are excited about coming to a new country and experiencing the new culture. Others go through a “Culture Shock” phase where the sheer newness of everything threatens to overwhelm them. The crucial part comes after this initial phase, where many of the expats start feeling homesick and missing their earlier lives. This period is the make or break period, as it determines whether or not the international employee be wanting to give up and move back to the home country or stick through.

The company and its Human Resource management group must take necessary steps to support the expat employees during this phase. There are various things that can be done to support expats with culture assimilation:

  1. Initial training:

Companies should sensitise their expat employees with training as they get started with their new job. They should be given an introduction to the new culture that they are going to be a part of. Communication is key here. Clear, detailed, and strictly relevant, information will allow the expat to understand the scenario in the host country and will allow him/her to prepare mentally accordingly. Climate, language, traditions, lifestyle, and security are some of the important factors that affect expats while settling in. The company should make sure that relevant information is communicated to the freshly-minted expat.

It is also very important for an expat to understand the prevailing social norms regarding public behaviour, etiquette, and even acceptable dress-codes. Understanding and following such traditions and values are important on the road to adjusting to the new culture. The expats should share that information with their family members, with whom they have moved to this new country.

  1. Festivals:

Whether it be Diwali and Holi in India, Christmas in most countries, or St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, festivals have always formed an integral part of any nation’s culture. This offers an opportunity for HR Depts to take the initiative and help their expats understand and participate in the host country’s festivals to blend in with the culture. Fun group activities aligned with the theme of the concerned festival where the expats can dip into the festivities along with their local colleagues will help them feel a part of the celebrations.

  1. Expat clubs and communities:

Even if it is outside the workplace, it is very important that expats meet other expats so that they can share their experiences and support each other through the cultural assimilation phase in the new country. Companies can seek out appropriate forums like the Pune Expat Club. They could introduce their international employees to these communities in and around the city. These are the platforms where not only the expats, but also their families can get together with other expat families and build a fulfilling social life.

  1. Company outings:

Employees look forward to a break from the routine, so that they can sit back, relax and rejuvenate, even as they get work done. Company outings can be used as a platform to help expats and their families understand the lifestyle of the people in the host country. Company could plan off-sites and occasions in such a way that their international employees along with their respective families bond with the other local employees. The more the time the expats spend with the locals and their families, the better they’ll understand the lifestyle that the locals lead and the easier it will be for them to blend in.

  1. Expat’s family:

It is often true that more than the expat, their family suffers the most due to culture differences. The expat has the preoccupation of work but the other members of the family especially children have to start their life from scratch. The company should make an effort to ensure that the needs of these children are taken care off. This includes providing advice and help in finding and securing admission for them in an appropriate educational. This is the most critical element in ensuring the children settle comfortably into their new surroundings. The right choice of educational institution will go a long way in organizing not only the schooling, but also the hobbies and playtime of these young expats.

Thus, in conclusion, cultural assimilation plays a vital part in the happiness and performance of an expat. It’s fair to say that the performance of your international employee directly depends on how well they settle into their new surroundings. That being so, the company must take active steps to help these international employees understand and blend in with the new culture. You must support the international employees during the adjustment period and welcome them with utmost warmth -they could well be your most valuable employees after all.

 

Culture_Shock_India

Different Phases of Cultural Shock….Which Phase You Are In?

You may experience a range of emotions when adapting to a foreign culture, from excitement and interest to frustration, depression and fear of the unknown. It is important to stress that culture shock is entirely normal, usually unavoidable and not a sign that you have made a mistake or that you won’t manage. The experience can be a significant learning experience; it will give you valuable skills that will serve you in many ways now and in the future.

Culture shock has five phases, depending on which source you read.

The Honeymoon Phase: This is a fun time. Everything is great, exciting, and new. You love the differences, meeting new people, tasting new foods, seeing different architecture, doing new things, working in your new job. This phase can last days, weeks, or months.

Irritability and Hostility: During this phase, you’re noticing differences, even slight differences, and typically not in a good way. You don’t like people’s attitudes; you have had enough of the food and just want mom’s home cooking. During this phase, a person often feels anxious, angry, sad, and/or irritable.

Gradual Adjustment: Essentially, during this phase you decide whether you will succumb to negativity or negotiate past it to make the most of your experience. If you’re successful, you regain your sense of perspective, balance, and humor, and move on to the next phase.

Adaptation of Biculturalism: You feel more at home with the differences in the new culture. Depending on how big a change a person has experienced. The person doesn’t have to be in love with the new country (as in the honeymoon phase), but they can navigate it without unwarranted anxiety, negativity, and criticism.

The Reverse Culture Shock Phase: Sure enough, this can happen! Once a person has become accustomed to the way things are done in a different country, that person can go through the same series of culture shock phases when they return home.

Learn as much as you can about the new location before you go. This means the good, the bad, and the simply different — from time zones, to what side of the street people drive on, to climate/temperature, to foods, political system, culture, customs and religion(s), to “Can you drink the water?”.

Be open-minded and willing to learning. Ask questions. Don’t withdraw! Travel within the country, and visit cultural events and locations, such as museums or historic sites.

Build new friendships. Associate with positive people. Maintain a sense of humor. (Perhaps the most important!)

Keep in touch with people at home by Skype, email, phone— whatever. This can give you some comfort while away, and it will help you to minimize reverse culture shock when you get back home.

We would love to know your cultural shock experience in India. Please write your story in the comment box.

Expat_Voice

Security in India: It’s a disadvantage to be treated with an advantage-Jasper Fortuin

Feeling safe and being safe are two different things. You could feel very safe, while still in danger. And you could be very safe, while actually being in danger. Amsterdam, my former hometown, has recently been rewarded “the safest city in Europe”. The very extensive research conducted has been based on outcomes of various earlier researches. I’m very proud with this reward, despite the fact that Amsterdam is known for its red-light district and tolerance towards soft drugs. Having many other controversial policies it still managed to reach the top position. Well done, Amsterdam!

 

The awesome achievement is party based on good luck. Yes, the city government has been doing lots of things to increase the city’s safety. However, a lot of the ‘work’ has been done by the population and its visitors. There are multiple factors which have contributed to the very positive result. A fall in crime in almost every annual report since the 90’s has been a result of this. And here’s something really funny: there are still a lot of people complaining about the crimes and ‘unsafe’ city. Thus, it’s all about the individual perception!

 

In India, security is a serious thing. You will see security guards almost everywhere and security procedures at airports, in official buildings and at places with big crowds – The Taj Mahal, The Gateway of India, large hotels, and malls – are always stressful places to visit. Do you want to buy a pair of jeans at your local mall? If so, your bag will be x-rayed and in worse cases they would even ask you to empty your pockets. Being in India for more than a year now and having observed a lot of security, I now want to state something very bold: A lot of security procedures have been implemented to give us a safe feeling, not to necessary create a safer place. You could even say that the approach often is a ‘safety and procedural theater’. I will explain. It’s my assumption that the very kind and loving security guards are not trained to be successful in their work. Thus, they are not trained to create a safer mall, nor are they trained to make the Taj Mahal a safer haven for the wandering tourist. No “the security guards are there to execute the procedures that were designed by people who work in offices and have almost never set a foot in this areas. The ability to think, to anticipate, to help and to solve problems; that has not been written in their job description, with ‘executing officers’ as a result. They only focus on following the procedures, not bringing real safety to people.

 

Let me give you some examples. Buying fireworks for Diwali is a big thing in India. I was surprised to see many temporary outlets selling all kinds of fireworks. In and around Pune I observed a lot of open fields that were temporarily transformed into fireworks stalls. Despite the existence of special guards, the whole thing seemed very dangerous. The actual outlets were placed very close to each other, only bordered by a very narrow open lane. Above all: the actual storage of the fireworks was very ‘open’. When the shit does hit the fan, things could go horribly wrong. We were able to purchase a trunk full firework that would be illegal in any western country. This was enough to cause a lot of damage. After purchasing our fireworks, we were a bit hungry and drove to a nearby 5-star hotel for a western-style lunch. When we entered, something funny happened. The traditional car-inspection and luggage check-up at Indian 5-star hotels is not unique in the world. Whether you like it or not, it emphasizes the exclusive elements of the ‘fabricated luxury’. It feels as if you enter another world. However, the guards at the security gate didn’t say anything about our trunk full of explosives, no questions asked!

 

It was also during Diwali that I wanted to ship a package from Pune to Hyderabad. Wanting to deliver 200 Diwali-lights in only a few days, I approached a courier company to research the possibilities of shipping this by air. He came to my house and took the package with him for delivery. Unfortunately, he called me within a few hours to inform me that air-shipping was not possible. They had found out that there were little candles inside the lights and it’s ‘forbidden to ship candles by air’. I was a bit angry about this, because the guy should have come to my house to inspect the actual delivery prior to the actual pick-up. He didn’t. He only showed up to pick up the actual delivery, so there was no time anymore for a plan B. A few days later I took off myself for a business trip to Hyderabad and decided to carry the 30 boxes of Diwali-lights with a candle. And guess what happened at the security? Nothing happened; it was ok for me to take the flight. One last experience. I went outside for an early morning run during one of my stays in a well-known 5-star hotel. When I came back to the hotel, there was nobody at the door. So no security checks at all!

 

Let me be very clear: there is nothing wrong with the ‘theatrics. It’s a major achievement if people in malls feel safer! And having all those guards in place will definitely have an effect on potential criminals or terrorists, they will hopefully think twice before they act. My point is this: things could be improved if security guards got more responsibilities. Therefore, you need more education and better management. But it all starts with a fresh new mindset towards this topic. In India, security jobs are seen as the ‘lowest of the lowest’ jobs. If you haven’t finished your school, there is always the possibility to become a security officer. That’s wrong and needs to be repositioned. The job needs an upgrade, with better education, better people and better PR!

 

And one other thing: as a foreigner, I’m not treated equally by security officers. In fact, I often feel prioritized! And here’s my point: they treat me better than Indian Nationals. When I want to enter a new fancy society in my car? No questions asked, while my Indian friends are always questioned very heavily. I cannot describe it, but it feels as if the guards don’t dare to question me. They look up towards foreigners; at least that’s my experience.

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

India-through-loving-eyes-Having-friends-over-is-fun

India through loving eyes (Jasper Fortuin): Having friends over is fun

The moment we told our friends & family that we would move to India, there were a number of people who directly responded with a firm commitment: ‘wow, we will definitely be going to pay you a visit’.

 

I have been reading a lot of books about psychology in the last 20 years, so I’m aware of the big difference between ‘saying’ and ‘acting’. People can easily find excuses to postpone their travels, and India isn’t a very easy country to visit so a commitment could turn into a firm ‘no’ after reading different horror stories. The dirt, poor people on the streets and the constant honking of cars are not appealing to everyone and could even change someone’s mind.

 

Luckily we had some overseas guests the last year. Some of our friends were so kind to spend some time with us, combining a visit to Pune with a trip to Goa, Mumbai and/or other places in the Indian Subcontinent. We already had decorated and furnished a room in our house for guests; sleeping in a wonderful Airbnb in Sind Society, with an unlimited bar and a nice big garden was the offer that we made to our friends and family. And a big bonus off course: seeing us and spending some days in the wonderful city of Pune.

 

Time passed by until our first friends were to arrive in Pune and we started wondering: where should we take them? What places should we visit with them? We have travelled through this immense country over 5 times. It doesn’t feel arrogant at all to say that we ‘know India’ exceptional well. It is easy for us to weigh out various options and we have been very happy with Pune. In fact, it’s one of the finest cities to live in! The weather conditions are good (except for the very damp and hot months of April and May) & there are a lot of easy to access facilities within the neighbourhood. It’s the ideal place to live, and I still feel very blessed to be here!

 

However, there are some limitations, although Pune may be the ideal place to live in. It’s one of the largest cities in India without too many tourist attractions. Pune has no large temples, no must-see caves and no unique heritage buildings. We find living in a city without this very convenient. As a Westerner, you can easily walk around in the city without being approached by pan-handlers and that’s a big plus. Have you ever been in Mumbai or have you walked around or near the Taj Mahal in Agra? Then you know what I mean: you will find numerous people with other purposes rather than kindly talking to you; they want to sell you stuff. These people haven’t defined Pune as their hunting territory as yet.

 

But what should you do when your loved ones are coming over to see you? You want to take them a bit further than the society gate, right? And you definitely want to show them more than the H&M and Zara at the Phoenix Mall….? Are you with me? We had this challenge numerous times last months and found a 2-day tour that was appealing. It will give your guests some flavor of the city and it’s fun. So, what did we do? So, what Pune ‘highlights’ have we brought them?

 

The main highlight is to see each other after so many months again, of course. But after the cuddling and chatting, you probably want to go out and explore more of the city. I know a guy from the Netherlands, he told me e very funny story: when they had friends over, they would always take them to the meat market of Shivaji Market in Camp. It is an interesting concept but I must admit it: I have done it a few times and the looks on their faces tell if they like it or not. I don’t take them to Shivaji to annoy them. I want to explore the beauty of the market with them and show the magnificent architecture and hundreds of colourful shops in the area. A brief visit to the church opposite of Shivaji is also on our list, followed by a lunch in Koregaon Park. We recently found a new favourite hotspot in Lane 6: Indigo Delicatessen. It’s not a cheap place, but the food is awesome and you will impress your guests if you take a lunch break here. My advice is to go for a late lunch. It will allow you to visit the Osho Commune Park after lunch, as it re opens again at 3pm. The Osho Commune Park is a love-birds paradise, but the main attraction is the clean and green setup. It’s fun and relaxing to walk around.

 

Another Pune-area to wander around is the Tulsi Baug area. The beautiful vegetable market, the narrow streets with kitchen aid goods and Laxmi Road, which is the (traditional) fashion street of Pune, can easily fill up a whole day, especially if you have lunch in one of the thali restaurants. On Sundays or Wednesdays, one should definitely explore Juna Bazaar. It’s a predominantly Muslim area near Camp, with a large flee market. Please prepare yourself and your loved ones: it’s a bit of a gritty and messy place, with goats running around in small alleys and people selling second-hand stuff. But we have found some great catches for our house, of course for bargain prices.

 

Do you have a recommendation for us to explore in this lovely city? Please share your list of must-visits for tourists and residents. For more details about this city please visit www.lexagent.net

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

 

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