Being more Westernized doesn’t win the game. Being more dependable wins the game. Indians think that if they replace their sari with Western wear that they suddenly become more sophisticated. In my experience it is the opposite. The smartest Indians I met have been the more traditional educated ones. Not the real Westernized ones, or the fake Westernized ones. But, in any case, our American friend Joe goes to India to help them fit in more with American clients. He gives lectures on the culture, and what people feel comfortable with. He made “before” and “after” videos to document his work.
Rajeev answers in a dull hello. He looks sleepy and unenthusiastic. He says, “Manager not here” and hangs up. End of video…
Rajeev goes to the gym for a few months, gets pepped up. He learns the art of interaction and small talk. He gets an answering machine that announces his business name too (which is rare for Indian companies). He is ready for business. He gets back to people promptly, he is enthusiastic, speaks clearly, and he always lets people know his name when he answers the phone in an up-beat type of way. What an improvement. The new Rajeev is the type of guy Americans want to hire!
“Hi this is Rajeev, may I help you? … Sure, I can help you with that problem, just wait while I email the programmer and we will get back to you in six hours on this issue.”
(end of video) Wow! What a change!
Gone too far
Some of Joe’s other clients went a little too far in their quest to be acceptable to American companies. Sundip changes his name to Steve Smith, got a fake Texas accent, and put heavy metal music on his answering machine. Very inappropriate for a business setting. He answers the phone using American slang and colloquial expressions which are completely inappropriate for business as well.
“He man, this is jazzy Steve Smith — how’s it swinging!” Oh my god, what did Joe teach this guy? Perhaps Sundip went off on a tangent without Joe’s knowledge?
Back to tradition
Meanwhile in Aleppi, Kerela, Praveen has decided to be professional, without losing his Indian roots. So, he makes a video of his company. He goes to work on an elephant while having a very intense business discussion on his mobile phone. He is wearing a fancy traditional Indian outfit and he is all about business. But, he gets to his office, and someone else’s smaller elephant is parked in HIS elephant’s parking spot. He calls the office and says, “Get Rajesh out here — he is NOT to park in my parking spot. He is only the assistant manager, his elephant must park someone else”. Then, Praveen gives you a tour of his office. His workers are all working fervently wearing very elaborate traditional clothing, and then all stop abruptly. They all get up and start singing a song and doing a Bollywood dance to some very loud film music. Then it ends and they go back to fervently working. Praveen is trying to say, “This is what working with my company in India is really like.” In a movie, it might be like that, but in real life, it probably isn’t. But, honestly, Praveen is the most entertaining person you could outsource your work to, and probably the hardest working too! Teacher Joe finally got back to Praveen and was baffled. Culturally Praveen was as Indian as you can get while maintaining communication that was crystal clear; His work was always impeccable and punctual; his staff was pleasant; and everything else was perfect. Joe said, “This is not what I was thinking of at first, but maybe this can work”
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