As has already been stated, India is an enormously hierarchical society (arguably the most hierarchical in the world) and this, obviously, has an impact on management style.
It is imperative that there is a boss and that the manager acts like a boss. The position of manager demands a certain amount of role-playing from the boss and a certain amount of deferential behaviour from his subordinates. The boss is definitely not expected to perform any seemingly menial tasks such as making coffee for everybody or moving chairs in a meeting room! Anglo-Saxon concepts of egalitarianism where the boss is the first amongst equals are virtually incomprehensible in a society still dominated by the historical conventions of the caste system.
Therefore, the boss is expected to give explicit instructions which will be followed to the letter – even if everybody knows full well that the instruction is incorrect. Vague requests for action, with the expectation that staff will show the necessary level of initiative are likely to end in inaction, as staff will be left confused as to the wishes of the manager. Managing people in India requires a level of micro-management which many western business people feel extremely uncomfortable with but which is likely to bring the best results.
It is also worth bearing in mind that many off-shore centres in India are staffed by recent graduates who, although highly educated, intelligent and motivated, will lack basic commercial experience. Any office in which all the managers were 25 years old and the team-members were 23 years-old would lack a degree of experience. Inexperience does not equate to incompetence and this needs to be borne in mind at all times.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
India is notoriously difficult. It scores badly on the ease of doing business index and a lack of investment in infrastructure over the past twenty to thirty years can test even the most seasoned of business travellers. So why bother with India when there are easier potential markets?
We feel you really do need to look at doing business in India for a number of very strong reasons. Firstly, India stands poised to become one of the world’s largest economies over the coming years as economic liberalisation kicks in after decades of political stagnation. It has a population of almost 1.3 billion of which 50% are under the age of 30 and therefore the consumer potential of the country is almost limitless. Secondly, the lack of historical investment in the country means that India needs everything. You cannot point to a sector which is not crying out for investment and new product ideas. Thirdly, and very importantly, India has a highly educated, aspirational workforce who can help you build your business on the ground.
India is the ‘next big thing’ – you really cannot afford to ignore it.
You cannot ignore India but if you want to business in India successfully, you need to understand it. You need to understand the cultural drivers and expectations of the people you will be working with when you get there and you need to understand how that cultural knowledge can help you succeed in-country.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Indian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: