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
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in India. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in India and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: