Cultural differences

Cultural differences

Geert Hofstede once said

cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.

Already an impressive 77% of the foreign companies are making a profit with a further 9% breaking even. The success lies in the ability to understand and adapt to the Indian work culture. Unfortunately Western entrepreneurs often display a misplaced arrogance. Their directness is uncomfortable in a culture where saying ‘no’ is impolite. Our Germanic punktlichkeit is also often not understood in India. Time in India is more an abstract term and tomorrow does not necessarily mean in the next 24 hours.

International growth depends therefore on a mutual understanding. Like Robert Kaplan suggested we do for a company, we should also do when looking at investing in a country:

do not just look at financial data but also at their belief systems.

When you embrace the Indian belief system and add Western style work environment, one based on mutual respect, self determination (rather than the Banya-style of command and control), diversity and inclusion, you can create a great team. The work force is not quite matured as yet to the new world of working but – as always and everywhere – it is a good thing to challenge existing work practices.

Just as one can encounter enormous cultural differences in Europe, the same applies to India which is roughly the size of the former Western Europe. Come to think of it, Amsterdam with its hedonistic and somewhat anarchistic style is a far cry from the religious conservatism one encounters just some 100km away in the centre-east of the Netherlands! Therefore it is not surprising that Kashmiri, Marwari, Sindhi, Punjabi, Tamils and Bengalis etc, they all have their own distinctive cultural quirks, often food for quite a bit of laughter.

Believe it or not but the Communist Party is still a strong if not dominant power in Kerala and Bengal. Bengal and Goa are the places to be if you want to see football in a country crazy with cricket. While alcohol is quite cheap in Goa, it is forbidden in Prime Minister Modi’s Gujarat. Beef is the latest contentious issue on the menu.

Given the above, you need to look at location, proximity to your potential customer base, to an airport, road conditions especially during the monsoon, availability of skilled man power, but also electricity, cost of living, ease of doing business in a state, etc.