The Indian work culture needs to change

I’ve been in the corporate world for about 3 years now, and I have worked in 2 companies for now. Actually I cannot really say 2, since my first company was acquired by my current company and that’s how I got here. So I didn’t really change companies to gather experience from 2 different companies. But there was definitely a difference between working in a medium-sized company like Zilker Technology and now a super large company like EY. There were some very drastic changes in processes after the acquisition, even in things like getting a work laptop or work phone, to bigger things like how employees perceive the management.

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about in this post. I want to talk about issues that are prevalent in our country as a whole rather than talking about individual companies. All of this is in my perspective as an Indian, therefore I cannot say how people from other countries might perceive the work culture in India to be. That being said, without any further ado let’s get right into the topic.

Most big IT companies in India operate on the offshore or hybrid project delivery model

In case you are not familiar with these terms let me explain what they are in a nutshell. Before that to give you some background, irrespective of whether you are in a product-based company or a services-based company, there is some level of outsourcing that happens from the headquarters (or the client site) to another country if it is a multinational company. In a product-based company, this outsourcing could just be the headquarters (onshore team) delegating some of its projects to its branch in another country (offshore team). However, in a services-based company most of the project implementation is outsourced from the headquarters (onshore team) to its branch in another country (offshore team). In some cases, the offshore team may take care of the entire project delivery, in case the onshore client works directly with the offshore company. 

Here are the different project delivery models in this perspective:

  • Onsite model – Onsite Delivery Model, often called onshore model as well, is defined as a way of software development and delivery when vendors send their qualified employees to the client’s site. The vendor team continually interacts with the customer’s team members. Together, they collect information, develop, implement, maintain and support the project. One distinctive feature of the onsite model is that the tasks assigned by a customer are completed by the outside employees.
  • Offshore model – Offshore development model is a popular delivery model that is based on the vendor’s site. The offshore delivery model is also known as outsourcing. The customers order software development from the developers in a different country. The client has no face-to-face interaction with the vendor. However, a customer is able to communicate with the team members via Skype, phone, video calls, etc.
    • The key benefits of outsourcing:
      • Low costs. It’s cheaper to outsource IT projects to countries with low labor costs.
      • Perfect outcomes. The quality of the developed projects is no worse than those developed by in-house engineers.
      • No hidden prices. A client is able to get an accurate estimation according to the payment models offered by an outsourcing company.
      • Round-the-clock support. Typically, offshore developers offer 24/7 support services which means you mustn’t be pegged to the time differences.
  • Hybrid model – A Hybrid Model (offshore onsite model as it is also often called) is a mixed type of onsite and offshore cooperation. This engagement model is one of the most successful models used by lots of companies. The work is distributed between onsite and offshore teams. Typically, 20-30% of tasks are completed by the onsite employees and the rest is done by the offshore team members.

Source: https://diceus.com/what-is-onsite-offshore-model/

You might be wondering what’s wrong with an offshore/hybrid model. As you’ve seen above, the primary benefit of outsourcing is to lower the costs for development, since some developing countries (aka India) have low labor costs when compared to their developed counterparts (most other world leaders?). To put it in plain words, Indians are willing to work for the same money that someone in developed countries would never work for.

Is this illegal? Nope. Is this immoral? Maybe, but that’s not what we are concerned with here. The whole premise that we are even ready to work for a very small fraction of what someone in North America or Europe is paid testifies of how desperate as a people we have turned to be. Indian companies like Infosys, which even though have a big name around the world, is still based on this outsourcing model which helps exploit the low labor costs of India for international clients. To fix this, we would need more home-grown businesses like Ather and Zoho which serve Indian clients/users, so that we don’t continue to be a part of this outsourcing.

Many Indians have less regard for other people’s time

Alright, so I didn’t want to say that all Indians regard everyone else’s time less since that would not be true. But innately, most Indians (including me) are brought up with a mindset that if you commit to something then you need to spend every inch of your life to complete that. Even working above and beyond the billing hours is seen as normal, even if you don’t actually get paid for those hours. I believe that this does not start because of our disrespect for other people’s time, but the disrespect of our own. Ever since you are born and you go through the schooling system for 15 years, you are bombarded with strict rules and long timings that give you an impression that your life is bound by the will of the people around you. After all, we have something called arranged marriages. Even some colleges in Tamil Nadu, including my own, had rules that are similar to the one found in prisons, with things like no outside food allowed, no talking with the opposite gender, attendance is compulsory everyday (except for rare occasions) failing which your parents would be notified (believe me, it’s true). This belief, many times still remains for a long time even after you get into the work force.

Group of bored pupils in a classroom, during lesson (maybe this is not just in India after all).

A few people come to the realization that this is wrong by just being in the workforce, and others read books and watch videos about the work culture around the world to come to this realization. And many companies from developed countries understand how “desi” developers would be willing to spend more time than the developers from their home-country, which is why the offshore/hybrid model works great for them. This therefore translates to people not valuing other people’s time, since they don’t value their own time in the first place.

What can be done about this?

I believe the responsibility for changing this cannot be singled out to one person or organization. Firstly, I believe the students who come out of the education system are themselves first responsible. They would have to actively seek out knowledge in order to understand how the corporate world works, and whether joining a company is even something that they would want to do, or whether they want to get into research or entrepreneurship.

Secondly, schools and colleges and have the major part when it comes to bring about change. In addition to the technical subjects that they already teach, we also need classes on different work cultures, and the possibility to study subjects out of their domain. On that note, our country is so nationalistic that we are not willing to even look at other countries to see how their systems work. For example, Indian colleges have a rigid curriculum and only teach the subjects that are directly related to the degree. This is true even in IISC or IITs, since you cannot study management subjects or liberal arts subjects for example if you are studying a bachelors in engineering (any department). On top of this, soft skills like being punctual and respecting people’s time could be taught at the college-level, so that students don’t have to learn it the hard way after joining the work force.

Thirdly we need Indian companies that serve Indian users/clients since that would enable people to not get into this outsourcing exploitation. I highly respect the companies that do support Indian clients/users, and wish to see many more such companies come up in the future.

Let me know your thoughts on the Indian work culture in the comments below, and if you agree or disagree with the post. Until then, bis bald!

2 thoughts on “The Indian work culture needs to change

  1. Kriba says:

    Hey Kingsley,
    A wonderfully constructed read to indulge in at anytime. You couldn’t have put it any better the exploitative subtlety prevalent among the mass workforce in the corporate corridors of our country.

    The root lies in far deeper sources, both controllable and uncontrollable ones,and focusing on the former is the only balm. The spotlight must focus on awareness, critically,of the myriad unexplored avenues and channels to seek knowledge and reality of the operational world.

    It is high time for upcoming batches to evade high tone narratives of happily-ever-after success stories rolled by colleges and FOMO complexities to explore their own narratives, which can follow either conventional and non-conventional routes.

    Looking forward to read your posts,buddy!!

    Liked by 1 person

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