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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Monday, June 12, 2006

My colleague Shubhangi and I put together some cultural insights on a recent project for an International Client. I thought I'd share some of these on my blog ... obviously, any reference to the Client's product has been removed. These are our views, and while, by no stretch of imagination are complete, they try and hopefully go beyond what your Business Etiquette manuals tell you about doing business in India :). Guilty on the images that are all 'stolen' off Google images and Flickr.

I'll be doing a series of posts on these:

  • culture of business and service
  • culture of consumption
  • attitude towards rules and regulations
  • value for money equations
  • technology perspectives
Here are the first two in the series.

Culture of Business and Service
  • Business is not a means of livelihood; business is life
  • The relevant God or philosophy is Krishna the pragmatist, not Ram the idealist. Krishna holds the philosophy that there can be several versions of the truth. Advocates running from the battlefield, in order to be alive to fight another day
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  • 'Juwari ramto bhalo, vyapari bechto bhalo' - the wisdom for the gambler is to keep playing, the wisdom for the trader to keep selling
  • Profit & loss are momentary things, if he stops plying his trade because of some loss he will. Thus even at times when profit margin is low they believe that to keep doing business, is life
  • Reputation and positive word of mouth are critical for success - and most transactions are done on this basis. Manufacturer speak comes second.
  • Indians are very enterprising in their approach to business and service . For instance, in summer in Delhi, people set out little carts selling cool water for 2 cents a glass. Or you can get any service delivered home - even vegetable vendors have cell phones today and deliver vegetables to the home
  • Indians also have a 'chalta hai' attitude: nonchalant, 'anything goes' - fatalistic Indian philosophy - because you cannot control your destiny, you go with the flow
Culture of Consumption
  • Traditionally business in India has been 'give & take,' and NOT 'the customer is king'. The customer had to accept whatever level of service was offered. Increasingly, however, service is becoming a powerful differentiator - products and organizations that enable 'any time, any where' service are valued - with a powerful tool being the cell phone. A picture named consumption3.JPG
  • Indians are NOT in the habit of 'DIY' - for the most part, consumers in India would rather someone else fixes things. Labor is cheap and abundant, and skilled too, without the formal qualifications.
  • Critical mass is important - Indians as customers tend to be followers by nature - there is comfort in buying products that are tried and tested, and friends and family know.
  • Always on access and personalized service is important for customers in India. The prevailing attitude is that "I'd rather call up my local photocopy neighborhood store and get 'acceptable' quality with great service (with pick up and drop off) than go to an impersonal large store to get it processed." Here are some visiting cards I have of my local cold storage, vegetable vendor, grocer, chemist, photocopier, furnishing store.
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  • As customers, Indians have multiple touchpoints - there is almost always a cheaper alternative, and haggling is a rite of passage!
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10:09:57 PM    comment []  trackback []

Just discovered Hole-in-the-Wall Education.
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"Forget about the $100 laptop- how about free?

Free access to computers is what Sugata Mitra, physicist and chief scientist with India's international software giant NIIT Ltd. wants for India's 200 million children. That's why he started an Internet learning experiment called Hole-in-the-Wall, where he embedded a kiosk housing high-speed touch-screen computers into the wall that separates the company's headquarters from New Delhi's biggest slum, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

A picture named hitw.jpgThat was in 1999 and since then Mitra has installed more then 150 computers - with keyboards, touch pads, and Web cameras - in some 50 locations from New Delhi slums to points in rural India.

Mitra hopes that widespread implementation of these kiosks could bring India's poorest group of children into the digital age. It's amazing how quickly the children pick up the skills they need to operate and learn from computers, Mitra says. Within nine months, the boys and girls achieve, "the proficiency level equivalent to the skills of most modern office workers." ZDNet Education

Pictures are from the hiwel website and here's a detailed interview with Dr Sugata Mitra, Chief Scientist, at India's National Institute of Information Technology.

5:38:36 PM    comment []  trackback []

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5:09:18 PM    comment []  trackback []

 ... I have been watching them pick up all my posts for a while now ... any ideas on what I could do? 

  • Brown Blogger Brigade - reproducing full posts from my blog, along with some others ... I'm listed as a contributor there ... which I am not !  This bothers me because they haven't asked me to be a contributor in any way ... and I would hate to be associated with anything that reeks of stereotype with a name like Brown Blogger Brigade
  • Just Blog It ... (msn ID required to log in) is just picking up my posts and putting them into and MSN Spaces blog .. I've been asked by a couple of people whether I have a mirror blog by this name .. the answer is No .. and I don't know whose this is.  This one is plain plaigarising ... there are no attributions whatsoever there.

2:35:57 PM    comment []  trackback []

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom". - AnaÔs Nin.

Found in a touching post on Evelyn's blog about her artist friend Ruby and her coming out party. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with the soul food at her blog ... its been ages... thanks Evelyn!

9:22:51 AM    comment []  trackback []