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8 Essential Tips for Working with India

Within a very short time, a multitude of Western companies have moved much of their call center, design and/or production work to India. Many, however, have come up against problems they didn't expect. If you're working with Indians, those challenges are probably familiar to you, so let's explore some of the solutions.

  1. If you are over-seeing Indians, they expect you to be highly involved and actively managing the work. This hands-on style is generally seen in a positive light as concern and care, rather than in a negative one as, say, micromanaging.


  2. If you are working with business partners or equals, a highly collaborative approach is desirable.  


  3. Getting negative feedback when you need it can be tricky, as values such as harmony, relationships, respect for hierarchy and saving face come into play. For this reason, it can be much more effective to have peers ask the questions rather than senior managers. Indians are likely to feel more comfortable giving an explicit yes or no answer with peers than with senior managers due to the hierarchy.


  4. Remember that Indians are unlikely to provide unsolicited feedback. Make it a habit to ask for suggestions or recommendations on a regular basis.


  5. Ask open-ended questions like "˜What stage is the project in now?" rather then asking "˜Is the project moving ahead?" If the answer has to be either "yes" or "no," it is likely that Indians will choose "yes." Ask your questions in several different ways to make sure that they"ve been understood and that the style of asking doesn't influence the answer.


  6. Use writing for confirmation and to de-personalize the response. Have a written checklist. Make sure the questions ask for specific status. After a phone discussion, follow up with a written summary with open-ended questions on specifics to clarify your understanding.


  7. Develop relationships. Relationships are essential to get the things done the way you want and to get a "real response." Once people feel comfortable in a relationship with you, communication is likely to become much more honest and direct. Even when the conversation has to deal with problematic issues, if there is assurance that the relationship is "safe" in spite of bad news, you"ll be much better off.  


  8. Discuss issues on a one-to-one basis rather than in a group. There is more pressure in a group setting to save face and preserve harmony, so the likelihood of getting polite responses goes up. If relationships are developed, then having a "˜friendly chat" on a one-to-one basis is usually more productive.

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Rowland & Associates is a premier cross-cultural consulting firm, providing essential international business skills since 1985. Our passion is bringing intercultural business success through heightened insight and agility. We believe that bold steps with exceptional preparation can create dynamic solutions.


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