Hiring 1 or more remote developers or Outstaffing witnessed a spectacular 159% growth over the last 12 years. And is even expected to grow another 25-30% more due to the covid-19 spin-off. Despite this spectacular growth and the fact that cities like Bangalore, Pune, Noida, Delhi-NCR, and the recently developing Hyderabad have become hubs for tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, TCS, Infosys, Wipro, etc. collaborating with remote IT professionals from India may still sounds a little scary to some of us westerners. Some that eventually, they will get less value for what they pay for due to 5 assumptions that still exist about working remotely with Indian IT professionals:
- Cultural Differences make it hard to understand each other
- Physical Distance makes it hard to collaborate together
- Different Languages make it hard to communicate
- The Level of Quality an Indian IT professional is able to deliver is less than we are accustomed to
- A Indian/remote IT developer or specialist is Less Productive than we are accustomed to
However, after working remotely with Indian IT professionals for over 15 years, we have learned that these assumptions are in fact misconceptions. And discovered there are several structural issues that need close attention enabling every western business to thrive collaborating remotely with Indian IT professionals.
In this blog, we review the first misconception which implies the Cultural Differences make it hard to work remotely with Indian IT professionals. As we will pinpoint the 10 most important differences between the Western and the Indian working culture, we provide multiple practical tips that ensure effective cross-cultural communication with Indian IT professionals.
1. Show respect for Hierarchy and Seniority
What is noticeably different across Indian and East Asian culture is the importance of hierarchy. Hierarchy impacts everything from behaviour to decision making. Indian businesses have a very hierarchical structure and everyone looks up to the person at the next level to make a decision. According to our Western standards this is a pretty old fashioned concept. We live in a (business) world where the CEO, leaders and managers alike strive to stimulate, support and facilitate their teams, and to work alongside them.
As managers in our Western world we have learned to coach our teams, ask open questions and include everyone’s ideas and opinions. In India however, people expect senior employees to be the older and more experienced in years, telling the younger professionals and less experienced what to do. It is a working culture in which the boss always knows best, and the higher you are in an organisation the more you count.
Therefore, in order to ensure effective cross-cultural communication with Indian IT professionals, it’s important to apply the following social customs:
- Be aware of the hierarchy and be cautious about generalisations
- Pecking order matters – always address the more important / more senior members first
- Address older people with Sir or Madam, Mr or Mrs
- Make sure top management or senior members take all major decisions
- Do not try to stimulate proactive behaviour or coach an answer out of your remote employees, as this will not get you anywhere
2. Be aware of the ‘Yes’ Culture
Indians try to please people when they communicate. As a result, they have a tendency to say what they think will please you, even if it conflicts with the truth. On top of this, losing face is a serious no-go in the Indian culture which means that people will say ‘yes’ to try and save their face.
So in order to ensure effective cross-cultural communication with Indian IT professionals, it’s important to watch and listen carefully to what they really say and how they say it:
- It is easy to confuse physical gestures of ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ in Indian society. Indian people often shake or wobble their heads, which may look like a ‘NO’, but actually signifies ‘YES’ or ‘OK’. ‘NO’ is expressed by a short, sideways gesture of the head with a discharging movement of the hand
- Anything other than ‘YES’ without hesitation is most likely a ‘NO’:
- No response, usually means ‘NO’. Silence does not equal agreement
- Postponing usually means ‘NO’. The person is buying time because they are not comfortable saying no
- “I’ll try., or “I will do my best.” Means it’s most likely NOT going to happen
- “Let me see what I can do to make that happen.” Means it is most likely NOT going to happen
- “I understand.” Means just that. The person understands but has NOT committed to anything
By the way, in most Indian languages, there is no true translation for “please” and “thank you”, so don’t expect to hear them often. It does not mean that you are being treated rudely; it’s just not a part of the social custom. Indian’s will nod their head or smile to say thank you.
3. Indians like to Stick to their Job
Indians have a reputation among some foreigners for sticking to their roles and not showing initiative when needed.It is a stereotype based on a cross-cultural misunderstanding. In India, doing something outside of your role/job/project description is not doing your job – it’s the opposite. When Indian’s are not showing inititiative it is just because they follow policy.
So in order to ensure effective cross-cultural communication with Indian IT professionals, it is important to make sure you:
- Follow the rules of the bureaucracy, filling everything out correctly
- Express all your wishes with regards to what you expect from them as explicitly as possible, leaving little or nothing to chance
4. Relationships Matter
Indians tend to get very close to people they work with very quickly. Asking someone the first time you meet them what their qualifications are, what their salary is and how many kids they have is normal in India. Indians just want to like and trust people they work with. Hence, if you collaborate with Indian IT professionals, make sure to invest enough time in building relationships:
- Personal meetings and phone calls are of more value than emails
- Small talk is big
- Take the time to be social with refreshments throughout meetings
5. Organize your Business Meetings well
From the start, us Western people need to understand that in Indian culture the meeting is not a place for an open and frank discussion, as this risks a conflict. And a conflict risks losing face. Business meetings are more about giving information to subordinates or sensitively testing out ideas. Indian managers prepare precise agendas, which they usually monitor strictly. Bear in mind, that Indian professionals may take some more time and visits to understand the situation. So a first meeting is usually for introduction. Typically, Indians choose not to rush when it comes to making important decisions.
Therefore, when you organize a meeting, make sure you appreciate and apply the following social customs:
- Make sure to plan your meetings a long time ahead with a minimum of 24 hours in advance. Make sure when distributing the agenda, to include a list of the attendees and any important information on the meeting location and required equipment. So participants have the opportunity to prepare for the meeting
- When you first send out notification of the meeting, be clear about its purpose and your expectations
- Organize the meeting agenda well so that every point can be covered efficiently in the meeting
- If you need to address tricky topics, do it on forehand and before the meeting takes place
- The best suitable time for meeting in India is about 11 am, and best suitable place is a conference room
- Reconfirm the meeting a week in advance and check once more on the morning the meeting takes place. As it is common in India for meetings to be cancelled last minute
- Make sure to arrive at the meeting on time as most Indians are keen on punctuality
- As mentioned earlier, make sure top management or senior members take all major decisions
6. Stick to the Indian Stretchable Time
Indians are not as time-sensitive as in some other cultures. To them it is difficult to grasp why we Westerners stick to our agenda’s, believing we can predict or guarantee how things will evolve in the future. In the Indian reality things change all the time: Family matters may intervene; authorities may intervene; accidents may happen, anything may happen. What we need to appreciate is that, in the Indian mind, time is a flexible concept. Appointments mean ‘more or less’. Waiting and delay are normal. Better take plans as indicative but not final. Things happen when they should happen. Indians assume that there will always be a another time or opportunity if that is meant to be; if not in this life, than certainly in the next!
Thus in order to ensure effective cross-cultural communication with Indian IT professionals, it is important to bear in mind that dealing with time and planning in India requires you to take a holistic perspective and manage on a day-to-day basis.
7. Indians like to Avoid Conflicts
Indians will do anything to avoid conflict, even in private. As a result, their communication style can be very indirect and relies on listeners reading between the lines. Some of us Westerners rely too much on what is said and miss clues when Indians are trying to give negative opinions or share sensitive information. Therefore, when collaborating with Indian IT professionals, it’s important to watch and listen very carefully to what they really say and how they say it.
If you do decide to go for a confrontation, here is what works best:
- First of all, make sure to keep your emotions in check
- Make sure to approach your Indian colleague in a calm and confident manner. Assuring him you are confronting the issue, not the person.
- Try to pep him up by imagining the relief you would feel once the issue is resolved
8. Mind the Usage of your Hands and Feet
Although Westerners are acustomed to using both hands in everyday life, it is important to be conscious of using each hand for different activities. In Indian culture, the left hand is considered unclean. As this hand is used when going to the bathroom, for cleaning one’s feet and other “dirty” activities. Another non-Western habit is that pointing with your fingers is considered rude. Most Indian people use their fingers only to point to animals or inferior classes. Instead, use a head nodding gesture or your entire hand when pointing to a person. Feet are another body part that has significant meaning in India. Indians consider both feet and shoes as the lowest and dirtiest part of the body, which is why it is customary to take off your shoes before entering someone’s home or a temple or mosque.
Hence, in order to ensure effective cross-cultural communication with Indian IT professionals, it is important to mind the following customs using your hands and feet:
- Always eat and interact with people with your right (“clean”) hand.
- Shaking hands is not the greeting custom in India. Some exceptions may be that Indian women will shake hands with Western women, but they will probably feel uncomfortable shaking a Western man’s hand
- Don’t hug or touch women in the workplace as this might make them feel uncomfortable
- Many Indian people, especially Hindus, usually press their palms together (“praying style”) in front of their chest and bow. It is best to stand an arm’s length or more away from the person you are speaking to, as the Indian people value their personal space
9. Follow the Dress Code
Women should avoid wearing shorts, skimpy T-shirts and other offensive Western clothing. Primarily, a woman’s legs and shoulders should remain covered unless at the beach. To play it safe, men should wear long pants to be respectful in certain areas. Different places of worship require different dress codes. When visiting a mosque or temple, take off your shoes and wear appropriate clothing; at Sikh temples, both men and women must cover their heads. Generally, Indian people do not understand why a wealthy Western traveler travel around in very little clothing, so staying well-dressed and well-groomed makes a good impression on the local people.
10. Respect the Indian Hospitality Guidelines
Hospitality is, however, an essential part of Indian culture, so it is important for Indian people to welcome you into their home and, at the very least, to offer you refreshments. When invited to a private event in someone’s home, surprisingly enough, it is actually considered polite to arrive later than planned and leave shortly after dinner. Discussing topics such as the caste system, arranged marriages, religious conflicts can sometimes be taboo, so do so with careful consideration. Some questions Indian people ask you may seem mildly intrusive, but are actually just polite conversation for them.
The Indian saying ‘It takes two hands to generate applause’ is especially true when the Western and the Indian culture meet. Due to the caste system, religious customs and other factors, Indian customs may seem strange and unsettling from our Western perspective. However, the key is to understand Indian values and society. Not only to thrive in your collaboration, but also to avoid accidentally offending someone and even to create new friendships. Making your collaboration with an Indian remote IT specialist or developer a success is no rocket science. It just takes some attention to understand their culture, believes and habits, and some minor adjustments to fit in.
Nowadays scaling up and reducing costs of your IT department is a challenging business. Local IT talent is scarce, and the competition to hire them is intense. Developing economies like India have the opposite going on. An ever improving education sector is producing more IT talents than the number of jobs created by a still maturing economy. Whereas local competition keeps their salaries extremely competitive. Next to that, incredible power currencies like the USD and Euro create extra purchasing power, making it possible for developed countries like ours to attract the best IT talent available in India for only one third of the budget we would normally spend.
By making use of our outstaffing service, you scale-up the capacity of your IT department in a cost-efficient, fast and easy way. Either by building your own remote development team in India, or by adding the desired remote IT expert(s) and/or developer(s) to complete your team for as long as necessary.
If you are you considering Outstaffing and (temporarily) hiring 1 or multiple remote developers to reduce your IT or development costs by 30% on average, or to speed up the process, WeSquare is your IT partner to make this happen. We have over 15 years of experience in outstaffing and working remotely with Indian IT professionals. Whereas the biggest advantage we can offer is that we have our own office in Hyderabad with a local management and HR, so we can search, screen, hire, facilitate, support and supervise your remote developer(s) locally.
Contact us to take the next step, or if you wish to explore whether Outstaffing and hiring 1 or more remote developers could be interesting for you or your company to scale-up your IT capacity in a cost-efficient manner or to reduce IT or development costs by 30% on average.
Call us at +31 853 012 993, or visit our website to learn more about your options.