Running as a therapy

Most of us think Running as a physical activity, resulting in better health.

The real impact that running has created goes way beyond physical health, thereby acting as a therapy. The Alternative, a new age media created a set of stories recently where they covered stories of individuals where running made a big impact. There were people suffering from migraine, autism, schizophrenia etc…and how running has transformed their lives. I am happy to be surrounded by such individuals with whom we run as a community in Runners High.

Check out the following URLs for the individual stories:

Focus on the effort… as much as the result – Another perspective

This is the second part of my earlier blog “Focus on the effort… as much as the result” – http://jwritings.com/?p=562. In case you have not read that, I would suggest that you do before proceeding to read this.
While that blog presents a good picture of a project with high stakes, riveting rush by the team culminating in a nice photo finish (almost cinematic), there are some disturbing questions too. Why did it take until 2:00 pm on the release date to figure out that there was a long list pending? Shouldnt there have been appropriate checks and balances in place (especially since this was a release that multiple regions were looking forward to)? Shouldnt the stakeholders (folks who had made commitments to customers) been sounded off earlier that there could be a slip (in which case they could at least fore-warn the customers that there MIGHT be a delay)? What if the release had not happened even after all the effort?

Is this similar to our infamous Commonwealth Games experience where weeks before the games were scheduled to start the supervising committee found stinking toilets and unpainted stadiums and deplorable athlete village? Isnt it interesting that even a senior Indian official compared the whole Commonwealth Games fiasco to Indian weddings where things are chaotic right up till the last moment before miraculously falling in place in the nick of time? Has our Indian psyche trained us to see this whole episode as a “victory from the jaws of defeat” rather than a “last minute frenzy to barely manage to deliver after screwing up all along”. Even in this case, wasnt it passion and a heroic slog by the highly charged team that delivered the win rather than a methodical and systematic process?

Now if I have to weigh both sides and choose which of these two set of qualities – passionate and heroic sloggers vs methodical and process driven marchers, I would lay more emphasis on, I would much rather pick the former. Now I am not talking about these as mutually exclusive traits, but more as the dominant characteristics of the two sides.

Here is the reasons for my choice:

Software product development is inherently unpredictable. While you can do a reasonable job of approximations earlier during the development cycle, hard release dates pretty much “emerge” during the later stages of development. After about 12 years in product development, with 8 of those as a Product Manager, I have very rarely released a product exactly on the planned release date – and I have never felt bad about it. One of the best part of this job is the opportunity to say, “I dont mind if this product is launched a few days later, but I want the wow effect”. There are always last minute changes – enhancement that you want to add for the “wow” effect or a database query optimization that’s going to deliver faster customer response times – that you did not plan for when you wrote the specs 4 months back, but want it now!!!

This is especially true in case of start ups where priorities change fast, demands from a large customer can require you to rejig or do a course correction and you are constantly trying to do more with less resources and shorter time.

With best checks and balances and processes in place, you will still have your share of “2:00 pm on release day with a long pending list” days (the frequency pretty much depends on the pace of your business)…. and on those days, you’re seriously better off with a team that’s willing to go the extra mile than a team that’s dissecting what went wrong with the process or how many times the requirements changed.

NWritings

Fill = 200 INR, Bill = 2000 INR

Let us talk about Integrity – by taking couple of recent examples that I came across.

Scene1: Fill = 200 INR, Bill = 2000 INR

After a long break, I have started driving my two-wheeler to work. One of the indirect benefits of driving motorcycle (apart from saving time in Bangalore traffic) is the opportunity I get to observe people and some interesting conversations among them.

Last evening I was pulling into fuel filling station as my vehicle was in reserve mode.  Unlike normal days, I need to wait in queue. The gentleman before me was getting little restless and I understood he works for one of the multinational companies (now let us call him Mr. MNC) by looking into the access card and laptop make (clue – both were having name).  The queue did move in few minutes, incidentally I happened to observe the conversation between Mr. MNC and pump worker who fills the fuel.  Mr. MNC filled petrol for 200 INR (for his Honda Activa) and started negotiating with the worker to provide him with a bill of INR 2000. He also requested him to provide a bill without mentioning date of sale and insisted to write it as “Diesel”, even though he was filling “Petrol”, that too for 1/10 of the bill amount.

After getting the “fake” bill from the worker, Mr.MNC gave him 100 INR as a tip and quickly drove out of the station. Initially I was little puzzled but understood what Mr. MNC was trying to do – produce fake bill and claim tax or perquisite benefit from the organization.

Scene2:  Core technical books for LKG kid

We have been purchasing lot of books for my little one in order to develop healthy reading habit. One fine day my dear wife asked me an interesting question “I heard from our neighborhood friend that her hubby’s company reimburses books purchased for kids. Not sure if your organization provides such facility. Since we are spending quite a lot for our little one, won’t it be cool if somebody reimburses that?” Again I was puzzled for a minute and gave her a simple answer “Let me check this and come back”. I was pretty sure there is no such benefits provided by my organization, but I wanted to be double sure as I don’t want miss on any benefits that I am entitled for J

After going thru the organizational tax claim policies, I couldn’t find anything related to books purchased for kids. However I was able to find a related item, where money spent against purchasing technical books and journals can be exempted from tax by producing bills to my organization.  I updated my wife back about tax claim policy and asked her to check again how our neighborhood friend is able to claim the money. Kicked by curiosity, my wife checked with her friend and the answer she gave me was really shocking. Her friend’s husband’s company also have the same policy (i.e. reimbursing technical books), however she has stuck a deal with nearby book store (as they are regular customer) that they will provide a fake bill with some technical books names, even though they purchase LKG books. Here you go – another form of Mr. MNC!

Even though these two cases might look small, they expose a huge underlying issue related to integrity. Given a smallest amount of opportunity even educated, well paid knowledge workers are ready to compromise their integrity even though the financial benefit (gained in form of tax exemption or perquisite) could be merely in thousands of INR. Of course, one can put a counter argument saying the whole country is corrupt (means billions of people with no integrity), what’s harm in me doing some small things like this? In my opinion somebody “else” is doing wrong is not a passport for “me” to do the same, when I have all the choice to do the right thing. When it comes to integrity there is no argument of “small or big”, rather it’s the matter of “exist or doesn’t exist”.

The objective of me writing this post is not to say somebody is doing something wrong, but to expose a new dimension of a well rooted problem. In most of the cases, every software professional gets an opportunity to travel abroad (to developed countries) and appreciate basic things working in a corruption free manner. However when it comes to our own country, we don’t seem to appreciate it and become the wrong example by doing activities mentioned in the above two stories.

Clearly the core issue neither money nor desperation. It is done consciously with 0% guilt associated with it. On multiple occasions I have seen people producing fake medical bills, house rent allowance receipts, resumes with fake experience, claiming the role that an individual actually not done etc. These things definitely provide short term benefit but how it can be sustained over a period of time? After globalization there are umpteen numbers of knowledge workers (who earn a lot in a comparative scale) but end up doing basic things incorrectly. In my opinion India has a long way to go to build world class professionals. Especially when such fundamental issues are there it is really hard to call ourselves as world class. What better way to bring in change than by setting the right example? Let us not worry about our corrupt politicians or bureaucrats. Let us do right things to have a better next generation professionals.

Bangalore – Half empty or half full?

Striking conversations with cab drivers always provided me with very interesting and realistic perspectives at various parts of the world. Recently we were on a family vacation to Yercaud, one of the weekend gateways near Bangalore. I started my usual conversation with the cab driver (whom we hired for local sightseeing) by asking some general stuff. While traveling around, I incidentally ended up observing most of the pass-by vehicles having “KA-0x” number plates, which mean they are Bangalore registered vehicles. I couldn’t stop myself but ask the obvious question “How come so many vehicles are from Bangalore?” and the answer he gave was very interesting.

“Bangalore is been the sole reason for Yercaud’s recent growth sir”, he eagerly started and I allowed him to continue. “In the past few years so many people started coming from Bangalore. As the number started increasing, our travel and tourism industry flourished by fetching more and more business. Many of the foreign travelers (who visit Bangalore for business reasons) also started coming here to spend their weekend for getting Indian hill-side experience. In summary Bangalore played major part to grow Yercaud into a bustling tourist destination” cab driver concluded. The high amount of disposable income of global knowledge workers is the key contributing to such growth. It’s very clear – globalization is working!

Also, when I look around, there are umpteen number of blue collar jobs created in the city in form of housekeeping workers, gym assistants, security guards, corporate cab drivers, caterers etc. thanks to the globalization. Even if an individual is reasonably educated (say 10th class) with decent English speaking skills, relatively high end blue collar jobs are available. Recently I saw a job posting (from Taco Bell) for waiters’ position with base pay of 8500 INR per month plus additional benefits like free food, performance linked incentives etc. Making about 10,000 INR for 10th class qualified individual is a big deal in India. It’s heartening to see such positive signs.

On the other hand, there is equally good number of examples which creates counter opinion on the same. Recently I was talking with my close friend who runs an NGO, mainly dealing with abandoned children. As per his field studies, in Bangalore alone 8-10 children desert their homes for various reasons like family issues, anti-social element connections, resource scarcity etc. Over a period of time these children are forced to activities like begging. Taco bell providing jobs to people is definitely good news, but seeing children begging outside the restaurant is not so great news. The more concerning factor is the lack of empathy to such issues from highly paid knowledge workers who seem to wear ego on their shoulders with ‘why should I care?’ attitude. Children who are growing up in high flying apartments and studying in plush schools hardly have any idea about such issues.

The infrastructure story is more horrifying. I am one of the blessed ones to have workplace near home of about 5 kilometers. However the sad part is the sporadic traffic situation. It takes anywhere between 30-45 minutes to commute between my home and workplace. It’s anybody’s guess how the situation would become worse when distance increases within the city. There is no equation between road size, road capacity, number of vehicles purchased, resulting in ever increasing chaotic traffic.

In my opinion, Bangalore is in ‘Half empty, half full’ situation.  The amount of issues we are seeing today, even after two decades of globalization shows the incorrect implementation. The overall situation is not showing a very healthy trend. The list of issues is growing faster than the accomplishments of the city. I am not an economist to form theories based on the current situation, but definitely a worried immigrant of this city!

Cultural Differences – how much of a say should the state have

The recent news of the Norwegian authorities deciding to remove 2 children (the older about 3 years old and the other barely an year old) of Indian origin from their parents is pretty interesting – and I’m sure very agonizing for the parents and the relatives. The following have been sited as the grounds for the Norwegian authorities’ decision.

One, they felt that the children were overfed. They concluded that when a child was hand-fed, it was tantamount to force-feeding.

Two, they noted that the children displayed an emotional disconnect with their parents.

Three, the son Abhigyan apparently displayed erratic behavior at school.

Four, officials who came to investigate objected to Abhigyan and Aishwarya sleeping in the parental bed.

Five, the mother apparently slapped the son at one point – but she did not repeat that once she knew Norwegian law made violence against children illegal.

While points 2 and 3 are really hard to comment on (depends on what you call “erratic behavior” and how you describe “emotional disconnect”), points 1 and 4 are pretty much the norm in Indian families – with 5 being quite prevalent, though on the decline. Finger feeding and children sleeping in the parental bedroom and quite common and in fact not doing these is typically frowned upon in India. An rare slap to a child is actually viewed as a “release” by even the most forward thinking parent in India.

Enough has been said in the media about the cultural difference and I do not want to dwell on that – yes, Indians and Norwegians have different perceptions of what constitutes good child raising. Period!!!

Now, the interesting question to me is, to what extent can the state go to impose their view – on their own citizens and then on citizens of other countries. From what I read, the Norwegian authorities have held the children under their care for more than 8 months or so (long after the parents have offered to leave the country if the children were re-united) to the extent that the helpless parents have now turned to the highest Indian authority – The President, to impress upon her Norwegian counterpart. Surely, the Norwegian authorities should see reason when India’s highest citizen throws her weight behind the parents and presses for the children to be re-united with the parents.

I also wonder what the tone of the Indian President’s communique to her Norwegian counterpart was – was it on the lines of “You can separate all the Norwegian families that you want as per your views, but would request you to refrain from imposing your views of child raising on Indian parents” or was it on the lines of, “Many of the charges against the parents are pretty common in India – and we in fact believe that some of these, finger feeding and kids sleeping with parents in particular, are actually beneficial and promote better family bonding”

To me this seems a clear case of the state taking upon itself authority far beyond their calling. To what extent can a state go to penalize people who do not subscribe to the its views. Can a state that believes in vegetarianism separate kids when parents feed them chicken soup (or conversely penalize parents of vegetarian kids for denying the children well rounded nourishment) or can a state that believes in non-violence separate kids when parents allow them to watch Tom and Jerry.

A one-size-fits-all “best practices” for child raising just do not exist and a lot of what is good and what is not is largely determined by parental choice, cultural factors and other local customs. In these circumstances, for a state to remove infants from their parents and place them under separate foster homes seems pretty draconian.

Im not suggesting that the state turn a blind eye to Child Right issues, but how much supervision should the state provide and to what extent should the state be involved in ensuring responsible parenting?

NWritings

PS: A good read at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/9035776/India-and-Norway-in-diplomatic-spat-over-children-taken-into-care.html – the comments are actually more interesting, as usual

http://www.norwaynews.com/en/~view.php?72T8954QR74833u285Tie844PN3887Xj76IHo353K9L8 is interesting too.

Hitting out at competition in public – Watch out for the back lash

Traditional wisdom has usually been in favor or focusing on YOUR product / company strengths in promotional campaigns. In fact, may marketing methods deliberately advice against mentioning competition in your campaigns since it “unnecessarily” provides your competition visibility at your expense. However, in many cases (especially when you are trying to grab market share from that competitor), a feature comparison is pretty common – car companies routinely push out feature to feature comparison with competition. It is usually characterized by a bunch of ticks against your product and a lot of crosses against your competition.

The latest brand war between the Times of India and The Hindu is pretty interesting in many respects. Both these are age old news papers and have a huge circulation. While The Hindu is strong in the South (many Chennaites cannot think of a morning without The Hindu), the TOI has a much higher circulation across India, even though there don’t have a significant presence in South India. In terms of the content, they are as different as chalk and cheese. While TOI (in my opinion) focuses almost entirely on showbiz, celebrity, skin show and a little bit of news, The Hindu (again in my opinion) largely dishes out pretty “boring” but reliable news  – words like “unbiased journalism” and “ethics” are more associated with The Hindu.

See how the story unfolded here – http://whataworldagain.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/brand-wars-the-times-of-india-vs-the-hindu/

and a very good analysis of this at http://forbesindia.com/blog/business-strategy/how-toi-woke-up-the-hindu/

I think there is a lot of truth in both the campaigns, The Hindu doesn’t really “wake you up” and the TOI doesn’t really give you news.

Now coming to TOI’s strategy of initiating this war, I think it was a good move, irrespective of who has the last laugh in this war. I say this in spite of The Hindu hitting back in style (of course, you can expect TOI to hit back again in more style, but we’ll wait and watch). TOI had almost no presence in Chennai and any advantage in terms of the attention (and circulation) that they can get there will be a bonus. Everyone knows that The Hindu lacks spice and by clearly calling that out, TOI has offered itself as an alternative to the spice-hungry among the Chennites. There are people in Chennai who still don’t know that the actress associated with “size zero” is Kareena Kapoor, and I do believe overall, TOI is going to see a push in their circulation in Chennai – even with people who acknowledge that The Hindu’s response was clever. With close to zero cost of the newspapers expect many Chennai homes to even get both The Hindu AND TOI.

Now, coming to why I feel TOI should watch out for the back lash. Even after The Hindu’s clever response, their job is only half done. Now what they need to do is to promote this message in areas where TOI is traditionally strong, and educate TOI’s readers that “All Bollywood and no news makes Jack a dull boy” and tell them that they have been missing out on “news” at the expense of Bollywood and celebrity stuff. How well The Hindu can promote their response across the country (and in this internet age, its comparative easier) will determine how this war pans out. They already have a presence, a rather weak one, in Mumbai and a this could be a great chance to grab some market share in Mumbai

The Hindu clearly has the opportunity now to turn the hunter into the hunted.

NWritings

BOOK REVIEW : I am Saravanan(Vidya)

BOOK REVIEW : I am Saravanan Vidya

Price: 100 INR

Author: Vidya (A transgender’s autobiography)

India is a strange country! In spite of (so called) globalization, many of our core societal issues still remain unsolved – transgender inclusion being one of them. Some time back I wrote a post about Hijras in India, highlighting the issue of them getting into prostitution by default due to lack of other options. Thankfully few Hijras has put up a fierce fight against the society and tried their level best to resume a mainstream life by creating an identity. Vidya, a transgender is one classic example who fought all the odds by making a career with NGO and writing. The book ‘I am Saravanan Vidya’ is the autobiography of Vidya, where she details the struggle gone thro for transforming herself from a male (Saravanan) to female (Vidya). Filled with real life experiences, challenges, frustrations this book has brought in dark pages of transgender life into public, thereby asking few critical questions to each one of us.

Born in a struggling lower middle class family, Saravanan’s parents had lot of expectations from (also because of him being the only son) him with dreams of eventually seeing him as the District Collector by clearing the prestigious IAS examinations. Being the only son, everybody in the family pampers him with all that they could afford, thereby ensuring necessary support for his studies. Expectations were so high that he just cannot afford to think about anything other than first rank in the class. Saravanan recalls the tension and fear ran thru him when he got second rank for the first time in his 6th standard. His father was extremely strict with studies, couldn’t take the fact of him getting second rank and beaten up Saravanan for the same.

This typical Indian lower middle class story takes an unexpected turn when Saravanan starts getting his early inclination towards being a female. Early experiments come in the form of wearing his sister’s dresses (half-saree) and dancing his heart out by listening to radio songs after latching the door. This interest intensifies gradually when he starts liking indoor games played by girls (ex: pallanguzhi), and starts spending more time with girls of his age then boys. After moving into high-school, his feeling becomes uncontrollable, wanting him to be more of a female than a male. He also goes thru initial insults from his class mates by calling ‘Ali’ and making fund of his ‘female-type’ behavior. Somehow he completes computer science bachelor degree, with declining academic records. From a 90%+ scorer (and the first ranker), he slowly drops into 60%s, somehow ensuring first class.  By this time, his father had lost all the hopes on him for making him as the District Collector without having any clue about what his teenage boy was going thru. There are multiple questions running in Saravanan’s mind now – Whom should he approach to seek solution for his problem? How can he live a life being physically male but feeling as a female? What answers he can give to his parents, who sacrificed everything for him with lots of dreams?

In search of finding a solution, Saravanan relocates to Chennai and lands up in a meager job with a drama troop. Thanks to some contacts in the drama community, he eventually moves to Pune for joining the Hijra community.  Life becomes all the more difficult for him to make a living (by begging) and getting used to the Hijra community by following their rituals. The very fact that the Hijra community is the only option, who will help him to convert his gender, keeps him going against all the odds. In subsequent chapters, Saravanan clearly explains the issues faced in the gender conversion which I explained in my previous article.

First an individual should consult a psychiatrist who can either help them to come out of the ‘feeling’ of becoming a female or mentally prepare them for a gender conversion operation. Followed by this they go thru a complex operation which will physically remove all male genitals. After the operation they need to go thru some more psychological counseling, thereby ensuring that they get used to the new gender. The third and most important aspect is to have a well defined legal system for converting their gender, after which they will be treated as a female in the society. They are legally entitled to apply for jobs (as females), get married (leaving the fact that they cannot reproduce) and enjoy all the societal benefits. In India, none of the above mentioned process/system exists.

After going thru the painful process of removing male genitals (by a self appointed doctor in Andhra Pradesh), Saravanan finally gets rid of his male identity and changing name as Vidya. After becoming Vidya, life becomes miserable. Even after somehow escaping from the Hijra community, getting a job or getting basic documents (like passport/driving license/ration card) or find a decent accommodation becomes almost impossible task. Thanks to his drama troop friends Chennai she lands up in a job with an NGO in Chennai and keeping her writing passion alive by starting a blog. Eventually she ends up writing this book by explaining the darker sides of being a Hijra.

This book was a real eye opener for me as it helped me to understand the darker side of Indian society. As Vidya had a formal education, she is at least able to make a basic living. What about millions of Hijras in the country who don’t even have basic education? Why there is no legal or social system for accepting them as a part of mainstream society? How can we boast ourselves of being ‘global citizens’ when educated elite don’t even acknowledge such issues?

There are no uncreative jobs….. only uncreative ways of doing a job

If you grew up in Chennai in the late 80s / early 90s, it would be hard NOT to have heard about Ayyannan, a traffic constable. Now, on initial glance it is easy to imagine a traffic constable as a pretty uncreative job. How creative can you get with directing traffic?

However, Ayyannan was special!!! He had this choreographic way of directing traffic – expansive dance like movements to get the traffic criss crossing…. and NO, his way of directing traffic did not cause any accidents. Ive often seen him posted in 2 of the busiest traffic intersections in Chennai during the morning peak hours – Gandhi statue on beach road or Music Academy junction in Cathedral Road – both of which fed huge traffic from the residences in South Chennai to the business districts in Mount Road and Parry’s corner. There would usually be a small crowd who stopped in a corner to just hang around and watch him go about his “uncreative job”. People in passing vehicles craned their neck to watch him too. I remember The Hindu even doing a piece on him.

Unfortunately, those were not the days of the internet and when I just did a search for “Ayyannan Traffic Constable” on Google, it returned almost nothing. In this day of Youtube, his video would have gone viral…. Like a “Kolaveri”.

Ayyannan has helped me remind myself that there is always a more creative way, an more enterprising way, a passionate way of doing even the most mundane job. Face it, in every job, there is a portion which is a drudgery.  My ex boss once told me. “Whatever you do, there would be about 20% of your set of things on your plate that you will not enjoy greatly. Its part of the deal”. In multiple stages of my career Ive usually found this 80:20 rule to be pretty true – at a broad level. Looking at it as a drudgery is a sure way to not enjoy it and also to do a bad job at it. Maybe there is a more creative way of looking at it.

Its not just about what you do, but also about how you approach it and how you go about doing it.

 

— NWritings

BOOK REVIEW: Don’t sprint the Marathon

 

Price: 199 INR

Author: V. Raghunathan

Taking real life situations, mapping into a model and deriving some interesting observations is something comes natural to author Raghunathan. In his first book ‘Games Indians play’, he gave a very good perspective by mapping behavior of Indians to Game theory. In his second book he tried a similar approach by taking a different approach into our educational system and how parents are reacting by putting unnecessary pressure into children. Being a parent of two year old, I am able to very well connect with the points mentioned in this book.

The author starts deriving basics for his argument by comparing Sprint Vs Marathon running. In the world of athletics, they follow two entirely different approaches for preparing aspiring runners. The former is all about strength, energy, rush of speed, visible progress with main focus towards the end, whereas later is all about stamina, mental toughness, persistence and competing with self. Life, if at all can be compared, can be done only with marathon running. Also, assuming the fact that every individual has a career span of 30 years, it makes all the more sense for comparing it with marathon, than sprint.

Cut to education! As middle class parents with lot of ambitions and aspirations, most of us tend to put pressure on kids for making them as ‘someone’ in life. In this mad rush for the so called success or rat-race, middle class parents prepare their kids well as sprint runners, who may not achieve excellence in the marathon called life. By not allowing children to grow at their own pace by understanding their strengths, will eventually set the children for failure when life throws different set of challenges at them. The commonly perceived notion of ‘success’ will not mean anything in the long run.

In order to substantiate his viewpoint, author refers to so many real life examples where multiple individuals (ex: MD & CEO of GMR infrastructure) who were not so great during their school time but eventually achieved excellence by taking a long term view of life and focusing on their real interest and passion. While he is not disagreeing to the fact that doing well during school and getting admission into top college does mean getting a good ‘start’ do the life. However it will not guarantee a great ‘finish’ which is what life is all about. He also states that there is enough number of opportunities in all fields for people having the right set of skills and attitude.

In practical, I could connect very well with that he has mentioned in this book. Providing costly education has become a fad these days where nobody bothers about the quality or what exactly the kid gets out of it. Children have become man made instruments, thro’ which parents can achieve their own dreams which they couldn’t due to many constraints they faced during their childhood. Because of this approach, most of the people end up choosing careers that is not suiting their own strength and passion, which is resulting failure in life. This is also one of the main reasons whey ‘excellence’ it not achieved in many of the fields.

Overall I found this book is very relevant in the current context of India. In some ways it is sending messages in the similar lines of ‘Taare Zameen par’ and ‘Three idiots’. I would strongly recommend this book for professionals, parents and to some extent teenage children to put things into perspective.

What is your work culture?

The concept of ‘work culture’ becomes important when any organization goes global. This very topic becomes all the more interesting when I look into Indian tech companies. Before getting into details, let me lay down two major type of work cultures (Eastern & Western) and their underlying philosophy.

Eastern Vs Western work culture
Eastern Vs Western work culture

It is also important to understand that work culture is primarily derived from the societal architecture of that particular country or geography, where the organization has its origin. For example, US is known for creating innovative stuff (ex: iPhone from Apple), ranging from cars to music players, whereas organizations from countries like Korea (ex: Samsung Galaxy) is known for optimizing and making them cost effective. Free thinking oriented western approach helps in creating new products, whereas discipline oriented eastern approach helps in optimizing the product in terms of cost, quality, time-to-market etc. If we look little deeply these are strengths ‘by design’, derived from the way how the society functions.

The fun begins when these technology companies (both from east and west) open their offshore/captive organizations in India primarily to leverage the low-cost talent. India is very different both from east and west where we don’t have a work culture of our own. The first generation public sector organizations still follow the same old hierarchy oriented system and second generation manufacturing organizations have somehow able to create a work culture aligned with Indian society. But for folks working in technology companies the experience varies from one organization to other, depending on the origin of parent organization.

The bottom line is this – Are people are really productive? For example flexible, open and responsibility oriented western work culture is perceived as a ‘cool place’ to work in India. Based on my personal experience I have seen very high level of misuse. The so called ‘flexibility’ is misinterpreted as ‘doing less work’ and openness is misinterpreted as ‘can ask anything to anybody’. I see such behavior creating a great damage in the long run as the cost advantage already started evaporating over the years now.  On the other side we are not as disciplined as eastern organizations. When policies are imposed, people started cribbing from all the ends.

This leads to another interesting question – What exactly is going to be the value addition from Indian product organizations in the long run, beyond cost? If neither innovation not discipline is our core strength, how long it can sustain? How long we can sing the song of ‘software engineering processes’ and derive sustainable advantage out of it?