Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The city as global village

The city as global village
The influx of foreigners into Bangalore is at an all-time high. BT explores how it’s changing workplaces

THE restrooms in an IT company display instructions in German, French, Spanish and English. It’s another indication that Bangalore is seeing a record influx of foreigners who come here for work. BT looks at how they are adapting.
Head of a firm that deals with inter-cultural training, relocation and well-being, Prithvi Ramachandran says, “There are a lot of people coming into town.
The French and Spanish share some of the same values as us: they like the culture and smells and it’s easier for them to get assimilated here.” Food engineer Brice Canivet from France loves Indian food. “It’s one of the things I look forward to after a hard day’s work,” he says.
Meanwhile, Germans, Austrians and Americans are much less receptive to change, concedes Prithvi. “They find it difficult to deal with our sense of time,” he says.
German national Katrin Schmidt, language and intercultural trainer in an IT company, admits there’s a cultural gap between the way Indians and Europeans work. “In Germany, we are task-oriented. But in India, people are relationship-oriented and hierarchy is stronger,” she says. Brice agrees that the organisational chart is pretty frozen and defines the way people interact with him. “As a manager, when you deal with an executive, there’s this top-down effect. They take my word as sacred and won’t discuss matters, whereas what you look for in any relationship is an exchange of ideas,” he says.
But several companies that collaborate with other countries have adopted practices from these countries to arrive at a smart working environment. Strategy head of a financial and software services company, Rajiv Srinivas, says, “We are a global organisation and have a lot of people coming to Bangalore for induction orientation. Japanese culture, for instance, is very similar to that of Indians. We’ve had some challenges in dealing with French and German markets. A lot of experts work with us on shortterm assignments and we take care to provide for them the right kind of houses, identify the right restaurants for them to frequent, and also schools for their children if they are staying for over a year.”
Vijayalakshmi A, divisional manager, special projects in a software subsidiary of a German multi-national, adds that their company has adopted international working norms to cater to their German counterparts who work here. “We have adapted the German sense of time and structured system of working. When they are here, we like them to understand India. We organise inter-cultural training and joint group work for them to understand how both cultures behave. We show them a bit of Bangalore and how we live,” she says. So when the environment is similar to that of home, working here is a rewarding experience for foreigners. Peter Grosshans, deputy general manager, engineering services, in software subsidiary of a German MNC, says, “The environment in my organisation here is perfect. Whenever I have customers over from my country, they are surprised at how good the working conditions here are.”


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