This is probably my first ‘business’ related post in this blog. Contrary to popular literature like the ‘The World is Flat’ and others who praise India’s rapid progress and development, the reality is sick-very sick. Of course, not every Indian behaves this way, but I found some persisting behavior patterns in trying to do business and live in India and some rules for newbies in India. Some popular myths:
Indians are professional and world class: When someone says these things, they will almost always be untrue.
- I will be there at 11am.. (you can be sure they will not be there or be very late or might never arrive or pick up your phone)
- This work will be completed by Tuesday (you are lucky if you even get an update by Thursday)
- Plumber says, ‘I have finished fixing this tap. ‘(most likely, the tap is leaking or will leak in a very short time)
- Trust me, don’t take any tension (this means you should really really distrust everything this person tells you or otherwise you will be in a big tension)
In short, you have to micro-micromanage everything to the dot. Sometimes it feels that you should not have to pay these people. They should pay you to teach them how to do real quality work. Every little FUCKING thing takes forever.
They are very fair and nice: Infact, they always want more than they deserve. Its a mad dirty dishonest race to get ahead and all of them want more than they are qualified to get. They want more + they don’t want to work for it + they want it in 1/10th of the time + they will grab your share as soon as they get a chance. Starting from your employees, to rickshaw drivers, to vegetable vendors, your landlord, to your household help-everyone wants your resources and more money than they should get. They don’t just want it, they feel they are entitled to it.
Villagers are innocent: The average villager (supposedly innocent) is more cunning than US’s Ivy league MBAs
You can hire great people: For every one person you hire in India, you should hire 3 backups because you cannot depend on them because of their individual work ethic. Something or the other will happen. Either their relative would ‘die’, or their motorcycle will run into a cow or they will fall ‘urgently sick’. Everything will happen, but work.
India is a holy religious place: Yes, there have been a lot of high caliber saints that have walked this land and there are some great people working on amazing projects at the grassroots level. But these days being religious almost always means going to the temple or doing some offering or doing a ritual. Most people in India don’t even follow basic morals like no cheating or lying. Infact, most saint’s, priests, and ‘God fearing’ mean are the biggest scoundrels. Everything is about money and power. With money, you can buy power and with power, money will roll into you. Why bother with God?
And yes, the movie Swadesh is crap. Don’t fall for it and land in India. You are in for a big surprise. Your contribution here is not valuable, but you are a great NRI scapegoat that they want to milk. This country will make you 10 times less productive and suck the juice out of you.
Ofcourse, working in non-profits and in social services can be great. I had a great time working at Manav Sadhna and found very loving and honorable friends. But the ‘real’ world is quite different..I also had some beautiful experiences with villagers while I walked the Narmada river and the himalayas. They fed me, gave me clothes and shared their home with me.
India is an assault on the senses. Love, hate, politics, compassion, depth, blind beliefs, silence, cacophony, elegance, beauty, open gutters, artistry, shabby work…You experience the apex and the nadir of your own mind. You, inside out.