Saturday, July 12, 2008

Corporate Vaanar

Although I haven't worked in corporate environments for very much in my professional career, I'd say I've worked in them long enough to know what it is like to be a corporate monkey. Actually, you don't even need to have the experience first-hand since it is captured perfectly in Office Space. But of course, I have never worked in any office setting outside of the US, until this week. I have noticed a few quirky things about Indian corporate life:

A/C 24/7. When you are a white collar worker in India, your life is spent almost exclusively in indoor, air-conditioned rooms. In the last week, I probably got a grand total of 30 minutes of "fresh air" (I use that turn loosely because we're still talking about an Indian metro) . Between my room in the guest house, the car that takes us to and from the office and the office itself, the only times I am outside is the few moments walking into and out of the car to the next A/C-enabled setting. I think in India it's a status thing to have A/C all the time; for me it feels unnatural and affects my health after a while.

Worker dynamics. The team I'm working with is pretty cool. There are eight of us, two of whom are females (which reflects the overall ratio in the office accurately as far as I can tell). Everyone is a pretty good worker. Although I have noticed that people waste time on the web or chit-chat (no chai breaks that I've seen though), they are pretty on the ball. Also the culture is informal in the office, which I am told is not typical for Indian corporate settings. My group seems especially casual. Some people on the team have nicknames. My favorite ones are "Night-ey" (for Nitendra) and "Dude" for our manager, who is probably in his forties. I can't wait for my nickname. English is mostly spoken, but when people are less formal, they revert to Hindi. You get the feeling that people speak English because they feel they must to maintain professionalism.

Food. Eat your heart out Google (no pun intended). Lunch is free at my office, and though not gourmet, it isn't too bad. Roti, daal, two vegetable dishes, and some sort of desert is served daily. It's all vegetarian, but is served every Wednesday as a special treat. A lot of people bring in Tupperwares with food from home as well.

Power Outages. If you've ever been to India, you'll know that the power goes out quite often. When it happens in the office, no one flinches. It's so much a part of life in India that at this point people are probably oblivious. Maybe I'm the only one who even notices. We were sitting in a meeting when the power went out and the room went dark, but people just kept brainstorming.

Bureaucracy. The stereotype is probably that Indian corporate settings are stiff and hierarchical. Indeed, people address their superiors as "sir" and so forth, but I think that in general it's no more bureaucratic than offices in the US I've worked at. Although I did see the machinery in action in one case. I wanted a mouse to use with my laptop, so I email my HR guy to hook it up. He replies back with a cc to my manager, saying that he would need to approve it and get it for me. My manager then forwards that email to some dude named Ishwer and says, "take care of it". Ishwer then passes it on to another dude, and says, "please approve". So my request passed through four people before getting fulfilled. All for a mouse! But in the end I got it, so you can't knock it too much.

Naps. It is acceptable behavior to sleep in the middle of the Indian corporate workday! One of the members on my team told me she sleeps on couches in the middle of a busy corridor on the fourth floor, and there are no repercussions. Then I saw this amazing scene of a bunch of guys passed out on the basement floor of the building. I love how there are no qualms about coworkers sleeping side-by-side on the pad. Phenomenal.


  1. That last picture is priceless!

  2. NAPS? Dude, I've been advocating that for years at my job. Go India for being on the cutting edge.