Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's easy to choose but it's difficult to know what you have chosen

Sometimes very simple things can become suddenly very complex.

I have a Belgian client here who wanted to have an Indian SIM-card with STD-functionality, so that he's able to phone internationally.
So we went to the Airtel shop in Gurgaon to make him "internationally phoneworthy". A clear choice was given to him by the Airtel salesman:
"Or you take a prepaid scheme, or you go for a postpaid scheme."

The question was refreshing simple. We did choose the postpaid scheme. So at the end of every month the invoice would be payed by the company.

Sounds easy, right?
Not in India!

After 3 weeks suddenly the client is not able to phone anymore. He dials Airtel to complain and the gentle young man in the callcenter tells him:
"But Sir, of course you cannot phone anymore."

-- "And why is that?"
"According to our pc, you have an amount which is NOT payed yet!"

-- "Exactly, my friend, I have chosen for a POSTpaid scheme. And I did not receive an invoice yet".
"Yes Sir, but the amount which is due by you is so very high!", the boy says.

-- "Really? That high?". The Belgian now begins to sweat and being scared for the information he's about to receive, mumbles: "How much is it?"
"Sir, your due amount is now over 1200rs!" (= 18 euro)

-- "1200 rupees?", the Belgian asks, "And you cut me off? How can this problem be solved now?"
"Yes sir, 1246 rupees to be very precise. It's almost half of my salary! The only way we can activate your SIM again, is if you come here to DEPOSIT enough money with us. Only then you'll be able to phone again."

-- "So you mean actually exactly what you are telling me?", the Belgian unbelievingly asks, "You really want me to PREPAY 2000 rupees so that I am able to make use of my POSTPAID scheme?".

"Exactly, Sir, you understand it right. You must be a damn clever white guy !"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The manager and the engineer ...

A man in a balloon did loose his way. He lowers his balloon a bit and sees on the groundlevel a woman walking. He shouts at her, she looks up. "Well", he says, "I have promised some friends to join them in about an hour, but now I lost my way. I have not the slightest idea where I am."

The woman shouts back: "You are in a balloon, situated more or less 10 meter above the groundlevel. U are currently between 40 and 41 degrees North and between 59 and 60 degrees West."

"Right", shouts the man back, "You are an engineer, isn't it ?"

"Yes", is the answer of the woman, "How do you know ?"

"Well", the man says, "U gave me a technically perfect explanation, but still I don't know what I have to do with that information. I still haven't the slightest idea where I am myself. If I'm honest to you, then you did not help me a lot and on top of that you even took valuable time from me."

"Oh", the woman sighted, "And you are a manager, I presume ?"

"That's right", the man answers, "How could you make up ?"

"It's very clear". The woman shouts really loud to him now,
"You don't have ANY idea at all where you are.
You don't even know in which direction you need to go.
You have been brought here by a very big mass of air.
You have made a promise about something and you didn't realise at all how to fullfil that promise.
And you expect people who are lower placed as you to solve all your problems.
The reality is that you are still exactly in the same position as you were 5 minutes back, only ... now you have ME to blame."

Monday, August 17, 2009

The most egalitarian path to inequality

Here's a story about two Indian men.

One Dalit-born guy M. Das, has been able to release himself from the chains of his caste. It is noteworthy that he could do that because his father was insisting on a proper education for him.
A second man, Saravanan, was born in the Reddiar caste, a caste of landowners. His father lacked to see the importance of a good education. The result? Saravanan is now a teashop keeper somewhere and cannot visit the town he was born anymore.

Read In the New India, Everyone Is Free to Flourish or Fail.

It always strikes me how much Indian parents value a good education for their kids. Even after people have joined the labourmarket they keep on studying.
What a contrast with the current situation in the western world, were most kids leave school at 18 and never even think about going back for additional courses.

You can easily predict which part of the world will produce the new leaders, as the quality of Indian education will improve over the coming 20 years.
Education is the key ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The best soup in the world !

We recently discovered TAMATAR KA SHORBA, a thin (their words!) tomato based Indian soup. Like all of the Indian dishes brought to taste with a delightful variety of spices.

If you are a souplover like me, you should try this soup sometime if you can get it. It's absolutely the best soup I've ever tasted ! I especially like the one served in the Gurgaon restaurant "Place Solitaire", Old-Delhi Road.
Well, I have to say that sometimes it seems like they don't have enough soup available anymore. Then they add water to the remains. At least in our case, they don't charge for it then. But most often the soup is like it should be there.

I looked up a recipe on the net for the ones who like to cook themselves: you can find it here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A matter of trust ...

Going to the barber is one of the pleasures in India. I only made use of such a service in Belgium 30 years back, but now it would cost you at least 40 euro to have a hair cut and a clean shave there. Even with the amount of hair I carry around.
At my Indian barber the same costs me only 40-50rs (0.8 euro) or so.
There's one thing however which I don't like. In India people prefer to have a light skincolor. So after shaving they usually put some cream on you. But on a white skin it just makes you look like a ghost or a very unhealthy person at least. So I had to stop them using it every time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Longing for rain ...

For my Indian friends, longing for more rain in Northern India: Rain Performance.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Inducting the deduction

Still I'm wrestling a lot with how my Indian employees execute jobs. I still can find that they are having problems with independency, decision-taking and the purposefull design of a "plan-to-act".

Lately I had to think about the old induction-deduction pair of concepts which is used to describe types of (logical) thinking. As always I try to understand the differences between Western and Indian way of thinking.
You can read more about deductive and inductive reasoning in Wikipedia.

So here's another hypothese:

- In Western culture, people are forced to train their DEDUCTIVE thinking. Not only in education itself (where Math is one of the most threatened subjects for almost everyone). But also because of the relative absense of very specific rules of conduct in the broader society. This forces young men and women to first create themselves a mental framework from which they can DEDUCT specific rules about how to behave now and here. In these youth a lot of "testing" and "experimenting" of various behaviour is there.
In other words: they are trained to think from the general (mental framework) towards the practical (specific behaviour). Or: for Westerners, it's the "general mental picture" which is important and the results follow logically out of that general knowledge.

- In India however, young people are trained to use their INDUCTIVE thinking. In a wonderfully complex society like India, many hidden "rules" of conduct are embedded. It's impossible to understand for a Westerner, and as far as I can judge, neither Indians themselves completely understand all the variations, habits and valuesystems that exist in their society.
I've always thought that growing up in the Indian society must take lots of energy from kids, just learning what is "acceptable" behaviour and what is "unacceptable" ... because both are completely situation-bound.
Their memory also must be very well trained. The clever guys and girls will be able to come to a deeper understanding of what they memorise through INDUCTION. They have to reason from the specific (behaviour here and now) to a general framework. Even then the general framework is still only partially valid. I often see Indians themselves be very surprised about some situations and behaviour.

As Westerners we expect Indians to understand our mental picture of what we want, just by "explaining" it to them. This procedure often does not work. Indians are not trained to go from the general to the specific (result).
In one or another way a Westerner needs to use inductive techniques to teach Indians to come to the results he needs.

Failing to understand this difference in thinking will lead both Westerners and Indians to frustration.

In support of my hypothesis I can give this experience:

- In India businessmeetings usually begin with exchanging info about one's background, family, habits, personal interests. This enables Indians to define one's position in society. Sometimes this phase can take quite long. However, having a white face is already a feature that gives Indians the possibility to catalogue you in a specific position very quickly (at least that is what they THINK).

- In the West businessmeetings are very much to the point right from the beginning. Only if this part of the communication is straightforward and results can be reached quickly, only then partners are interested to know more particulars from eachother.

In India the movement is from particulars (personal situation) towards a (business-)framework where both parties can feel comfortable with. In some way you can say that the framework on itself doesn't make sense without a good understanding and matching of the particulars.

In the West the movement is from the ("logical" business-)framework towards the particulars. The particulars only make sense if the framework (mental picture of the businessagreement) is installed and accepted first.

If you think further about this difference in reasoning (induction-deduction) ... then a lot becomes more clear to the Western mind willing to understand "Indians".