Tag Archives: Culture

Effects of culture on work practices

I’ve noticed behaviour like this in organizations over the last several years, especially in India (or with those from India working elsewhere)…

Some people don’t respond to a Microsoft Outlook meeting request, especially if there is a conflict or even if they just don’t plan to attend the meeting — Fear of looking bad, or still worse, they don’t want the person who sent the request to feel bad that they aren’t attending his/her meeting!!

(Am sure there are several more examples…will keep adding to this)


Facebook and pedigree

The Nielsen Company has published this report (via Plugged.in) on the usage patterns of online social networking trends in India. Excerpts:

The Nielsen Company recently conducted a survey in India using its online research panel “Your Voice” on the usage patterns of Social Networking websites and found keeping in touch with people they know to be the strongest reason for joining a social networking site for the vast majority of Indian respondents (82%). The Nielsen survey also found over half (58%) joined a social networking site to reconnect with old acquaintances they have lost touch with, and to make new friends (53%). Professional networking was a strong fourth for 43%.


Security reasons were cited by 68 percent of the respondents for using alternate identities on sites. They prefer not to reveal their personal details. 35 percent chose to use an alternate identity “Just for fun”.

What (especially) didn’t work for me about this study…

The survey was conducted amongst 301 people across various age groups starting from 15 years onwards.

When one is drawing usage patterns in online social networking in India, would a sample size of 301 suffice? Sounds rather strange.

Anyways, here’s another interesting observation (about the competition in the social networking space in India) from a cover story about Facebook (registered users only) in India’s leading weekly magazine, Outlook:

Facebook, on the other hand, has a whiff of pedigree, privilege and exclusivity about it, since it was founded by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and was originally restricted to students of Harvard and other Ivy League colleges; an impression strongly reinforced when a study last year concluded that Facebook users tended to be better-educated and wealthier than those on other networking sites. That Facebook comprises a well-heeled crowd that freely shares its consumer tastes means that even if its numbers don’t quite match Orkut’s, it’s by far the most sought-after hunting ground for market researchers and targeted advertising.

Experientially, I’d agree with this strong generalization (about “whiff of pedigree, privilege and exclusivity”). But, I wonder if the origins of Facebook really have much to do with the kind of people who populate the site? I can understand that being an influencer in the US, where it all started, but would that trend spread to far flung countries like India as well?

India, viewed through an American lens

Nothing new (reinforcing several stereotypes, in fact), but nevertheless, still interesting to look at your own country through a different lens. Not able to find a way to give a direct link to specific posts, so here goes a collection of several posts from Jojo’s blog:

PDAs : a big cultural difference

I’ve been waiting to get the right picture to make this post since I first observed it. However, stopping to take pictures of men as they pass me seems to garner some unwanted attention! So this pic will have to do.

In the US when we think of Public Displays of Affection some of us think of slobbering teenagers (or perhaps a certain female friend who shall go unnamed!) making out in public places (bars). It’s quite the opposite here. Couples, even married couples, never touch in public. I have yet to see as much as a hand-holding.

From Wikipedia:
In India, the Supreme Court of India – the seat of the highest authority of the law of the land – has described PDA to be in bad taste and an unacceptable act, which may be considered an act of public nuisance, and sometimes leading to conviction and/or fine from the involved parties.

On the other hand, where in the US some guy friends will actually sit with a seat in between them at a movie, men in India are very affectionate with their friends.
I was at first taken aback by the sight of two men walking holding hands, fingers actually intertwined as well as men with their arms around each other. Our connotations of these behaviors is quite different. In India, homosexuality is still quite taboo, and these are purely gestures of friendship.

Just another cultural difference observation from me to you!

Here’s a hilarious picture illustrating the dangers of bad punctuation (again, courtesy Jojo’s blog):


If you’re not satiated yet, here’s the whole story

Why does Delhi have such wide roads?

Ok. This may be a case of too much “analysis-paralysis”, but let me risk it anyways…

On the scarcity & abundance insight at the TiE event that I posted about last…and this is assuming this theory were true (that Indians have traditionally been oriented towards scarcity more than abundance):

Further clarifying that theme, what is also widely accepted in India is the general “North Indian” and “South Indian” cultural divide (over the recent years, these have been redefined as the West-of-Kanpur and East-of-Kanpur divide).

While there are several generalizations & pre-conceived notions about these two categories, what I’m referring to specifically is the perception of North Indians (those from Delhi, even more so)  being “born-for-business”, people who show-off their wealth, “Live Life King Size” attitude. In other words — an orientation towards Abundance.

Whereas, most South Indians (like me) have been brought up & constantly reminded about how we aren’t “cut for business”…we are the “salaried class”. A majority of our earnings MUST go into savings (to be used only at the time of retirement). Not to show-off one’s wealth. If you got a good job, don’t tell your neighbours until you actually complete your first full week at the new job! And so on. In other words — an orientation towards Scarcity.

So, is it a coincidence that Delhi has the widest of roads and cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai are suffering with narrow roads that are getting narrower, by the day? Also, is it a coincidence that Delhi/Gurgaon seem to have the biggest (really BIG) malls in the country?

I know…this sounds crazy & outlandish at one level. It’s even hard to clearly articulate the innumerable cultural layers that are hidden in the above topic. Nevertheless, it’s just a theory. Who knows…it may actually be true?! 🙂

Buy online to avoid embarassment

Heard about this online startup based out of India (from Plugged.in), ShopImagine. Their claim to fame — “India’s largest luxury lingerie selection”.

Their About Us page says –

“Of all of the complaints that men and women have about buying lingerie, the embarrassment of having to go into a store and buy sexy undergarments that would otherwise be kept private is the number one complaint. At shopimagine.in you can buy babydolls, teddies, camisoles, corsets, bustiers, clubwear, sexy bras and panties in the comfort of your own home at any time of day or night.”

I can understand men having to deal with this embarrassment, but it is rather surprising that women (apparently) feel the same way.

Also, the models used seemed to be all non-Indians and I’m now really curious:

  1. Was this intentional? Or was it more of convenience, as in, using the catalogs of the companies that these guys source from rather than having to organize an exclusive photo-shoot in India with local models?
  2. Does it make a difference to the target audience (both men and women)? Does it influence their purchasing behaviour at all (either ways)?
  3. And, is there an “aspirational” aspect to this at all (like the “Fair & Lovely” phenomena)?


    “Before Mummy finds one”

    A banner ad on Facebook for SimplyMarry.com, a mirror of what’s part of day-to-day life/culture in most parts of India…(I especially like the use of the word “Mummy”)!


    Not just an Ad

    A (chronic) asthmatic senior citizen puts up a full-page Ad by a pharmaceutical company for “World Asthma Day” on her bedroom wall.


    Here’s what it reads…

    “One Indian company has been
    committed to a cause for 30 long years.

    Through untiring research.

    With the world’s widest range
    of inhaled medicines and devices.

    And making these available to all
    across 78 countries.

    The cause is asthma management.
    The company, Cipla.

    World Asthma Day, May 3.”