An Open Letter To Prospective Indian Employer

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NYTimes India Ink carries a lot of nice things. Sometimes though, it does not. As an example, this hectoring “An Open Letter to India’s Graduate Classes” delivered from a position of moral, ethical and overall-I-am-awesome-and-you-are-not superiority. Here is my response.

Dear Prospective Indian employer,

This is your prospective/current employee. We are your Indian workforce,the worker-ants who build the vaunted “brand name”.You make us work 12 hour-work-days day in and day out. Weekends, for you, are just weekdays with different names. You call us at one in the night and if we do not pick up, you write in our annual evaluation “Does not go beyond the call of duty”. Our low hourly rates are the givers of your dividends. We are asked to guarantee our employment by signing bonds while you, as the company, retain the right to fire at will. And finally, we are the ones who are supposed to feel blessed that you have given us the opportunity to build India’s economic might by writing Java code.

Life is good—except that it’s not. Many of us don’t know it yet though. Having freshly graduated, we are kind of naive. Plus that presentation your HR lady gave us during campus recruitment, the one that had taken-off-the-Net stock images of smiling happy white people, was rather impressive. “Growing together with the company”, “work-life-balance”, “family”, “we reward performance” . Nice. We should have been gearing ourselves up for broken promises and unmet expectations but then as we said, we are naive. If we were not, we would put greater faith in “I am a Nigerian widow with 10 million dolllars to give you” emails than in that corporate presentation.

Today, we regret to inform you that you are spoiled. You have been spoiled by the “India growth story”, by an illusion that you can continue to make money by relying on cheap Indian skilled labor forever. You have been spolied by a subservient work-force historically conditioned to tremble in front of authority.You have also, it seems, started believing the PR you peddle. As a great man once said “Never get high on your own supply”. So a bit of detox is needed.

So why this letter, and why should you read on, seeing that I am making gross generalizations about “Indian employers”, affixing stereotypical labels on a heterogeneous group. Well if you can make generalizations, so can we. And we are after all 15-to-20-year olds (or have brains like them), so we are sure we can be excused for a bit of counter-ranting.

Well, because based on collective experience of working for Indian employers, some truths have become apparent. Read on to understand what your employees really want, besides leeching office supplies.

There are five key attributes Indian employees typically seek and, in fact, will value more and more in the future. Unfortunately, these are often lacking in you and your fellow Indian companies.

1. You treat your employees like human beings.

A rather basic requirement really. And yet you are unable to satisfy even this. For starters, kindly get rid of the whole “going above the call of duty” thing. No one should be expected to “stretch yourself to work longer hours”. When a large number of people are expected to work over-time, it means that proper allocation of tasks to resources has not been done. Which means a big fail for you, dear Indian employers. It is not ok to call us while we are having dinner or sitting in the hospital waiting room at one at night. Understand the concept of “work-life” balance. If you cannot, take a good look at “global” employer practices, like those in the US and Europe. There people come at 9, go home at 5 oclock and stay home.

2. You pay your employees on time.

Another rather basic requirement isnt it? Someone works for a month and gets paid at the end of it. Except Indian employers do not exactly believe in that simple, time-tested global model. That’s why we hear of big corporations not providing salaries for months and then deriving positive PR when they actually do settle accounts of the lowest-paid of their workers. A friend recently left a job with another big “Indian employer”. They withheld a few days of her pay. Why? Cause they could.

3. You allow people to ask questions, engage deeply and dissent.

If you want to have your employees be original, encourage that activity. Instead what you do is pat on the back the yes-men, those who pitch in to help when boss’s son gets married or drive him to the airport. If you want “out of the box’performance, first of all come up with a word that is more “out of the box” than “out of the box”. Once that is done, kindly devise a corporate strategy that focuses on innovation. Because you see, if you bid for “by-rote” jobs, then you cannot expect your employees to express themselves creatively while still following “processes”. Not that they don’t do so, performing 80 hours of work in 40 does require a lot of intelligence, focus and brains. But if you want Google and Apple-type employees, change your business model first. Maybe, then perhaps maybe, the employees shall follow.

4. You devote resources to building skill-sets rather than “training”.

Dogs get trained. People develop skill-sets. If you really want “great” employees, and yes our educational system does do a lousy job of making graduates, then why don’t you do things right? Exhibit: A friend who, working for a major Indian IT firm, was kept in “training” for a year. This constituted mostly of sitting in meetings where he stayed silent cause he had only a vague idea of what was going on). For variety, he would be asked to read prescribed books and manuals (ramp-up module was what HR called it). He quit a year later, went to the US, got a Masters and now works at a Silicon Valley start-up “thinking outside the box”. The same dumb kaamchor Indian employee. The benefits of good training, I tell you.

5. You are honest and professional.

If you expect your new employees to be honest and professional, set the standard yourself, dear Indian employer. That means no Satyam Shivam Sunderam, no immigrant visa hera-pheri, no cooking of books, no housing five developers in one single room in New Jersey, and other assorted kindly-adjusts that we know happen. If you want to say “Everyone does it” then don’t single out your employees.

So what can we conclude Indian employers?

We, the Indian employee, do not want to send you a message. After all who are you, Indian employer? You are also, individually, Indian employees. Also a product of the same system, with your strategies and ways of doing business mirroring the system’s faults and limitations.

No problem there. Just stop the sanctimonious finger-pointing claptrap.

Please.

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130 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Prospective Indian Employer

  1. First of all I guess writing an “open letter” is in vogue today. A good pr strategy carried out by ppl with too much time on their hands.I don’t take any high moral ground here like him but knowing him I felt he was a case of an NRI type cribbing about the Indian work culture when he could not fit in the system. Sad actually coming from him. These foren returns making a beeline for motherland when shit hits the fan in US and their heightened sense of entitlement only cos they wrote GMAT and worked abroad.

  2. Instead of saying first, second, third etc, the people that comment here would be better off making some actual useful comments. I appreciate the author’s initiative in this regard to shed some light on this “much talked about yet not really taken any necessary action” issue.

    One thing I would like to add to the list is the propensity of these companies to go for pirate CD’s/DVD’s of even enterprise level software, stuff that requires you to pay license fees for. One of my friends works for a major Indian IT company, supposedly one of the largest service providers in the world and yet they don’t believe in using licensed versions of different enterprise software while providing training. He said they usually brought a few licenses and pirated them for the rest of their systems, at the time of audit they were asked to uninstall/remove the pirated versions of software from their systems only for them to be re-installed later. Inspite of all such happenings, they have the audacity to call their companies as “ethical, honest, insert another BS word here” etc etc.

  3. Also when you send kids over to “onsite” locations base the salaries on performance and not a flat rate that will help them survive but not barely live.

    Esp in New York I see some of these guys living in such conditions. 5 people in a 2 bedroom because of the steep rents. They often car pool and everyone gets stuck till the last guy is ready to leave.

  4. i am on the other side – owner of a small startup and we are struggling to meet the rising expectations of indian graduates. i can agree somewhat with the message of the article even though tone seems too pompous.

    Salary expectations have gone through the roof. Some may say this is demand and supply but the sense of entitlement nowadays is unprecedented. I can proudly say that my company satisfies 4 of the 5 conditions you desire of prospective employers (i accept we have not trained people very well). However, it has been a struggle to retain talent and sometimes you just get the feeling the talent market is over inflated.

    Mind you i am product of the same system but how do you explain a jump in starting pay packages by 3 times in only 8 years.

    Everyone wants to be a strategic consultant without any experience at all and sometimes the quality does not justify the price you pay for these top end graduates.

    That said i object to the overall theme of the article which seems to imply that there is lack of talent. There is a lot of talent in india and sometimes you just have to search harder and ‘dare to think beyond’ top schools and a great man once said ;). There is lot of desire and talent from lesser known places that is just waiting for the right opportunity.

  5. Well said Greatbong.
    While I agreed with the NYT blog a bit on the attitude issues of a newly minted MBA (being one myself and having had the chance to interact with a quite a few) he did go into a sanctimonious rant which a typical “trainer” is known to do. In fact I will not be surprised if the author had Ctrl C Ctrl Ved this article from one of his lectures he must be giving to new joinees at those dime a dozen “induction” programmmes.

  6. You have raised the word ‘rebuttal’ to a new level.
    Seriously , that NY times article was very I-am-holier-than-thou.

    In the end, I liked your conclusion that both the employer and employee is product of same system.

  7. The rut is so widely prevalent that it cannot be described in just one ‘open letter’. The ideology that turned a human being into a ‘resource’ now wants innovative thinking as a trait?

    The culture rots the brains of some very promising young guys by pushing them in the corner and preferring the ‘yes men’ job hoppers who come as a baggage along with a senior professional hired from outside the organization to ‘change the overall lookout’ and to ‘approach the problems differently’.

    Following process, which essentially means filling 300 unique excel sheets prepared by a group of retards and which eventually will never be opened again, is given preference over creative thinking.

    HR imposes ‘dress codes’. They go to the extent of telling us what is suitable to wear and then want creativity.

  8. Good read GB.
    @Dibyo: They are not exactly underpaid. Most of our indian lads who go to ‘onsite’get a bit too desperate to save dollars and send money back home. Same fellows would be living in a similar way in india too. :)

  9. Mr Mohit Chandra laments the lack of creativity, out-of-the-box
    thinking among young Indians. Is this guy serious? In an
    Indian office, if you show those qualities and put up a differing
    viewpoint in front of your superiors, you’ll get torn and ripped apart
    by them for speaking your mind. That’s how it works in India.

    Most of these honchos who talk up a big talk on Business channels,
    while getting a hard-on looking at the anchor babe’s cleavage, are
    basically nothing but the white collar equivalent of the traffickers
    who sell contract labour to the Middle East. They merely sell cheap
    Indian labour to the West while torturing young Indians and paying
    peanuts.

    India has failed its youth since 1947. It has the world’s
    largest young population but no credible institutions to cater to
    their dreams. Apart from 7 IITs with 3000 seats it can’t boast of any
    world class university. Our youth chase the mirage called IIT JEE, 98%
    fail and then become frustrated with their lives. Personally, I also
    failed JEE but went to IIT Kanpur for Maths MSc and then worked at a
    consultancy before coming to USA for my MBA. I’ve seen both Indian and
    American workplaces (Silicon Valley) and to be honest, American bosses
    have been far nicer and kinder to me than the tormentors I suffered in
    India. At least, Americans encourage creativity, IN MY EXPERIENCE. Rather than blaming our young we should blame India’s politicians who always abdicated their responsibilities and never built credible institutions for our youth.

  10. Divyanshu,

    Allow me to interject to disagree. I have had friends working “offsite” for “much respected Indian global software giants” in the US and the money they were given was not sufficient to provide decent accommodation in the expensive city they were posted. They were not being, as you put it, stingy. There is a reason many Indian companies undercut others on fixed-price jobs. They squeeze the employee every which way possible.

  11. And apart from that, Indian young men and women are not risk takers because of the socialist mindset that Nehru and his progeny imposed on India. Rather than preaching socialism to an impoverished country, if Nehru had built many more institutes like IIT instead of spending cash on welfare schemes, today our youth would have been at par with youth in Western and East Asian capitalist economies. Imbibing that garbage, Indians became a risk averse and timid people. Hence there will never be any Indian Steve Jobs. Only crony capitalists who oil politicians’ palms. These problems need to be looked into by Mohit Chandra and his ilk before they blame Indian youth.

  12. @greatbong
    yeah i agree it could be a little difficult to manage in expensive cities like NY since same onsite salary is given across US ,irrespective of the place people are living in.
    what i meant was just because 5 guys stay in an apartment and carpooling doesnt mean they are totally underpaid. it could be their choice too. stingy or austere? is a subjective call. :)

  13. The article is summarized as “Recent grads are spoiled and unambitious, says an Indian manager for a multinational corporation.”

    I can say with reasonable assurance that the point 5 mentioned by greatbong completely applies. Bloated resumes, fake companies …………and the list goes on :)

    In fact, I remember one MNC coming to campus and saying that “everyone will go through a 6 month training program to un-learn what they learnt during Engineering “and that we had really spent 4 years learning nothing. While our education system has flaws of being less practical, deeming it this useless is definitely wrong :( .

  14. Best line is ‘After all who are you, Indian employer? You are also, individually, Indian employees’. Some people who study/have studied outside India feel they are part of some elite society where things are perfect, and they have the right to lecture the rest of the people back in the third world. The tone of the NYT article is so painfully familiar that I had this urge to kick the author in the nuts for a while.
    Very nicely written retort.

  15. The entire discussion here is to be one sided as obviously the ones who would read in numbers are on the “employee” side and the “employer” side would be really under represented.

    Secondly, you are forgetting the fact the employer was once an employee, so has a way to claim he understands that side, but again the employee will never understand what goes on the employer side. I have not taken any side,as yet, but being a very very young entrepreneur so very very close to being an employee and as an employer too, I find the above arguments very very naive and very microscopic.

    The above arguments are drawn by taking very very sporadic incidences of non – payments etc. Treating employees as humans – this treatments are never the design of the employer but actually a fellow employee. The employer has taken enough care to provide you with Medical Insurance, Transport allowance, House rent compensations, Medical expense reimbursements , why you just see the CASH I HAND and CTC ? What makes your cash in hand – the very very human components.

    One thing you guys are confusing – in most cases the employer is also an employee and the cycle goes on till it boils down to the entrepreneur – who can be a craftsman entrepreneur ( man in the same business of skill he has ) , a lala (pure play trader & only playing with trade & market dynamics) or say a partner setup ( consulting companies).

    Why you mistake that the one treating you inhumanly or the HR with an employer ? He is also an employee coming from the same breed as you, just 3~4 years ahead of you ?

    My company is a very small startup and we are people without bounds. totally free – no attendance, no leave counts, no fixed timing, no bonds, no clauses, we give the entire committed bonuses because we believe if you are not worth 100% of your bonus, you are not worthy of staying. I am not markting my company, but pointing that no one starts with being inhuman. When we actually start taking shit from people, we will start to introduce counter measures, and these counter measures will be by employee for employees. Trust me the entrepreneur or the ultimate employer never dictates these. One of my friends in a very highly placed HR consultancy said “most disturbing & distracting activity people find at their work place when they find a colleague who is always on social networks” these are by fellow employees and thus the HR will be bound to make a call on restricting it – either by a stick ( restricting access) or by a carrot ( providing perks for better results). Now which one should he choose ? Whichever achieves the goal – eventually boiling down to the maturity of the people. Unfortunately,in India, at mass Sticks work better than carrot. This is not a comment or a judgement just a fact.

    The above points are very very meaningless cribs in front of the entire beauty an entrepreneur creates more so underlines the fact the very limited practical understanding/exposure. No where in the world just college degrees get you jobs, skills and experience does. Just compare the average experience of an Indian Graduate vs. any graduate in any other country. They sell soda water from year 10 of their lives.

    I am not justifying anything here, i am just trying to bring the perspective on an employer. The above mail very trivializes the entire point the other guy was trying to make.

    and last of my personal comment : sorry, you (Fresh graduates) never built a brand. You only joined companies once it was a brand. How many of you work join unknown companies / startups from campus and stick around till its a brand ?

  16. Kudos ! You have hit the nail right on the head. ” Creativity” and “Innovation” have been abused like anything – You are perfectly right when you say that the process-oriented roles that constitute bulk of the service sector jobs need creativity and innovation of a different kind. Also, in US or the European society, with its high standard of living and a social security net, it is much easier for a student to expand and examine his / her creative horizons. In a society like ours, where each job ( and hence chances of bettering one’s lives) has hundreds, if not thousands of applicants, where’s the luxury of self – discovery?

  17. I dont think this ‘issue’ , if i may so call it, is ONLY because of an Employer or an Employee. as an employee if those are our expectations, then we shouldn’t shy away from the fact that,we also dont do a thing about it. we talk about ‘learning skills’, but when we see a colleague switching job for a better pay, then all we do is hop onto that opportunity. we talk about work life balance, but we can still find many employees sitting back late just because they dont have anything to do after going home……we talk about professionalism, but all we do is compare salary hikes and take is as a weapon against employers……i knw many people reading this will not like my comment..but cant disagree with me either….

  18. When I read the NYT article, I could sense author’s deep frustration – not with “employees” but rather with his own failures. Except for the resume part, the rest were just BS. But this resume thing is not unique to Indians – it’s a global phenomenon and that some global peers are quite “creative” in that respect.

  19. ‘new economy’ employees need to recognise that theyre not very different from daily wage earners, and hence having a sense of entitlement to anything beyond the agreed salary is utter nonsense. in a country infested with graduates, employees should be grateful they even have a job. making comparisons to employers in the developed world – be it pay package or work culture – is plain stupid. these economies have grown to a point where employers could afford to be a bit ‘socialist’.. not anymore. layoffs, pay cuts, unpaid internships etc are now the norm. whats more, its precisely bcoz they cant pay the equivalent of 20-25 lakhs to a local anymore that theyve outsourced the job to India for a graduate to do it at 2 lakhs. meeting your expectations would sooner or later result in outsourcing work out of India. Graduates can then turn to farming.

  20. Employers, employees, you all suck. Call back once the market has tanked and you carry 1000 INR bills in suitcases to buy a loaf of adulterated bread.

  21. Considering that India has the highest number of private management and education institutes in the world there is definitely a mass churning out of graduates & post graduates.

    As a result we are bound to face a crunch on employees who meet the requirement for modern day, globally aligned businesses and there will definitely be a disconnect between what is expected and what you get as inherent skill sets in an employee.

    A smart company calls a spade a spade and develops the correct skill sets in their employees, instead of expecting returns from their employees from day 1. The rest crib.

    Changing lifestyle expectations are also creating unreal expectations among the educated youth, as what matters to them today is not the profile of the work they are doing, or their long term career prospects, but the starting package they are offered.

    I recruited recently from a leading management institute, and the coordinator had this to say… “The students are OK with any profile or role, as long as they take home X amount every month”. What kind of logic is that?

    Bottomline is this. Whether it is employees with unreal expectations or exploitative employees, it all boils down to one thing. Money. Everyone wants to earn huge sums of it… fast. This argument of employer v’s employee starts and stops with just that.

    Unfortunately this is the reality in todays India.

  22. @saikat: Right. And the reason everyone is insanely running after money is: “quantitative easing” + FDI = hyperinflation. GoI has officially declared that they are not interested in tracking realistic cost of living index and inflation numbers (which, for the middle class, must include real estate). The largest chunk of black money is parked in real estate. To organize a ghetto with a 10×12 f**kbox bedroom, a 23 year old must pay out 35 lakhs in any metropolis. What else can they do? Write poetry?

  23. @tp
    Agree with you on all fronts… Today’s life is a constant struggle as to how to survive inflation, basic costs of living and arbit 10% hikes in prices of petrol.

    The funny thing is that the Govt. is involved in every problem we face. Grain banks are overflowing, yet food inflation is on the rise. Petrol prices are deregulated and jumping upwards, but a huge chunk of the cost we pay is government taxes. There is a parallel economy that drives costs upward, and all the the government does is to present ‘white’ papers on ‘black’ money.

    The GOI is stuck in policy paralysis and cartoon politics and is least bothered about the middle class… (the section of the society that provides the largest portion of direct taxes) ‘coz they are educated and not dependable vote banks.

    In such a scenario, I guess you cannot fault the youth for expecting higher remuneration. You cannot fault businesses for wanting maximum ROI either.

    Question is if we were to start finding a solution to this issue… which is the chicken and which is the egg? Or is the problem the frying pan in which both are being cooked?

  24. Thank god i am in a govt job.
    But again,it does not pay you truckloads of money.
    GB,you forgot to write about the competitive atmosphere that festers in most MNC’s besides yesmanship.

  25. Haha! So in-your-face response!

    I really liked your points which were very basic and taken very lightly by most of the Indian firms. Today itself, spoke to two friends employed at an American based bank in Delhi who are still working (on a Saturday, at 3pm and beyond). Its pathetic to see how firms in India think they can squeeze juices as much as they can from cheap Indian “labor” and still have this I-am-royalty attitude. Plus that moron KPMG guy was talking outta his ass. Seemed frustrated and sadistic.

    After working in three continents and interacting with 2 different companies, I can firmly say that Indian bosses take their employees for granted way-too-much. Actually, they don’t even think that employees deserve to go back home and have a life just coz they “give” us money!
    There is also a group of people (like me) who got so frustrated with this industry crap that they quit altogether and moved into teaching, research and non-profit work. Less money, more peace.

    Keep on writing! Good luck.

  26. Job hopping was mentioned in the original article, and I believe people aren’t really thinking this through. A person earning say 4 lakhs from company X moves to company Y because Y offers him 7 lakhs.

    The real question is, why can’t X just pay him 7 lakhs? Bear in mind, when the person moves out and the company has to replace him, they will have to pay thay guy something around 7 lakhs anyway, otherwise he won’t come. This question also applies to Y – instead of hiring somebody from outside for 7 lakhs, why can’t they give an existing employee 7 lakhs?

    This is the crux of the problem – companies have absolutely no loyalty to existing employees when it comes to giving hikes. So why would you expect the employees to have a one-sided loyalty to such employers (ie the entire IT services industry) when the employers will never reciprocate?

    There are very few reasons an employee would want to remain in her own company if another pays her more – those reasons are if she has a good rep in the company, or if the company helps her grow. But in reality, at every turn a lateral joinee would end up doing better than her except when we’re talking about upper management.

  27. I think you missed one of the bigger points – the CTC and in-hand fraud. When you say you are paying me 20l CTC, it shouldn’t somehow become an in-hand of 7-8l.

  28. Also I think some one of the problems with over time lie with employees as well. When I was working in HK, there were only few desi guys who used to work late in the night, and also some time come on weekends. They were really setting a bad precedent.

  29. Had mistake been on one side only , this argument wouldn’t have started. It’s a fact there cannot be a panacea to these problems. At most we can reach a grey equilibrium area , after which there will a fight too. This is human nature, fighting till the last shred , just unable to let go for a second and feel actually content. Only possible ‘thingish’ is both try to mend ways and become as compatible as possible.

  30. Okay, the rant .. it is not a rant at all .. I know this as a fact by personal experience and that of my friends .. And I agree to everything in the letter .. including the last few lines, it is not your manager who is to be blamed .. it is the guy above him .. It is that guy squeezing your manager’s balls to squeeze your balls off .. and there lies the cue .. If you resist the squeeze, your manager gets his balls busted and he is out of the way .. So there is only one way to do it .. Collective resistance .. But then that does not happen, does it ? There will always be a mole a chicken .. one with his fingers in the managers honeypot, and pleasures himself and the manager ! Now that is a rant !

  31. Nicely done GB.
    As a side note, I found a few writing errors and clichés in the honorable Mohit Chandra’s paragraph about how employees need better English skills. The whole article seems written in MBA language, and translating it to English might shrink it by half.

  32. Superb letter.

    Even when it is a public holiday/approved leave you are expected to mention your cell number in your OOO.

    and if you ask questions your boss might take it personally and screw your appraisals

  33. Nice reply Great Bong. Like someone has mentioned, the work-culture in India is horribly skewed in favour of the employer. And you know what the scary part is? Indian MNCs are actually trying to spread this culture abroad as well.

    Some people might remember this, a few months back, a very big industrialist (who just got retired ) himself blamed the British people for not having a work-culture (in relation to a famous British carmaker recently acquired by the Indian group). What work-culture was he blaming? That the British don`t take work-related calls on mobile and that they actually have a life.

    Frankly, no respect for human capital in Indian companies.

  34. dada, on a seperate note, how about a post on the IPL and KKR’s performance. The IPL posts and analysis seem to be missing this year for some reason.

  35. Mohit chandra came to India when the recession struck in USA, did not fit in here, went running back after doing almost nothing in India and suddenly developed deep insights about Indian employees presented in NYT neatly in 5 points…nothing personal but the article coming from him is such a huge pack of cliches..he has some valid points but then each issue he raises is from a foren angle.. Definitely raises his profile without doing any actual work..

  36. @liberalcynic. LOL. Well said. MBA jargon is the bane of our existence today.

    I know loads of people who use the logic – if you have a weak point to make, dress it up in jargon and appear to know more than you do. It is an evolution from the erstwhile ‘etc.’ except that it sounds much more grand.

    Also while the ‘Original Author’ comments on ‘English’ skills being poor, that is very subjective. Is he judging from the ‘American’ version of English, which eats up half the letters and ‘izes’ everything? Or is it the propah ‘English’ English, that the Brits have left behind?

    Or is it, as I have seen a lot of ‘phoren return MBAs’ speak, a transatlantic version, with a mix of British and American English – held together by a distinct Indian flavour?

  37. many engineers are jobless coz they cant google effectively due to their poor english.

    secondly, the apathy of the govt towards everything is main cause.

    Thirdly,in some cases, communist instigate them to hate “less than great employers”.

  38. Ironically, this “open letter” only reaffirms the points laid out in the NYT article – that the new breed doesn’t take on responsibility for THEIR own careers and THEIR own professional development. Yes, Indian managers are chronically short-sighted and irritatingly selfish, but it’s not the managers’ careers we are talking about.

    Just because your boss is a bumbling buffoon doesn’t mean you get a free pass to be an incompetent jackass. The onus is still on you to take the initiative and stand up to higher management if they are doing something not quite right – and that includes how they treat you. That’s why you were hired. That’s how you will make a name for yourself. Writing “open letters” that only reinforce the stereotype won’t take you to the CEO position, while doing something about your grievances just might.

    It’s sad that we expect to be treated like princes and princesses without putting in the effort towards it. Sure, 9-to-5 would be good, but if you can’t properly finish the job by 5 and won’t ask for help before it, then don’t blame me for waking you up at 1 at night, because I am the one who has to face the music in front of my client at 8:30 in the morning while you come leisurely strolling in at 10.

  39. When I read the original piece, I was quite impressed and thought at each point,”That is so damn true.” I am about to graduate from one of our beautiful engineering colleges (decent mid-tier according to the reputation, at least) and have opted for an education abroad because I have felt so let down and disappointed by the quality of the “education” that we have received over four years.

    This, however, strikes me as a highly defensive article dished out because we Indians simply cannot take any sort of criticism directed towards us without trying to explain ourselves. Forget that, people were even offended by a recent English movie that showed Kolkatan slums (as an important plot point, mind you).

    Why are we, as a society, so defensive? Why can’t we simply suck it up and admit our shortcomings? This article is another example of a terribly defensive statement that looks to appease people – in this case the recent graduates. Sure, it’s not THEIR fault that they’re naive and have no idea about how the world works. Let’s just tell them that it is all the fault of their employers, the quality of the training and the company’s “business model.” It’s not like our graduates have to independently build their own skill sets.

    This article makes no sense. Instead of a response to a well thought out piece, it actually reads like a bunch of complaints about the work culture here. Remember, the original piece wasn’t about the work culture. It was about the severe deficiencies in the quality of our new graduates. This piece does nothing to address that.

  40. The guy is being a sissy. It’s a free market, compete for the talent which is there…

    1. Well it’s a problem with the hiring partner/employer if they are giving a raise to someone who is a job hopper and does not have any incremental ability or so called skill set. It is the employers who started this. All of us know of instances were laterals and even freshers are hired at salaries higher than that of the existing employees. How do you justify that? Was this also started by employees!!

    2. On the point about putting in the extra hours: Let’s be fair. How many organizations are willing to give comp-off or overtime when employees work on Sat and even Sundays specially true for firms like KPMG. Can you do this is US? You are able to get away with this only in India and some of the other developing countries. SO let’s not preach ethics.

    PS: The job offer’s are made in consultation with the partners @KPMG.

  41. Abhinav Agarwal, you make really good points, in my opinion. A lot of people seem to be thinking that GreatBong’s article is a “retort” to the original. I do not know what his original intention was, but to me it looks like an explanation of the original. I generally agree with the views presented in Mohit’s article, and GreatBong’s article merely provides the reasons for the same (even though the intention may not have been that). Also, keep in mind, that these views are based on the perception of the “average” – there will always be ample number of exceptions but that is not the point of these kinds of articles.

  42. IT is stagnating and innovations are not taking place in india.
    Risk free loans to top tech architects for entreprenuership can help.

  43. Dear Angry Engineer,

    Given that you are yet to graduate, I assume that you have never held a job with the Indian employers that the posts talk about. So as a first, you lose the right to say “That is so damn true”.

    Next, I have a degree from a mid-tier Indian university and have worked for 1.5 years in a consulting firm and 2.5 years in a non-profit org in India.
    I am now pursuing my graduate studies at another mid-tier university in the US and have interned with some of the top employers in the US. Did my graduate studies in US equip me any better with the “skills” required at work? NO. But did I perform better at my work in the US? an unequivocal YES. And the reason is my employer took charge of me, had a resource whom I can turn to when I had questions, and never made me feel like an “intern” in meeting rooms. Which means I was free to criticize his/her work without the fear of being given shitty work for the rest of my days as an intern.

    Next, if the companies want new graduates with better skills, the companies have to “invest” in the education system. Once you go abroad for your education you will see how private firms invest in research and take an active part in the graduate education system. They provide internships that pay well, train the interns and absorb them into the workforce. Indian employers want it easy and cheap. They get it that way.

    Let me tell you one thing, most graduates do not start their work with the aim of “maroing fraud”. Look around you for evidence. Everyone wants to make it big and learn as much as possible. The problem is when companies come and promise an “analytics” job with a high CTC. Which in reality is all about learning excel short keys, formatting powerpoint presentations and a bank balance that does not reflect the pre-placement CTC. Graduates then have all the right to look for another job that promises a higher CTC!

    Lastly, good luck finding answers to why we as a society are so defensive and all other existential questions.

  44. Very entertaining read I must say.
    Who does’nt like when someone sticks it to these high-handed know it all NRI’s.But I suspect both parties i.e. employees and employers need to introspect a bit because the truth is somewhere in the middle in both the arguments.Frankly the entire equation works becuase in a way both parties know what they are gonna get from each other.I suspect if these companies really wanted whatever this guy has listed from indian employees,they could make sure by sensitizing the academia of their requirements.The truth i think is employers want employees to be fungible rather than maximally productive.

  45. GB, maybe you should give this guy a break. Instead of holier-than-thou attitude he seems to be a byproduct of sycophants making him believe he has some “golden nuggets” he must share with everyone. When I was reading his original article it reminded me of another guy (of kawasaki variety) who seems to suffer from the same “understanding” that people are complete idiots and must be taught which side of shirt needs to be outside.

    Any thoughts on SRK/KKR win tonight?

  46. Tanmay Kumar,

    If the people under you cannot finish the work, as a manager, it is your responsibility. You should be the one pushing late hours to cover your goof-up, not calling your underlings up. That’s why you are the manager and get paid more than those below you.

    I know why you call you underlings at odd-hours cause as a manager you have no friggin clue as to what’s going on, busy as you are in yourself strolling in at 10 yourself and watching emm….spreadsheets during billed hours.

    If your underlings are lazy, fire them. If they are incompetent, fire them AND fire your talent acquisition team. That team of course includes you. Not surprising that since you have not the foggiest idea of your project or of the skill sets required to successfully execute a project.

    Whatever be the reasons as to why you cannot finish your project on time, you have no right to disturb them on their time. This may be a difficult concept for Indian managers with their feudal mindsets to understand but that’s just the way things are.

  47. “You speak and write English fluently”

    Its true. some boards like WBCHSE does nothing to improve the english.
    Students should overcome it. there are free resources on net like google dictionary chrome extension, vocabulary.com, english-attack.com etc.

  48. GB, outstanding rebuttal and an enjoyable read to boot!

    The letter by “a partner with KPMG” apart from being condescending was stale, without action plans, just motherhood statements! We know that many of us need to improve, but that improvement would take working together & setting a personal example rather than dishing out lectures!

    I’m going to take the liberty of sharing herewith a few pertinent experiences of Bosses, the representatives of employers. (These are the exceptions, I’ve worked with some excellent people generally):

    1) “Do EXACTLY as I say”: He’ll dictate verbatim the contents & layout of each slide of ‘your’ presentation, ‘your’ feedback after interviewing a candidate, ‘your’ letter to a customer, etc. without ever explaining his rationale. Woebegone if you try to get in one original thought in your work, the boss will yell at you, at a 100 Db in public, intermittently all day long.

    I had a tough time handling this control freak. After initial abuse, I first won the boss’ confidence with complete ‘yes’manship and then trained myself to understand both the audience & guess the boss’ thoughts. Thereafter I started presenting work exactly as desired AND an alternate. Frequently my alternate or points thereof were accepted in the final work.
    There was a dual compromise here, firstly personal degradation & secondly twice the work for the same results. It’s worth it ONLY if the organization is outstanding and the boss is an aberration, who is likely to be eased out soon. Else it makes sense to talk with a senior HR person / boss’ colleagues / boss’ boss. Do have an alternate job handy though, before the chat.

    2) “You don’t know anything. Are you really a graduate / engineer / management …?”:
    Personally attacking you / your knowledge rather than work is a common tactic employed by Indian bosses to break a person’s self esteem & ensure subservience. It works with people of all ages and our love of authority helps. The ubiquitousness of such bosses means you cannot run, you have to bow down or get up and fight.

    I initially tried to pacify one such, by pretending to agree with his sarcastic comments, hoping to play along till I won his trust & respect. MISTAKE! He already trusted me & intended to NEVER respect me! Then, I chose to fight back, swallowed the continual humiliation & frustration and boned up on the immediate subject like the meeting topic, tenders, MOMs, project reports, chats with colleagues & boss’ colleagues etc. to establish a sustainable knowledge edge. I slowly started pointing out ‘areas of improvement’ / alternatives, in private & very occasionally in public, very politely, obsequiously infact, but making the point nevertheless.

    The boss is now gone, but the lessons remain.

    Cheers.

  49. Thanks for the response. Mohit Chandra is a piece of Jack$hit-in-the-Box, making it to a BA from Doon School and then a tier 2 Business School in the US. His english is probably good, Doon school and all that thanks to the money saved up by his forefathers. But this is where India is, and all these reports of India Shining came from KPMG, Frost and Sullivan and the likes. We have a bad education system, it is changing for the better, but it is a slow process, and Bollywood/IPL is not helping the cause.

    NO amount of asking the right questions, or pointing to the obvious oversight of today’s Indian bosses will get as far as a good deal of boot-licking and a$$ kissing will.

    The SoB Mohit Chandra can clam his piehole, for all the powerpoint training and documentation expertise we build, we lose our creativity doing the mundane job of repeating ourselves in a document. This may be a necessity, but do not complain that you have trained someone in “Documentation”.

    The cause we have an inflated salary market is not our fault, and neither is the inflation in cost of petrol and commodities. We are just like Mohit Chandra, only starting our careers in a more competitive environment. As for Jugaad,that is the basis of the Indian innovation system. Do it cheap, as long as it works – albeit for the time being.

    KPMG is not a great company by any ethical standards, and the oldies controlling the money are not altruistic to spare money for training of youngsters. They are only interested in pulling as much as they can for their retirement fund – Jugaading their way to their grand send-off.

    And NYT – can sometimes publish the saddest oh-so-spiteful articles from wannabees!!!

  50. @ Tanmay Kumar.

    I myself reported to a CEO, in a Tata Group company. One of the HR guys, a relatively junior person, at the assistant manager level, stood up to the CEO. I don’t recall the issue, but the peson offered to resign if needed, the matter escalated, the CEO (as usual) raised his voice, the employee kept his calm and stood his ground. The CEO, accepted his resignation, but instead of the usual three month notice period, relieved the HR guy, on the same evening, WITHOUT his three months’ notice pay, because the employee has voluntarily resigned, and not asked to leave!

    The particular CEO, was relieved in a couple of years, for ‘financial misdemeanours’, till then I cannot tell you how many employees’ careers, family lives & health he had permanently ruined.

    “if you can’t properly finish the job by 5 and won’t ask for help before it, then don’t blame me for waking you up at 1 at night, because I am the one who has to face the music in front of my client at 8:30 in the morning while you come leisurely strolling in at 10″

    First off, I frequently find that bosses come late, subordinates early, so am very surprised by your comment. Would request others to share their experience in this regards, in terms of uniqueness of my perspective. Secondly, if someone is unable to finish his work by 5 PM is there any specific reason you can’t call him at 6 PM or 7 PM, is there anything especially auspicious about 1 AM.
    I had a boss who liked to call at around 9 PM, to discuss matters, which he wanted to discuss the next day! I have rarely found a person call me after office hours to discuss any issue on which they are going to take decisions. I have often found that decisive bosses, freqeuntly take decisions between 9 to 5, those that like to spend their time in meetings, especially committee meetings, call in the night.

  51. whats really sickening is that the guys who work for organizations like PwC, KPMG, E&Y, Deloitte, etc take the mantle for ethics and morales. the very guys responsible for all the financial frauds preach the values of “honesty, integrity and professionalism”. i would pick a Bulla anyday over these jokers, since “woh rakhtaa hai khulla!”. Mr. Chandra, all i can say is that “jinke ghar sheeshe ke bane hote hai, woh doosron ke ghar pe patthar nahi phenka karate!”. and i agree to what you have written Great Bong.

  52. By way of background, I worked several years for GE and now work for a well known consulting firm-total 33 years experience. I have built up teams in India and my perspective is that both points of view have merit. What I find distressing is the short term focus on compensation as a driver of career choices. If I can’t count on a kid sticking around, why should I invest in that kid? It took me 7 years of apprenticeship as an engineer to become capable of independent design and systems engineering at GE. My mentors had set my expectations, and I put in the time- and I was rewarded ultimately.
    On the other hand, many of the Indian IT firms sell only lower cost as their key value add. When you run a commodity business based on people, its not surprising that people development issues are not top of mind.

  53. EngineerBong,

    If the company is absolutely fine with laying off the “kid” when his skill-sets no longer align with their strategic direction (standard HR sophistry), why should the kid be not fine doing the same thing to the company?

  54. I completely agree- what Jack Welch taught us at GE- if the company isn’t meeting your needs- please leave and go do better for yourself elsewhere.

    I have an oral contract with my current reports- if you find something better elsewhere- at least tell me where we are deficient so we can try and address- but meanwhile, if you can get a better gig- god bless.

    I am proud of the fact that my key guys and I have worked together >15 years

  55. Wholeheartedly agree with Arnab on this. Its true that some of the issues raised by Mohit Chandra are very real, but what he has actually done is a totally OTT nautanki.
    @Siddhrath Goyal: You’ll agree that you guys are still operating in a buyers’ market, where you can dictate the terms, get the employees to sign bonds etc. etc. At the same time, you can ask him to leave at that very moment. If you don’t show any loyalty to the employees, how do you expect the employees to be loyal to you? Please note that its not a personal statement directed at you, rather a generalized (although to a lesser extent than that of Mohit Chandra) statement on Indian employers as a whole. Of course, the same cannot be said about all employers. But then, your assertion is also not applicable to all employees. Am I right?

  56. It also seems to me this allegation of being devoid of “thirst for knowledge”, etc etc roots into something deeper. He has pointed a finger at our educational system, which has systematically infused a culture of hierarchical thinking. At the graduate level (Im familiar with B Schools) both the admission process and the educational programs are focused on “screening out good students and handing them over to better paying companies” rather than infusing curiosity, interest, and value addition through training. Apples don’t grow rotten on a tree. If we are getting rotten ones from a barrel, it may have something to do with the barrel.

  57. I think some of the commenters have missed one of GB’s main points—the employee Chandra complained about and the employer GB complained about are both products of the Indian system.

    When employers punish dissent and treat employees as sub-human, you’ll have employees who are unimaginative and servile and with minimum skill.

    Chandra sanctimonious derided Indian employees—that is the problem.

  58. if mohit chandra and his firm don’t like the work methods of the indian graduates, then why do they hire them and type open letters later.

  59. It is the Indian system that promotes this sycophancy. It is not right to blame either the employer or the employee as in most cases the ‘employer’ is also part of the ‘system’.

    Right at the top of this ‘system’ is a person who drives this style of thinking and working. A person who can only be described as a ‘lala’. They might vary in their levels of sophistication, but the fact is their thinking is the same. A ‘dukandar’ will always be a ‘dukandar’ whether he drives a Maruti 800 or a Mercedes ‘S’ class. And their life revolves around paisa vasool, so they only look at what return on investment a resources brings on. Employees are not humans with feelings, they are investments that are expected to give returns. What respect or fairness can one expect in such an organization?

    Also while it is right to point out lacunae in the ‘company’ side of things, it is worthwhile to note that the very same employees who would crib at being asked to work on a Saturday, are the first to do the same to their subordinates.

    The reason they do it is that they can! Indian work culture today, is about demanding respect for your position, not commanding it. The professionalism and work ethic that one comes across in developed countries is sorely lacking here.

  60. It’s difficult to even motivate yourself to write this long a reply to a whiny, mediocre, logically challenged article. But then, not that Mohit Chandra has to make stuff that actually works for a living.

  61. In the effort to get one up on Mohit Chandra, GB has resorted to tired Y2K-era stereotypes of Indian IT firms. I’d advice him to talk to someone working in the US today (as opposed to ‘friends’ who worked for these firms when he was in college, their convenient vehicle to the Green Cards, no doubt…:-)) for one of these firms (and btw, the word is ‘onsite’, not ‘offsite’).

  62. “Five developers in one single room in New Jersey”….in 2012? Really????
    Are these ‘friends’ of yours the ones with the hotel management degrees from a certain state in India whose marriages are on hold till they get H1Bs through some Gujarati bodyshopper whose side business is an Indian grocery in NJ?
    Please don’t tar global organizations with the same brush as fly-by-night operators which were used by thousands of “software engineers” about the time you moved to the US.

  63. Love the fact that the rebuttal does nothing to counter the arguments made by the open letter. So, I think we can assume that you agree with the problems the open letter highlights. And that you have no problems with the core of what that letter demands.

    And, even though you may not like the idea of the author being so pedantic and holier-than-thou, you have chosen the same higher pedestal, eh? :-)

    Oops – I forgot! Its in vogue to be writing about stuff that’s in vogue. *ducks*

  64. I have personally seen employees leaving the job together to teach the boss a lesson ! They forget the good things and got angry over firing of a dumb colleague.

  65. @Shubs, seems you are from a different plane altogether. And, why only “Indian” companies? A friend of mine, who currently works for a F500 IT Product MNC, had a similar tale to share. His previous employer, another F500 Product MNC, decided to withhold US$ 4,000, which was due to be paid to him as allowance for an onsite job. We are damn sure that the company would never have done something similar in a developed market. But, in India, they chose to be Indian!
    This guy, Chandra, is clearly trying to be in the limelight after his botched up stint in India. That’s all.

  66. Arnab: The points you’ve raised are valid however the kind of employers you are talking about are probably the major Indian services companies. There are quite a few companies (both Indian and MNC) that are not in services and do not treat their employees like bodies that can be interchanged as needed. I work for one such company and interact with dozens of young people every month and get pained by the entitlement mentality they seem to have acquired off late. I strongly feel that the points raised in the NYT op-ed are valid and need to be seriously looked at for longevity and health of the Indian IT industry.

    Rahul.

  67. @ Rahul,
    In my travels through a few countries beyond India’s borders, the latter being where I live and work, I had & continue to have, the opportunity to interact with various professionals, frequently mechanical & electrical engineers.

    In the UK, China, Germany & US, I found that engineers love their work, they get excited by the design, manufacture, performance etc. of various equipment / machinery, regardless of their salary or designation. I also found, especially in the UK, that there is little difference in the standarf of living of an Engineer with around 5 years experience and 15 years experience, both drove reasonable cars, wore reasonable clothes, ate at the same places, I did not get to visit anyone’s house though. I found older engineers (in their late 50s perhaps) very happy being engineers, for their entire careers and loving every moment of it!

    Similarly, there are people in these countries, who I presume, would choose other professions, like medicine, law, hair dressing, folding clothes at a Walmart or cleaning up at a McDonalds.

    I would assume there is a difference in the drive & passion and love for their work among the above described people.

    Further I suspect, that a lot of Indians in India, would like to have a simple 9 to 5 job, with both partners working to make ends meet, like their counterparts in the West perhaps from the ranks of the clothes folders described above. While the Western & maybe even Chinese thus engaged, can reasonably expect over a period of time, to have a small house in the suburbs, a small car and children going to school & eventually perhaps one or two children even going to college, till very recently Indians in India had to pursue engineering or medicine to achieve the above.

    Hence, many of our engineers and even graduates, may have different expectations from life and work, different triggers of curiosity, maybe the reasons for Shahrukh Khan’s recent outburst are more exciting than the reasons for the high level of inventory being seen on the Balance Sheet and yes I would expect such people to be more subservient than say the engineer offspring of an IIT trained engineer or a doctor of repute.

    Thus, without justifying the behaviour / sense of entitlement of new employees, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the possibility, that some if not many, of these people would rather be doing intellectually less stimulating & emotionally less engaging jobs, given an economically viable option.

  68. @Argumentative Indian: Although you make a valid point, I don’t think it is the relevant one for this debate. The op-ed author is not discussing the reasons of why the new joinees are not good, he is just making a point that they are not and it is not good for the industry. If these guys are not interested in a high tech field and are joining just because there is no other job which fulfils their financial needs – thats a different point.

  69. If the original article is condescending , GBs rebuttal is a fine example of the classic Indian knee-jerk reaction to anything that is mildly critical of “our way of doing things”.Probably GB has never really worked in India and all his opinions are based on hearsay. Its true most of the middle management in Indian companies ( even the higly respected ‘India shining’ types) tend to treat their employees as slaves but it is only because employees themselves out of their own volition chose to be part of a system where the very purpose of their existence can be defined by their appraisal letter.Its the herd mentality which is the root of the problem.For 5 years I used to work with a major Indian company with a special obsession for the phrase ‘Code of Conduct’ (No points for guessing).It had fantastic HR policies on paper , yet when certain employees were feeling exploited on a routine basis by a particular manager nobody had the guts to take up the matter with HR.Why?Bacause he would screw up your appraisal. Nobody understood that if you had a valid case and raised the issue with top HR , you had a good chance of screwing up his appraisal.” You treat your employees like human beings” Good point, but for that to happen employees have to realize that they are humans. Only cows and sheep look good in herds. Human beings are supposed to be inviduals with their own unique thought process and ability to analyse things. Realize that and the world will be forced to respect you.The managers are products of the same system that produced the employees.Since we have accepted the heirachy of ass-kissing as the natural way fo doing things ,then atleast we can stop whining. In a country where 25-30 year olds , an age-group which in a different time and age used to lead revolutions , so readily accepts the status-quo, well this what you get my friend.

  70. Who gave the guy – MC, the right to represent everybody – “We are an Indian company, a bank, a consulting firm, a multinational corporation, a public sector utility and everything in between.” Don’t think working at a consulting firm makes him supersmart a$$#0le. Just ignore him, is the best way.

  71. @Shovon, the scale of sweeping generalizations in this forum amazes me. The preposterous assumption that people who work for Indian IT majors are brain-dead automatons without any drive in life or sense of self is not only offensive, but it also shows the herd mentality of people who turn instant critics of a system they know very little about or were associated with for fleeting periods.
    Percentage of repeat business for the top four Indian IT services companies stand in the mid 90s. I’m sure their Fortune 500 customers are just suckers for punishment, going back again and again to the same bastards with their cheap, clueless, brain-dead employees scheming and conning them out of their millions year after year, just because they are so cheap, right?

    Which ‘plane’ are you from?

    As one of these brain dead automatons, I work with, compete with, collaborate with MANY of the global (yes GB, the ‘real’ Global Companies, you know, the ones with the ‘correct’ demographies; I guess you need to do something ‘special’ besides having a presence in 56 countries over 5 continents and have a 20% local workforce to get THAT honor) organizations that you’re so enamoured of. If you care to take me at my word, the difference between the way we think, the way we approach our work, the degree of our dedication to what we do? Zilch.
    They do wear better suits though.

    Some of GB’s points are valid. Some are dated. And some are outright stereotypical. Like the Rediff messageboard commentators who go, “you guys are all slaves because you don’t make products, and because I got only a 5% hike”.

  72. I always find Comments arguments entertaining, especially this one, where each individual seems intent on proving how his role (Employer/Employee) is right in some fashion or the other, i haven’t been either hence i don’t know enough to add my two pence for either side, but I’m sure of the fact that you can live by being an example to people/colleges around you. GB made a sarcastic yet fabulous point. As i see he’s fought fire with fire.. rather with Volcanic lava. A lot of people seem to dissect the post to a point that strips it off the hilarity that it creates. After all its what the Oppressed employee would say to his boss (reminds me of Office Space).

  73. I also feel there is a self-congratulatory element in the me-too critics of Indian IT companies. Telling themselves (and others, of course) that they don’t work in these desi hell holes because they are somehow more creative, more independent, more dynamic alpha male types, unlike the docile, spineless, quivering in fear, effeminate types who are unfortunate enough to be trapped in there. Having met and worked with many of you, I have only one thing to say. You guys should seriously stop smoking that Mexican stuff!
    I can bet my bottom dollar that all the US-based critics on this forum who did not go to there to earn their degrees, landed up there through these very firms, their only claim to fame till date being able to game the visa system.
    I hate to generalize guys, but hey, we seem to be on a roll here….

  74. @nn.. control the inflation and salary expectation would match.. how many of you r employee can buy house in place like gurgaon.. what should they expect???

  75. @ Polka,
    I worked from 2004 to 2008 with a major Indian group company with a special obsession for the phrase ‘Code of Conduct’.

    The company (we’ll call it Company) is led by a CEO reporting to a Board Of Directors (BOD). The BOD comprises of senior executives (VPs) of another group company (we’ll call it ‘Corporate’) with sales of Rs. 10,000 Cr p.a., which wholly owns the Company and one lone director is from an American minority stake holding JV partner (this guy was generally ignored in the BOD meetings). The Corporate MD is the Chairman of the Company. The Corporate is controlled by the body (we’ll call it Parent Group) that controls all group companies in this conglomerate.

    Just before every annual Employee Satisfaction Survey (ESS), the CEO would, in an open meeting, threaten to screw our bonuses in the event of any adverse remarks. The ‘anonymous’ survey questionnaire, with handwritten subjective portions would be handed over to the CEO for an hour or so by the external agency appointed by Corporate, before being whisked away for analysis! So, if identified, any whistle blower would have a lot more than his bonus taken away, he would be insulted in public, till he quit or apologized in public, repeatedly.

    The CEO generally insulted employees in public. Once the AGM Tech. (he was the top tech. guy, with the company since inception, an IIT alumnus) had enough & quit. Smartly, he emailed his resignation, instead of giving a hard copy. The CEO immediately called him & berated him, refused to acknowledge his resignation, threatened to find out where he was joining, offered him a promotion, offered to double his pay & sent him to Corporate for counseling by the CEO’s own buddies in Corp HR. For the next 2 – 3 months the CEO made his life miserable and got his promotion letter & revised salary letter printed, showed him the same, but did not hand over. Inevitably, the Tech. guy relented & the CEO won.

    Our attrition reports were fudged, any employee who stayed less than six months was not shown as having joined the company at all, thus reducing the attrition rates. I find it hard to believe that corporate HR did not even know about this.

    The change happened when the Parent Group appointed a new Executive Director in Corporate. Long story short, the CEO was sacked, by which time he had ruled for around 8 long years. Along with him, his colleagues, managers, many of whom were as much his victims as anyone else were also sacked. No heads rolled in corporate, but the MD of Corporate went on to ‘pursue other interests’ within the larger conglomerate.

    I often ask myself, why did I / we persist in such an abusive atmosphere?
    1) It is India’s most famous group of companies, the kind where the Bhodrolok do not work for life, but plan to work for generations together! 2) The omnipotent brainwashing from childhood, there is nothing wrong with the CEO (please substitute parents, teachers, assoted elders in place of CEO), the mistake, faults, if any, are with YOU, if only YOU IMPROVE a bit, the CEO won’t have to insult you, do you think he ENJOYs doing this? (you bet he does, but that is hindsight).
    3) The niggling fear, what if you go to another, lesser known company and end up with an equally if not a more abusive boss, what if you end up with a ‘Marwari’?

    I now work with a Fortune 500 company in India. Incidentally, one of my bosses (I also report to a foreign national, representative of the JV parnter) is a Marwari owner manager, who restored my self confidence in less than a year, by the simple expedient of avoiding personal abuse while loading me with work and increasing levels of freedom as the trust grew!

    Just goes to show, stereotyping can be dicey.

  76. 93rd to comment!! Send me a calculator!! Dumbfucks!!!!

    I never understood why people celebrated being the first to comment, and then demanded something for it. If you are commenting, why not pay the author some respect by saying something constructive?

    Also, I enjoyed reading the above comment by Argumentative Indian. A friend used to tell me that in India, employees and employers always felt that they were on opposite sides. He would attribute it to our long-standing friendship with USSR and its Marxist ideas!! :D

    But, yeah. I agree when Argumentative Indian says that we have always been taught that the parent/teacher/boss is always right and it is upto us to improve. Bullshit, if you ask me. Pure, unadulterated, high-grade bullshit!!

  77. Its a very interesting post. and i agree with GB on many accounts. Especially the “out of the box” thinking bit.
    I am sure all of us have had experiences where one of the five things applied and we have felt bad/ victimised etc. In any scenario of a relationship we havetendency to think ‘i am right’ and ‘my idea is the best’. Here the bosses representing the comapny (after years of ass licking, and being proud of it) have finally come to a posit where they can behave the same way and make their power felt. It has happened several times that a simple logical change to system has been met with a strong ‘NO’.
    It makes a employee feel useless, and there is not much to look for than money.
    I have worked for the development sector for the past 2 and a half years, and it is worse. The on field job gives you satisfaction but the trust levels, growth factors (increasing skill sets, developing creative ideas etc) are hardly utilised even here. The monetary factor is not taken into account and most people are brushed off saying how unimportant it is to have a decent salary whereas industry standards are higher everywhere else. of course there are organisations where the employees are taken care of.
    There are bosses who make employees grow, learn and mentor, hence creating long term relationships.

    HR policies have definitely changed in the past years but it still has not really benefitted the employer or the employees. The ‘bond’ is to avoid a attrition. And the job hopping is a problem with most employees today, but i think once a job excites you and gives you a feeling of satisfaction, employees will stick to the job. Why not?

    Employers, or bosses also do tend to moralise on every little thing, whereas trying to get personal on a lot of levels, whether you are married, you have kids, you have a gf, bf, do you drive a bike, scooty, do you wear branded clothes (i have been asked that question…), what does your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/dad/mom do, ?

    I have had prospective employees who did not hire me because I am fat, and the client wont be too happy with me, and she needed someone who can wear high heels to client meetings (i wish he had put it another way, diplomacy is a quality we indians havent learnt)

    I fail to understand how this woman managed to make it till here.
    and i believe there are a lot of graduates who make some prospective employers feel the same.

  78. asking about family should not be a problem.

    Asking abt BF is wicked. LOL :-) . Maybe the boss is too kind for the poor male staff.

  79. While both, the original and your reply take extreme sides, there are certain real talent problems in industry, some examples like

    1) People don’t know much of technology when they join IT company from non IT background, but they don’t have any wish to learn stuff to get work done.

    2) Many of folks work in IT companies right out of college because they want to prepare for MBA. That results in office being the “low” priority and CAT preparation being higher. But that does not mean they take less salary!

    I am just quoting some instances, but there are many!

  80. It is pretty ironic that the No. 1 unsatisfactory attribute of Indian employees is weakness in English!

    Really? English is concern No. 1? Seems like Mohit Chandra needs a bunch of brain dead scribes.

    Next, Chandra proceeds to complain about the lack of creativity. So Mr. Chandra, you want creative employees who think outside the box and are avid problem solvers and risk takers, yet your No. 1 concern is their English skills? So creative thinking can happen only in English?

    Sounds like a Freudian slip. Admit it Mr. Chandra, all you want is a bunch of simpering yes-men who will dutifully write down every word you say. So dont complain about lack of creativity.

  81. I found that guys article to be hilarious. Know a bunch of guys who worked in similar organizations and why they ran off. First, you get treated like rubbish. No leaves, no understanding regarding personal issues etc. Next, pay is mediocre versus even indian IT firms. These so called consulting firms take you and act as if they have made your career by giving your their brand name and keep abusing you till you leave. Next, the stuff about training etc. What a load of absolute cock and bull rubbish. Indian managers and companies love to dump stuff on employees and minimally invest in their learning. If the employee does not understand, he or she is treated like a fool. In the Indian milieu, never admit you dont know – that marks you out as an idiot. Always say, yes sir, three bags full sir or keep silent. Next, the stuff about innovation, reaching out etc – what a pile of steaming rubbish. Employees who do all this are considered to be “networking on the job” and given an angry eye. Never ever contradict your manager publicly.
    Basically, while Indian educated graduates may have many weaknesses they enter a system created by the very same chaps who preceded them, and then proceed to tut tut at those who came after. The worst are the jokers from the elite schools – God save India from these frauds. While a few are sincere (I was lucky enough to work with a few), many just learnt one thing, how to hustle and position themselves as leaders (which means having everyone else do the dirty work).

    Yeah, physicial heal thyself does apply to some of these guys. All said and done, its a mutual problem. And yes, ban facebook and social networks in office. There is no need for them.

  82. May be a tit for tate…..

    but greatbong has a ring of truth as the things which were said from a consultants pov were observations as he may have not worked in indian companies.

    being a consultant makes you know too much about too many corporates but hey where’s inner feel ? all u have seen is wood panelled board rooms and plush carpets.

    Indian boss is usually a 40iyish man who wouldn’t want to even understand new techniques, ideas and even acknowledge emerging trends and threats.

    for god’s sake all of them have a blackberry but how much do they know about it ? ask anybody…

    THE SAME SYSTEM PRODUCED EMPLOYERS SO THERE YOU GO

  83. @Sunny, why should asking about family be OK? What does the job I am interviewing for have to do with what my parent, spouse, sibling, second cousin, auntie etc. do? And if my father is an alcoholic, or my sister is divorced or my wife is in jail does that disqualify me from a job?

    @Abhishek, I agree. The comment about English skills really made me wince.

    @Ashish, is your point that the author of the original NYT article didn’t work in an Indian company (& also that he was a consultant) & hence somehow his opinions are not relevant? Because if that is the case, afaik GB didn’t work in an Indian company either. Also, what should Indian bosses know about BB’s? Other than one can make phone calls, send text messages, use BBM, surf the net, send emails etc. which perhaps in your experience they don’t how to do? Or are you referring to the fruit?

  84. The basic premise of any private enterprise is to make money / maximise profits for their shareholders. Why blame the employee for trying to make as much money as he can by expecting a certain number as a fresher or job hopping as he gains experience?

    I have heard a manager at a “respectable Indian service company” talk about how people who attend his interviews pad their resumes. I asked him about how his company “pads” the proposals that they present their clients to get projects.

  85. @GB: great post. I hate onsite only for that reason “5 people in 2 BHK”.

    Core problem is not salary, its inflation. While inflation stayed in uptrend, the $30 / hour remained flat. The “global organizations” would never allow their OR (operating Margin) to be hit and with client relations (Customer is always right attitude) was to add more value to same $30 and are really afraid to raise prices, fear of competition (Other Non-Indian global organizations catching up faster than lightspeed at reduced price).

    2003-2004 era in USA, could manage to get an apartment 1 BHK for $600-800 USD. now same is $1200-1400 :)

    When I was given opportunity to travel onsite, I had to put my foot down only for two reasons, I dont want to live like “Beggar” (I know its strong word but thats what I feel when I have to stay in such condition with lesser salary), and secondly no social life (This I can manage if I can get at least 40% hike when compared to my present salary).

    Lots will agree for quick onsite from here, and 90% of those are H1-B holders, who knows that they can quit with a day’s notice, join some Desi running body shop and early $400-500 more.

    So… Lastly one question to your friends, when they could bare survive (assuming that their Indian salary was really good) why they “cribbed” about lower wages and did not take decision to return home and improve their lifestyle. I think here, at least it was 2 BHK for two and better life. :)

  86. @Shubs, where did the “The preposterous assumption blah, blah …. a system they know very little about or were associated with for fleeting periods.” bit come from?
    It only proves that I was right when I had asked that question! If you had cared to read, you would have seen that I was referring to the lack of ethics in the HR practices of many firms operating in India.

  87. From outsource point of view – quality of code are bad.
    Tests – are just a black box myth.
    Timelines exists just for us to imagine the future.
    Point of contact changes every week and every new person takes a week to get up to speed.

  88. @Sunny, why should asking about family be OK? What does the job I am interviewing for have to do with what my parent, spouse, sibling, second cousin, auntie etc. do? And if my father is an alcoholic, or my sister is divorced or my wife is in jail does that disqualify me from a job?

    @Abhishek, I agree. The comment about English skills really made me wince.

    @Ashish, is your point that the author of the original NYT article didn’t work in an Indian company (& also that he was a consultant) & hence somehow his opinions are not relevant? Because if that is the case, afaik GB didn’t work in an Indian company either. Also, what should Indian bosses know about BB’s? Other than one can make phone calls, send text messages, use BBM, surf the net, send emails etc. which perhaps in your experience they don’t how to do? Or are you referring to the fruit?

    (previous version of the comment from couple of days back seems to have been stuck in moderation queue, hence reposting)

  89. I wholeheartedly agree with everything the author has said. Thankfully, I moved some years ago from an Indian IT company to an MNC software development company and I am much, much happier. And much more productive with lesser time invested.

    Professionalism and innovation works both ways – and it should be the *employer* who set and meet the standard themselves before expecting employees to live up to them. This is a basic, fundamental tenet of leadership that is glossed over in Indian IT companies.

  90. I think this is a problem in all third world countries, the same problem persist here in Thailand, btw I run a consulting company here in Thailand and most employees who come to us complain about the same problems your complaining about.

  91. Output chahiye Google/Apples jaisa. Paisa denge 8000 mahina.

    Professionalism works two ways. Not calling your employees to come in to work on weekends, or in the middle of the night is also professionalism. These companies should learn some professionalism first!

  92. @Sunny, why should asking about family be OK? What does the job I am interviewing for have to do with what my parent, spouse, sibling, second cousin, auntie etc. do? And if my father is an alcoholic, or my sister is divorced or my wife is in jail does that disqualify me from a job?

    @Abhishek, I agree. The comment about English skills really made me wince.

    @Ashish, is your point that the author of the original NYT article didn’t work in an Indian company (& also that he was a consultant) & hence somehow his opinions are not relevant? Because if that is the case, afaik GB didn’t work in an Indian company either. Also, what should Indian bosses know about BB’s? Other than one can make phone calls, send text messages, use BBM, surf the net, send emails etc. which perhaps in your experience they don’t how to do? Or are you referring to the fruit?

  93. @pankaj roy
    This world is a big bad place. What seems right to the employer may seem unfair to the employee.There are lots of grey areas. IF you are going to spend whole day with a person and your collective future depends on joint efforts then its wise to know about every possible threat.

    Do you think any company will hire any competitor’s son for a crucial post ?!

    Would it not help if the staff knows that the hot colleagues’ father is a senior police officer ?! LOL :-)

    One should be honest, fair & kind. But people have predatory instincts, ego etc. and that has to be managed.

  94. I feel this has degenerated into a desi-company bashing orgy by people who have been 2-3 years in the industry or less, exactly like a Rediff or TOI comments forum. People are pissed that they don’t get paid 20L a year, don’t get to work from home, and are not handed out freebies like the mythical ‘MNCs’. Grow up. Your Java skills are available in 16 year olds, and the less said about your analytical skills, and your ability to understand business, not IT, the better.
    Again, the overarching theme here seems to be stereotyping…the author, basing his opinions on hearsay, to the individual stories, which exist in every organization under the sun.
    Some Indian IT Services organizations may not be a joy to work in, but all mythical MNCs are not Google either (and I’m sure you can find individuals in Google who crib about their work conditions too). Let’s all get some perspective, and stop making huge sweeping statements just because your boss pissed you off.

    @John
    “From outsource point of view – quality of code are bad.
    Tests – are just a black box myth.
    Timelines exists just for us to imagine the future.
    Point of contact changes every week and every new person takes a week to get up to speed.”

    Just wanted to know how many major Indian IT Services companies have you worked for? Or is it that your account/customer/program/project was just supremely screwed up, and you now ASSUME that to be the case across the entire industry?
    Like I mentioned in an earlier post, percentage of repeat business for the top four Indian IT services companies stand in the mid 90s. If your blind generalization were true, their customers must be stoned out of their minds.

  95. I’d agree with what Vishal has written. Both letters take extreme sides but the truth of the matter is, it is extremely difficult to find good people, even laterals not just fresh graduates. I’ve been conducting interviews for 7 years now working with various companies, and everywhere the problem is same. Just recently I was part of a team hiring freshers for a project and all the points mentioned in the original article held true.

    Also, why is it wrong to consider English a mandatory skill and requirement? English is the primary language of communication and until such time this situation changes, it is perfectly reasonable to expect employees to have good communication skills. At the very least their grammar should be good.

  96. @Shubs

    Like I mentioned in an earlier post, percentage of repeat business for the top four Indian IT services companies stand in the mid 90s.
    I have no doubt the repeat business would be high. But on the other hand, one must also look at the quality of said business. I’ve seen quite a lot of big accounts where the customer has in-house consultants who do the design, and create a highly detailed design doc which the devs just need to follow and there is little or no scope for the devs to think. It’s like the customer has hired a set of hands, not brains. No doubt, for this kind of work a rookie is far better than a senior dev.

    When that rookie becomes a senior, he obviously will not have analytical/consulting skills and therefore become just another spineless worship-the-customer lead who gets flogged by the customer and in turn flogs the juniors. And the cycle continues. It’s not good for the client or the dev.

    It’s not just the graduates who are broken, it’s the business environment as well.

  97. @Chiron: Again, a sweeping statement. I have seen and worked in a lot of big accounts which are completely managed services, with only outcome based engagements with the customer, run solely on business level agreements. MOST large customers in Manufacturing, Healthcare, Retail, Consumer Goods, Banking and Finance today, especially since the recession, are no longer interested in handling their IT at all. What you’re referring to, the classic staff aug model, is slowly and surely being pushed to the smaller players in the market. That’s what I mean, the top bracket of Indian IT Services companies have evolved over the last 7 – 10 years, and we are referring to scenarios here which do not hold good any more. Customers do not have the finances nor the willingness to manage a ‘hired set of hands’. They are much more interested in concentrating on their strengths, their core businesses. That’s the only way they can survive.
    The staff augmentation model is on its death bed, especially for the big players, and large customers. And Indian IT players have HAD to change, to maintain their competitive edge.

  98. Latest news break: Arun Lala has proposed to Mandira Body, who has asked Bharsha Chogle and Chiddu to help her decide. She has also roped in elevation-and-distance six-pack LS as her personal fitness trainer and Manny Dorrison to perform the haka on the d-day. Bharsha Chogle has decided to get a new hair transplant from Bhagalpur specially for the event, and is also working towards an eight-pack to be unveiled on the same day!

  99. @Harshit, you made me remember my time with a company. The induction process started with the company’s anthem!
    And @Shubs, no, this was not any North Korean, or even Chinese company!

  100. Interesting that Mohit Chandra’s letter hit such a raw nerve. I agree it could have been better phrased but it talks of systemic failure not individual failure. It underscores the poor quality of our educational institutions which do not produce individuals who can be qualitatively different.

    What it does not talk about is the quality of our schools and the role that school plays in dulling the adolescent senses through sheer boredom of remembering pointless factoids. Its interesting that our IIM’s and ISB take great pride in quiz competitions to show how successful they are at recalling unrelated pieces of information from memory on demand. Whatever happened to the subtleties of debate or quietly working with the many who are underprivileged in our society.

    It is possible we may need to ruminate more over how the quality of our secondary education can be improved and how the energy of adolescence can transform our young people into the joy of lifelong learning; how academic studies can develop new perspectives when we apply them to the real life problems of our society; how our capacities to take participatory decisions within teams when dealing with real life projects where uncertainty prevails, become stimulating forces to create a new breed of Indian entrepreneur whether within a company or outside it.

    A minority of such people will go into transforming our school systems. When that happens we will end up with better employers AND better employees.

  101. haha…great one by the great one (GB)

    “You speak and write English fluently….whether it is a strong mother tongue influence…” – i wonder if a day will come when we all will be so good in english (with an anglo accent) and prefer the language so much that we will have difficulty speaking our mother tongue.

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