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Human resources in South Asia Human resources in South Asia
by Joseph Gatt
2019-12-22 11:47:40
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Countries covered here are Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Sweeping generalizations about human resources in those countries, in no particular order.

-First thing that comes to mind is South Asian companies will hire both men and women. But, if you're a man and need something from a woman, talk to her boss. If you're a woman and need something from a man, talk to his boss.

sas01_400-To illustrate this important point, I once had to talk to a woman just to ask her if she could give me the format for visa invitation letters. Her boss saw me talking to her, and all I got was rage for 10 minutes. Other example, they once saw a man chatting with a woman, and the company considered firing both of them for that.

-What South Asian bosses like: modesty, and trying hard to get the task done. What South Asian bosses dislike: lack of modesty, trying to get tasks done creatively, and making no effort on the job. To illustrate this, there was this person who had to give a presentation on something. The person had never given a presentation before and clearly struggled with the task. The person delivered what I thought was a poor presentation, but got all the praise. On the other hand there was this person who was very comfortable giving presentations, and every single mistake, even minor typos and other mistakes, were pointed out.

-Hiring. South Asia, especially India and Pakistan, have among the highest university concentrations in the world. Back in 2006 when you had something called “Google videos” competing with YouTube, Indian and Pakistani universities had many, many courses online, and the courses were of excellent quality. Many South Asians have two, three, four Masters degrees, many have a Ph.D. and in some cases two Ph.D.s. You'll be impressed by the resumes you'll be getting.

-During hiring and job interviews, South Asians tend to emulate the styles they are confronted with. If you're the nice kind of guy, they will be nice and humble. If you're the serious type, they will act serious during the job interview. Either way, during job interviews, they could up with stories like “I won my company a billion dollar deal” or “I helped invent the machine sign language interpreter.”

-Either way, South Asians always find a way to give excellent answers to excellent questions. We were interviewing this guy and asked him if you could climb on a roof top antenna. His answer was “I'm a gold member of the bungee jumping club. I bungee jump every day!”

-The rest will be specifics in the region. The Maldives, Pakistan and Bangladesh are Muslim countries, and their practice is very strict. No alcohol, prayer five times a day, mandatory fasting during Ramadan and other fasting days. They have all kinds of rules that don't exist in other Muslim countries, such as “no music during the month of Muharrem” or “read the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan.” Keep that in mind with your Muslim staff.

-Muslims also tend to go home after work and will usually refuse to stay for dinner or other company events. And with Muslims, charity is mandatory, so they could come up to you and ask for donations, and will be offended if you refuse.

-Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan are Buddhist nations, a conservative form of Buddhism. When Buddhist monks come with an empty plate, you have to fill it up with cooked rice and vegetables (Buddhist monks are vegetarians). You should also avoid walking in the steps of “shadow” of a Buddhist monk.

-Indians are mostly Hindu, and that means 20% of Hindus are vegetarians. Hindus will hang out after work for dinner and conversation. If alcohol is served, women are not allowed to drink alcohol.

-Finally, when handing reports, South Asians tend to be vague. Very vague in some cases. Be prepared and ask a lot of questions. Reports are not always accurate, and they will say what they think they want you to hear. In any case, if you need a report, take them to a place where no one can see or hear you. That's when they will slowly open up. Finally, if you're speaking English, use “correct English.” Avoid “wanna” and “gonna” and use “want to” and “going to.” And of course, avoid swear words or slang.

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