Always listen carefully for what is not said. Compared to most Americans, Indian executives tend to be indirect communicators. This means they may hesitate to push back if you ask something of them or their team that is unreasonable or impossible. They may also be reticent about sharing bad news with you. In either case, you could be left exposed. Active listening and probing questions can make you more effective.
Sometimes travel to India. If strategically important work is being performed for your company, you must visit the work environment where it is happening at least once a year and have your trusted lieutenants go twice a year. It doesn’t matter if the workers in India are on your company’s payroll, on the payroll of large American outsourcers such as Accenture, HP or IBM, or are part of an India-based provider such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy or Wipro. You can’t fully appreciate their potential and their reality by listening to pretty presentations in your conference room. Get out there for a week or two. Take your spouse if you can.
Never assume any relationship with India is permanent. Plan for what will happen if a sudden or accelerated termination becomes necessary. In the frenetic pace of India’s economy today, anything can happen. The key supplier of one of our most successful clients was suddenly bought, but service levels did not drop. Then then the new owner was acquired in a much larger transaction that no one had expected, immediately causing a conflict of interest that precipitated a rapid disengagement. Fortunately we had a competent second source lined up in time. Be prepared.
Amritt provides guidance to American companies entering new global markets. Management consultant Gunjan Bagla is the author of Doing Business in 21st Century India and blogs at www.theindiaexpert.com.