Category Archives: India

Expatriates in Hyderabad Interview

A brief interview with Biligiri Ranga from Primetime PRISM magazine.
What are the things at your place of work that impresses you here? Could u pinpoint the differences between working conditions here and the place you come from?
The working conditions in Hyderabad are very different and yet the same as those of most US offices. If you’re working in a multi-national company, the offices run at an international level of quality standards. On the other hand, you do sometimes deal with Internet outages and other problems with the infrastructure that typically are not experienced in US offices. Separate from the infrastructure though is the quality of the people and the sense of community in most offices there. I had the feeling that people work together more closely and collaboratively to ensure the team is successful, whereas in the west, commonly people work more independently.
What is about Hyderabad that impresses you? How do u see the city compared to other Indian metros like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chandigarh, Chennai, Pune, etc?
What stood out most to me was the vision of Chandrababu Naidu. The High Tech City design was well thought through. Pushing the business parks outside of the city helped to not overwhelm the city such as what has happened in Bangalore. Additionally, I noticed a different sense of pride in how the city is maintained. For example, there is more energy put in to finishing sidewalks and landscaping for the main roads. These small things make a difference on how a city is perceived by an outsider. Culturally though, I believe Hyderabad is quite different than the other major metros. It’s a more conservative culture than that of Mumbai and Delhi, which I think has benefits and negatives. The benefits are it will slow the pace of change and probably keep the culture from widely detracting from the local history. However, it can also make it more challenging to inspire the young talent of today to live there. Many of these folks want to be in the places that allow them to think and behave more freely.
What’s your take about lifestyle conditions here? Is it reasonable? And how do u find the people here?
The first thing I head about that was immediately validated was “Hyderbady Hospitality”. In Hyderabad there is a sense of community that is much stronger than the other metros. I think people there are genuinely more interested in their neighbor succeeding. This helps the business community continue to grow and succeed. As for lifestyle conditions, I think it depends on what you compare it to. Obviously, the conditions in Hyderabad are not of the same standards of those of Singapore. But, I think things are more comfortable than the other major metros of India. For example, the air pollution is much less in Hyderabad than Bangalore. Then again, it can get quite hot in Hyderabad!
How do u find the social and entertainment scene in the city? Any changes u suggest to make it more lively?
I think Hyderabad is doing quite well in this category. On my most recent visit last fall I was really excited about how many new exciting restaurants there are. People in Hyderabad are huge foodies and the energy of that inspires great Chefs to setup shop in very creative and diverse ways. I would like to see the pub closing times extended though as most of us in the business community work too much and can’t make it out until later for dinner and drinks. Overall though, I had an incredible time when living there. Most of my time was spent in 10D’s, Touch and Cinnabar Red, but others like Liquids and Bottles and Chimney’s kept me well entertained. There was always a great energy within the small community that took full advantage of the “night life” of Hyderabad. People are much friendlier in the pubs of Hyderabad than Mumbai or Delhi, which makes it fun to grab a pint.
How do you see India of today compared to past? Also, do u feel it has the potential to catch up with the West?
I think India has the potential to surpass the West. The trick will be for it to keep its artistic energy, sense of community and passion for life. If it falls into the grind of US and Japanese business culture too much, it will stagnate. I think the other keys are continuing to open up the market to foreign investment and ownership to allow more competition and opportunity. In 1991, as Finance Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh championed many reforms that led to the latest boom in India. India was finally free of its chains to show the world what it is capable of. However, there are still many legacy laws that constrain the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Continuing where he left off would allow India to not only keep pace with China, but potentially surpass it. There is still an incredible amount of talent in India that is not being tapped due to infrastructure issues and legal constraints. Solving some of these will be the catalyst for India to run pace with everyone else on the international front. That said, I think there are some great projects underway such as those being implemented by the National Highways Authority of India. Connecting the countries main metros will allow better exchange of goods and services that will increase commerce and allow more people to be rewarded better for the fruits of their labor. With this in mind, I think the next major focus should be on land titles and ownership such as to create a better system to release the capital locked in the real estate.
Any suggestions u have to make the city a better place?
Focus less on subsidization and more on finding more creative ways for everyone to be successful. Hyderabad will need to continue to keep focused on inspiring and attracting the talent. In order to do that, it will need to continue to provide the support needed to grow business. This includes investing in education and infrastructure.
Do u think India should team up more with the Western World in these days of terrorism, and global warming?
Yes, I think India has a responsibility to help combat the issues facing our world. However, the biggest way it can support these efforts are helping its people have more opportunity. Again, investments in education, reforms in the legal system and more legal support for land ownership will help people get out of poverty and not feel lost. When people are struggling and lost in life, they can be caught up in some of these negative activities, but when they can stand on their own, they find their own way.
Do u think India will reach its true potential by allying with the Western world?
India will reach its true potential by letting itself follow its own dreams.

Calling India

The power to make international calls with your mobile phone at discounted prices –

Today, many of us are finding ourselves working with people that are in countries all over the world. This poses a new challenge for telecommunications as we want to retain our mobility found with the age of cell phones, but can’t afford to use them to call internationally. Even if we charge those calls back to our employer, it’s not reasonable given the rates the mobile phone companies charge. So, oftentimes we’re stuck in our office to make those calls. Well, I’ve found a service that allows you to make these international calls from your mobile phone, home phone or any phone for very low international rates. Take a look at the various packages. I’m sure you’ll find one that works for you. I use this service for work and to keep up with friends that are all around the world.

back a week

Been back about a week now. Finally feels like I’m back, whereas the last time I knew I had the vacation so I was still mentally in India. It’s nice to be back. It’s a different world here. I’m not sure which is better. On the one hand it’s nice to be around things that are “nicer” and clearner, but it’s much faster here. It’s noisy, in the sense of so much movement around you (cars go faster, TV goes faster, 24×7 news down your throat, stock markets, etc.). I think quality of life is better in India. You give up a lot of things, but I think what you gain is some peace that is harder to find here…well, could always go back to Montana.

Everything is a Dichotomy

I’m still plugging away in India. What originally was assumed to be a short trip to do some coaching and training has become a very long venture of me managing the team out here and providing a lot of executive support to the office here (e.g., recruiting, HR, business development). It has been fun though. I have a really good team and am enjoying myself in Hyderabad. It’s definitely a different world here. I’m treated like a celebrity here and yet there is extreme poverty, ignorance, extreme affluence, and rocket scientists. It’s just a bizarre place. Everything is a dichotomy. The bright billboard advertising Pepsi stands above a slum. The laborers work in mass outside the fancy “hitech city” buildings that stand out like the great pyramids. In part of my day I eat lunch for 35 rupees (about 75 cents), in the evening I may be in one of the clubs sipping 500 rupee martinis (about $11). One moment I’m with someone living in a hostel because they can’t afford an apartment on an IT professionals salary (just out of school) and the next I’m hanging out with models, movie stars and businessmen that can spend half the young IT professionals salary on dinner, drinks and the outfit they came in.
It’s a wonderful place though. It’s got an energy that is contagious. It’s difficult not to smile. While you see struggle, you also see success. You see the middle class being built right before your eyes. There are people upgrading from small motorcycles to cars that will not only give them more protection on these crazy streets but shield them from a tremendous amount of pollution that the folks in the auto-rickshaws and motos endure each day. Globalization is a good idea, and I think it can work without creating crazed capitalists like us Americans. The Indian culture is one of respect for family, community, and overall peaceful living. I don’t see that changing that much. Where an American will have a baby and be back to work in weeks, we’ll loose their Indian counterpart for much longer. Where the man may even miss the birth in the US, the new father here will be side by side days in advance.

Culture Shock

As I meander through daily rituals different then those I am accustom, I sometimes feel distressed and yet other times feel excited. Many times throughout the day I notice subtle differences in non-verbal communication, and I notice that I immediately judge whether I am comfortable with it or not. It?s like a reaction to a ball thrown at you. Some times you decide to catch it, and others you decide it best to dodge it. As I have now been in India for over 6 weeks, I continue to be surprised by small events throughout the day, but for the most part feel fairly comfortable here. With the exception of wishing friends and family were closer or more easily reached, I feel as if I am a part of this environment. The process of acclimating ones self to a new environment can vary greatly from person to person as I have seen with another expat I hang out with. He has been here much longer than I and is in a new stage of his experience, one of aggression and distaste for those things he is not accustom to. Interestingly, this process has been studied quite a bit and there is some interesting information out there talking about the ?culture shock? curve.
General definition:
Link that even shows the extended culture shock curve (incl. when going back to your home country)

“Changing the world”

I?m still in India and likely will be for some time. It?s been a wonderful experience so far. I have met some very friendly people. The culture is warm and inviting and interesting to learn. It?s also very exciting to be intimately involved with one of the largest events of our time. Our grandparents and parents went through the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and now we too are seeing the next wave of work being distributed to new places on Earth. It?s fascinating to me. Many years ago the continents began to divide separating its inhabitants into diverse areas of the Earth with various climatic conditions that created very different cultures. Now, through technology we are coming back together. The continents feel like they are being bridged, and people are interacting with each other. Many of us grew up wanting to ?change the world.? We grow up seeing how wonderful the way the world could be but were very ignorant of the realities. We were optimists. Then as we grow up and experienced more of the trials and tribulations all of us face, we grew more pessimistic and it became less desirable to take on the daunting task of influencing change. Some of us continue on that journey, but most of us just find a way to live comfortably and enjoy our lives. This opportunity feels like one where I am able to ?change the world.? I have participated in recruiting events where I am the final interviewer having a large impact on one persons life. I have helped present knowledge on effective software development practices improving the skills of my global team members. And, others have trained me. They have taught me the joys of music in each moment, the passion of love for one another whether they are family, friend or neighbor. I have learned to respect the cows that wander somewhat aimlessly through the streets and even understand the struggles of the farmers with little water. Politicians try to affect change on our communities, our societies and our world, yet the true difference is made when each one of us opens our hearts and minds to one another and spends time to give aid and care for each other. I feel like each day I am here I am able to make a difference. While many back home are concerned about their jobs, I know that most of them find their way back to comfort easily, whereas folks here are struggling to survive and support their families. I can see the benefits to humanity first hand. I can see that world peace doesn?t come from Senators negotiating with heads of states, but with conversations between a programmer and a tester from different countries, on different continents and in different time zones. These conversations build the trust that is essential to all of us feeling safe amongst each other and allowing peace everywhere.

Office in Hyderabad (Cyber Gateway)

Hyderabad is a city that has boomed in the last 5 years due to the support of the technology industry and outside investment. Currently, I am working in the one of the largest offices in India that can support 9000 people (seats). Here are a couple of interesting articles about Hyderabad’s development recently and my current office, Cyber Gateway
The Hindu – India’s National Newspaper
Frontline – India’s National Magazine

A Typical Day of an Expat

I arise in the morning to the sound of a mobile phone alarm as none of the apartment rooms have alarm clocks. Slowly I stir from my single mattress bed with only a sheet needed to be comfortable with the a/c going all night. My ears now more awake than the other senses begin to notice the loud calls of the food merchants wandering the neighborhood trying to find buyers for their fruits and vegetables. The bathroom I have attached to my bedroom does not have hot water, so I use the third, unoccupied room?s bathroom, which requires me to flip a switch each morning to turn on the small hot water heater hanging from the wall. As I snoozed too many times this morning, it was lucky I had left it on from yesterday, which I was told was dangerous because they have a habit of exploding. I shaved, washed up, brushed my teeth with the tap water and made myself a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly by preference) for breakfast. At this point I was already fifteen minutes later than we originally told the driver the night before, but he was patiently waiting outside. My ?flat mate? and I grabbed our bags and descended the three flights of marble stairs. As we land the entry security guard quickly stands, salutes me and wishes me good morning, as he has been doing ever since I begin saying good evening to him on our return. On the outside in this world of service, I feel very important, but internally I still remain to feel like the young man exploring life.
Walking up to the car, the driver quickly takes our bags and opens the door for us, the paper is ready to read on the seat. (On some days it is badly folded showing that the driver has read it that morning. I?m still not sure if he buys it for us, or for himself and then gives it to us as he?s done. I leave it in the car after I?ve read the front section just in case he isn?t finished.) We?re whisked away in a fury of honking and swerving as Yusuf (pronounced Yo! suf) offensively navigates the traffic yelling at pedestrians and other drivers with the touch of his horn. Traffic here is wild with small families riding on a single motorcycle, everyone swerving around each other disagreeing with the painted lines, and busses the size of trains pushing their way through the crowd. We always make good time though even in our tiny Geo Metro size car, as Yusuf seems to have some power over other drivers similar to how small dogs can sometimes intimidate larger ones simply with their bark and courage.
When we arrive at the office, a very large building resembling the shuttle hanger in the movie Armageddon, we are dropped off at the front door and are greeted again by the next set of security. Almost every establishment I have been to has had security. It doesn?t feel like an unsafe place, and to be quite honest I imagine it?s just to show wealth, establishment and to employ people. As we ascend the elevator we arrive to our floor and begin our day of coffee and setup our computers. At this point, I can?t really tell I?m not in an office in the US.

working a lot!

My intention was to journal an entry each day to remember this experience in India and share my adventure with friends and family. What was I thinking?! It?s for work. I come in at 8am and leave after 9pm. So, hopefully, I?ll have time this weekend to share some of my stories about crazy traffic, an elevator system that resembles a psychology experiment, Yusuf the driver, and much more.