UNRAVELLING THE MYSTICAL INDIAN ORGANISATION CULTURE –
CUES FOR GLOBALISATION
Prof Dr Uday Salunkhe, Dr P S Rao, Prof Ms Ketna L Mehta
Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, Mumbai*
Abstract: This paper is a culmination of a research study conducted in India on “Changing face of
Indian Organisation Culture” In particular this paper identifies and groups companies into four
segments and dissects culture into: Organisation communication, Management team evaluation,
work group assessment, management self-perception, organisation relations and organisation
changes. This grouping and specific insights into the Indian cultural dimensions throws up
interesting cues for the global corporation intending to tie up or with Indian companies.
A study of Indian culture is a mystical and fascinating voyage into the realm of esoteric, unique,
typical images. The Indian civilization itself is over 5000 years old and is one of the most ancient
and well-preserved cultures. This fact is very significant as it reflects on the way individuals
interact and behave as leaders, teams and groups. With globalization and the cross-pollination of
ideas, products, services the success or failure of any organization still rests with the connectivity
and blending of people. The trust, faith and acceptance of different views is a fallout of the
embedded culture called memetics - the study of 'memes', a term coined by Richard Dawkins to
denote the 'gene of culture', that is the hypothetical building blocks of culture which may behave
analogously to genes in biology. The cultural Origins of the Indian subcontinent can be tracked
back to the Indus valley civilizations, the remains of which are cherished today as archeological
treasures. Here is some information on Indian Sculpture. Today, the cultural diversity is marked
by 25 states and 7 union territories and 24 chief Indian languages. India's economy India's
economy is a mixture of traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range
of modern industries, and a multitude of support services. Faster economic growth in the 1980s
permitted a significant increase in real per capita private consumption. A large share of the
population, perhaps as much as 40%, remains too poor to afford an adequate diet. Financial
strains in 1990 and 1991 prompted government austerity measures that slowed industrial growth
but permitted India to meet its international payment obligations without rescheduling its debt.
Policy reforms since 1991 have extended earlier economic liberalization and greatly reduced
government controls on production, trade, and investment, The strong winds of the globalization
have swept Indian shores and the IT software sector, BPO, Pharma & Biotech sectors have put
India prominently on the Global map. Kautilaya’s writing in the Arthashastra depicts that the
foundation of India’s social culture rested on a developed structure of law with popular
sovereignty, organized administrative and judicial system, assurances of fundamental right and
liberties of the people, rights of inheritance and succession, ownership and corporate
organisation. In approximately all mattes of life the rule of law was the governing principles.
However, the Indian thinking about law starts from the concept of rit which is of Vedic origin.
The rit, also known as order has been the basis of Indian culture, legal theory, politics and
philosophy. The threads of Indian more and practices were spun around the concept of rit which
regulated individuals and social activities for achieving all the true goals of life in a just and
India is proud of the adage “Unity in Diversity” which translates into a prolific merging of colour,
caste, creed ideologies, and religions. India is one of the oldest civilizations and Indian culture is
5000 yrs old. There are specific Indian cultural habits. After a meal, Indians have ‘saunf’ or
‘paan’ which is supposed to aid the digestive process.“These paan shops”and packed labels are
available in all corners of the world now.At home generally shoes, chappals,(footwear) are
removed outside before stepping in.At Places of worship like a temple or Gurudwara footwear is
not worn as a mark of respect to the diety. Honouring a elder or senior person with a Namaste,
with head bowed touching their feet is part of the culture to demonstrate respect. A senior person
in age and at the top of the hierarchy in an organisation is ‘listened’ to and instructions followed
without disagreeing. It’s a mark of respect for the status of the person.
Indian Culture & effect on Business:
Any Organisational policy has to consider the inherent culture of the community that it has as its
core employees. As an example the government owned Airline, Indian Airlines & Air India till
date has the saree as its attire and uniform for its airhostess and staff. The communication to its
customers would be that they serve them with the same hospitality that ancient India was well
There are over 25 festivals during the year. Each festival has a unique significance to the
community at large. Corporate gifting is generally a part of business culture and as per hierarchies
appropriate gifts are given. Handing them over personally by visiting their homes / offices is a
mark of respect and interpersonal relations. The President / MD would utilize this opportunity to
invite the employees along with their family members to have a one to one interaction with them
and enjoy the festival with sweets and relevant cuisine.
Dr. Swati Piramal of Nicholas Piramal, a huge pharma company in India has openly stated that
plenty of business deals have been sealed after savouring her personally hand-made desserts
served at her home. The personal touch is extremely important. Rather than dining out in a
restaurant or catering, making a special dish and serving in personally at home conveys a deep
sense of bonding and caring. Infact, she never repeats her desserts too, which is again an
indication of interest for the businees guests.
During Festivals, there is a community lunch where all the members of the organization, sit
together and enjoy a meal together. In the Indian culture, food is always served to the elders and
children first. Thus, when the CEO hands a plate / thali to his employee and coaxes him/ her to
eat first – it transforms the employee with this kind of respect; where hierarchy play a very
important role. This gesture cultivates the employee and s/he is willing to go that extra mile in
future where work is concerned. This gesture is also noticed and talked about which gives the
leader a benevolent image. Conversely when there is a pooja (Satyanarayan) and the CEO is
invited and he participates in the proceedings which are in a humble surrounding, it elevates the
employees morale and sense of belonging with the organization. Eating Together, with no
differentiation and serving others – whatever their level in the hierarchy builds bridges within the
1. Organisation culture
Few countries in the world have such an ancient and diverse culture as India's. Stretching back in
an unbroken sweep over 5000 years, India's culture has been enriched by successive waves of
migration, which were absorbed into the Indian way of life. (www.lokpriya.com)
It is this variety which is a special hallmark of India. Its physical, religious and racial variety is as
immense as its linguistic diversity. Underneath this diversity lies the continuity of Indian
civilization and social structure from the very earliest times until the present day.
The Indian calendar is one long procession of festivals. These are as varied in origin as they are
large in number. There are innumerable national, regional, local, religious, seasonal and social
festivities. This is not surprising considering the fact that India is the land of gods, goddesses,
saints, gurus and prophets.
Festivals here are characterised by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, feasts and a variety of prayers and
rituals. of this land.
Here is a list of some of the festivals:Baisakhi , Buddh Purnima, Christmas Deepawali ,Dussehra,
Easter ,Ganesh Chaturthi ,Good Friday , Hola Mohalla Holi, New Year Days ,Onam ,Parsi
Festivals , Pongal , Rakhi ,Ramnavami , Dussehra, Rath Yatra,Shivratri , Ugadi, Id , Janamashtmi
, Ladakh Festival , Lohri , Mahavir Jayanti , Makar Sankranti , Muharram
One more is cricket. Whenever there is a cricket match with India playing, the offices are
deserted and employees take leave from work watch it on television. Festivals account for a
whole lot of manday lost from the workplace.
In India, religion is a way of life. It is an integral part of the entire Indian tradition. For the
majority of Indians, religion permeates every aspect of life, from common-place daily chores to
education and politics. Zorastrains India is home to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism,
Jainism, Sikhism and other innumerable religious traditions. Hinduism is the dominant faith,
practised by over 80% of the population. Besides Hindus, Muslims are the most prominent
religious group and are an integral part of Indian society. In fact India has the second largest
population of Muslims in the world after Indonesia.
Common practices have crept into most religious faiths in India and many of the festivals that
mark each year with music, dance and feasting are shared by all communities. Each has its own
pilgrimage sites, heroes, legends and even culinary specialties, mingling in a unique diversity that
is the very pulse of society. To bond with their employees, organisations take them en masse to
shirdi (Samadhi to SaiBaba) or Vaishnodevi in Jammu.
There are fifteen national languages recognized by the Indian constitution and these are spoken
in over 1600 dialects.
India's official language is Hindi in the Devnagri script. However, English continues to be the
official working language. For many educated Indians, English is virtually their first language,
and for a great number of Indians who are multi-lingual, it will probably be the second. Though
Sanskrit the mother of all languages, has India as its birthplace it is not so widely prevalent as a
The country has a wide variety of local languages and in many cases the State boundaries have
been drawn on linguistic lines. Besides Hindi and English, the other popular languages are
Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Malayalam,
Marathi, Punjabi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
One of the powerful attractions in India is the colourful and diversified attire of its people. The
silk saris, brightly mirrored cholis, colorful lehangas and the traditional salwar-kameez have
fascinated many a traveller over the centuries.
Though the majority of Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be found
in more conventional western clothing. Shirts and trousers are worn by men from all regions in
India. However, men in villages are still more comfortable in traditional attire like kurtas, lungis,
dhotis and pyjamas. In the corporate world, it’s quite a common sight to see women in trousers
and suits as well as traditional attire.
Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both religious and regional and one is
likely to witness a plethora of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the Indians.
© 2000 lokpriya.com. All rights reserved.
Cuisine The food available in India is as diverse as its culture, its racial structure, its geography
and its climate. The essence of good Indian cooking revolves around the appropriate use of
aromatic spices. The skill lies in the subtle blending of a variety of spices to enhance rather than
overwhelm the basic flavour of a particular dish. These spices are also used as appetisers and
digestives. Indians are extremely particular about their food and its style of cooking; and pretty
vocal too about their comments on the canteen food provided in the company premises. Even
today before & after meals they offer prayers. A meal is rounded off with the after-dinner paan
or betel leaf which holds an assortment of digestive spices like aniseed, cloves, arecanut, and
India for centuries has been regarded as a nation of the learned and the knowledgeable. A roll call
of honour, a parade of distinguished personalities from all walks of life - the stalwarts of the
freedom movement to Noble laureates, from politicians to scientists, from social activists to
sportspersons, from economists to artistes, from industry icons to philosophers - men and women
who have made India proud in the last one hundred and fifty years; beginning of an effort to
chronicle their lives as a tribute to their contributions. Indian Music is as diverse as its culture.
Ranging from classical music (which invented the first ever percussion musical instrument) to
Indian fusion jazz to bebop.
"How do we measure the success of an organization or company? Is it all about profit? Are
companies and organizations becoming the most important units in our society? How important
is it for managers to understand the underlying cultural and value systems of their
employees?."(Dr. Jagadish Pathak, 2001)
The term "organisation" is defined as "the action of organising, the structure of an organised
body, the fact or process of becoming organised." The term "organise" is defined as "to form into
a whole with inter-dependent parts;" to give a definite and orderly one at that, which means that it
is formed to achieve some purpose. An organisation is a social group deliberately created and
maintained for the achievement of specific objectives. In other words, an organisation is a
conscious creation. It consists of human beings who are directed to achieve some explicit goals.
When human beings are employed to achieve these goals, division of labour inevitably follows
and a hierarchical structure of authority emerges. The basic unit of an organisation is role, not
persons. This must be kept in mind. This is why it continues in existence despite change or
transfer of incumbents to the role. One of the oldest scriptures pertaining to the great Indian
civilisation and heritage vividly explains this particular aspect of organisation and the division of
labour in a political fashion.
The most vexing and unresolved problems confronting management today, especially in the
Indian managerial scenario, is that of satisfying the members in an organization. Research in the
area of motivation has produced valuable insights into how hierarchical leaders should behave.
But they are still by and large helpless when faced with the necessity of changing the behaviour
of persons having basic personality defects. Though we assign these "defects" to personality,
these are essentially the defects of a wrong organisational policy borrowed from the West and
implemented in the East. Organisations have individual cultures peculiar to themselves. The
behaviour of people belonging to organisations is conditioned by their cultural patterns.
Some of these are traditions. It is the vocational modes of thoughts, methods of production,
habitual manner of accomplishing tasks, the social structure of the people and group rivalry
Management scholars pay a good amount of attention to these industrial anthropological
developments in organisations. What is needed is a realisation of the importance of culture in
determining human behaviour, even in technologically advanced industrial societies. If an
employee feels closer to the union than to his employer, the cause is partly cultural. Culture can
be changed consciously to an extent but only if the managers understand its roots.
The author is a Senior Faculty in Management Studies and Head of the Department of
M.O.P. (A Graduate-level Programme in Modern Administrative Management) at
Government Polytechnic Institute, Panaji (Goa). He may be contacted at: © Dr.Jagdish
© Dr.Jagdish Pathak 2001 Organisation, Culture, Manager
The Culture Change Planner by Judd Norman offers a four-phase approach to culture change:
"Anyone working to bring about lasting culture change will attest to the enormity of the
task. Without a framework, culture change appears hopelessly complex. The four-phase
Normative Systems Culture Change Process was developed in order to organize such efforts
into meaningful steps.
"Changing culture in many ways parallels farming. The first phase, Analysis and Objective
Setting, is dedicated to analyzing and preparing the soil. Phase II, Systems Introduction,
plants the seed of change. The third phase, Systems Integration, is the cultural equivalent of
adding fertilizer and water so that the plant takes root and flourishes. And the fourth phase,
Evaluation, Renewal and Extension, is similar to harvesting the crop and gathering new seed
for the next planting."
A Brand-New Culture for the Merged Firm by Kenneth Smith looks at the possibility of
'discarding' the cultures of the constituent parts of the merged organisation and creating a new
culture together. He looks at three components of organisational culture: values, work rituals and
leadership. He argues that the best approach is "to define which culture and leadership
capabilities are required to be successful in the restructuring industry and then to plan and
manage the selection and development of leaders to arrive ultimately at the intended culture."
Culture & the Individual [Return]
Culture is created by the interactions between individuals. Individuals are affected by the culture.
The relationship between the two needs careful study.Personality Traits and Workplace Culture
by Mark Mallinger and Ileana Rizescu offers some thoughts on the relationship between the
individual and organisational culture. The describe the Integrated Cultural Framework, which
contains six dimensions.
Individual Personality And Organizational Culture Or "Let's Change This Place So I Feel More
Comfortable" by Gerald Barkdoll explores the hypothesis that individuals (particularly
organizational leaders) attempt to change the culture of their organizations to fit their own
International Culture Issues
Differing national cultures can have a big effect on international mergers or joint ventures.
Reinventing Organizational Culture Across International Boundaries by Wellford Wilms, Deone
Zell & Dennis Cuneo looks at a successful joint venture between General Motors and Toyota.
It is the way business owners and managers structure and organise the company to obtain their
objectives. It is the cohesion of values, heroes, myths, beliefs and symbols that has come to mean
a great deal to people who work there.
STUDY OF ORGANISATION CULTURE
Culture is created by the interactions between individuals. To decipher the organization culture,
the authors conducted their study in the following manner:
1. Read about the Company through their literature; brochures, advertising messages, Annual
Reports, Press Reports.
2. Study the physical settings of the Company.
3. Interview Company people/employees
4. Observe how people spend their time
5. Test how the company greets strangers and attend telephone calls.
GROUPING OF COMPANIES
For ease of study, we segmented our sample of the companies into four:-
• Family-managed companies
• Private sector companies
• Public sector companies
• Multinational companies
COMPANY SEGMENTS; WHICH WERE STUDIED
FAMILY PRIVATE PUBLIC SECTOR MULTINATI-
MANAGED SECTOR COMPANIES ONAL
COMPANIES COMPANIES COMPANIES
Newage Industrie Thermax Indian Airlines Lintas
Bhawani Gems The Times of India Bank of India Rhone Poulenc
Lokhandwala Group Blue Dart Express Engineers India Ltd. Hindustan Lever
Chafekar Godrej Soaps Eureka Forbes
Gujarat Ambuja Johnson & Johnson
Shaikh Construction Cement
O & M International
Blow Plast Ltd.
MAIN ASPECTS OF THE QUESTIONNAIRE:
1. OVERALL ANALYSIS:
• Goals, objectives of the Organisation
• Involvement of subordinates in decision making
• Emphasis on Training
• Work Climate and atmosphere
2. ORGANISATION COMMUNICATION:
3. MANAGEMENT TEAM EVALUATION:
• How bosses behave
4. WORK GROUP ASSESSMENT:
• How subordinates behave
5. MANAGEMENT SELF-PERCEPTION:
• Leadership styles
6. ORGANISATIONAL RELATIONS:
• Inter-personal relationship
7. ORGANISATIONAL CHANGES:
• Ability to change
The study was carried out in the city of Mumbai, India through personal Interviews . After
the analysis of the responses based on the questionnaire these were the salient findings
I. FAMILY MANAGED COMPANIES “ANNADATACULTURE”
(Annadata in Hindi means “The one who provides”)
• They prefer a multi-purpose person- an employee who will be an accountant, administrator,
sales person etc. This is because they like to limit the no. of employees on roll.
• The person is bound to the organization and is extremely devoted, subservient to the owner
and spends his lifetime there.
• Employee Turnover is kept minimum
i. Good treatment – all employees are treated as part of the family and work as a unit
ii. Salary on time
iii. Advance loan granted to meet certain personal commitments like,
Health problem, Marriages and renovation of homes.
iv. Employees are involved in family celebrations like, marriages, birth of a child, etc
v. Expose them to such work areas by virtue of which they may acquire skills which may
not be of great importance to other organisations.
i. Limited in the hands of few.
ii. Unstructured relationship among people
iii. No personnel policies
MANAGEMENT TEAM EVALUATION
• Less emphasis on self development and training
WORK GROUP ASSESSMENT
• Owner is source of guidance for professional and personal problems
MANAGERIAL SELF PERCEPTION
• Management Approach
i. task oriented
iii. hard nosed
• Rarely use of improved work methods
• Rarely reinforce and support positive behaviour of subordinates
• Employees do not trust top management
• If employees have a conflict or disagreement with management they usually work it out
directly or seek modifications.
• Organisation does not seek adequate input from employees on those changes that affect them.
PRIVATE SECTOR COMPANIES “WORKHARD-PLAYHARD CULTURE” ?
1. Goals and objectives of the company are clearly defined.
2. Cost and Financial data is utilised for rewards and guidance.
3. Considerable emphasis on training and self-development.
4. Involvement of subordinates is high
5. Structured relationship amongst employees
6. Achievement is recognised
7. Open and candid atmosphere with a good work climate
8. Good utilisation of workforce and other resources
9. Adequate delegation
10. Superiors have knowledge about problems faced by subordinates.
11. Good Co-ordination amongst work units.
12. High productivity standards.
13. Freedom to work
14. Performance evaluation is guided by merit irrespective of age
15. Perks/ Perquisites are in proportion to the amount of profitability.
MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES: ‘TARGET CULTURE’
SALIENT FEATURES ARE:
1. The emphasis is on quantitative budgets and task-oriented.
2. Well-defined Goals & Objectives which are reviewed periodically.
3. Performance Evaluation based on results
4. Openness/ Candidness professed but not practised
5. Downward Communication
6. Power in the hands of few
7. Productivity Standards are high
8. High Confidence in subordinates
9. Roles and Responsibilities are very clear
10. Risk-taking is low
• Most of the managers are perceived as task oriented and realistic
• Very few are perceived as imaginative and futuristic.
• Risk taking is low
• Subordinates do not know where bosses stand on controversial issues.
• Openness and candidness, professed but not practised
• Low involvement of employees in decision-making, problem-solving, policy changes etc.
SUPERIORS AS PERCEIVED BY SUBORDINATES
• There is not much sharing of power/ authority
• Not much concern/ adequate concern is shown about physical or psychological working
• Very high stress on productivity
• Organisation roles and responsibilities very clear, without any overlapping.
SUBORDINATES AS PERCEIVED BY SUPERIORS
• The subordinates role is mostly seen as one of dependancy and conformity.
• Subordinates work standards are maintained high
• Within the group good lateral communication
PUBLIC SECTOR COMPANIES ‘CHALTA HAI CULTURE’
(Chalta hai in hindi means “it doesn’t matter” or “everything goes”)
THE SALIENT FEATURES ARE: ?
• Limited Vision, for the Chief Executive’s tenure is for two years
• Major decisions influenced by Ministry
• Good emphasis on training & development
• Work climate does not encourage employees to do their best and perform well.
• Organisation does not reward personnel on the basis of merit
• Emphasis on the written word and toe little oral communication.
• Organisation does not promote creative thinkers and innovative performers.
• Lack of attention to creative thinkers and innovative performers
• Work environment tends to increase absenteeism, slackness & leads to unproductivity.
FOREIGN-AFFILIATED COMPANIES ‘HYBRID CULTURE’
• There is considerable influence of the culture of the foreign collaborated Company.
• Managers at all levels participate in setting goals
• Good amount of emphasis on HRD
• Full utilisation of Resources
• Excellent work climate for employees to give their best.
FOREIGN AFFILIATED COMPANIES
• There is adequate delegation of authority co-operation within departments is a regular norm.
• The resources of the organisation are fully utilised.
• People in the organisation are open and candid with management. There is an excellent work
climate for employees to give their best.
MANAGEMENT TEAM EVALUATION
• High productivity standards
• Continous improvement
• High team spirit
• Clear Job description
WORK GROUP ASSESSMENT
• Full utilisation of Resources
• Employees have pride in themselves and their work
• Freedom to work
• Organisational Development
• Communication is circular
• High productivity standards
• Emphasis given on continuous improvement.
• Work groups are successful in accomplishing their goals consistently
• The organisation takes considerable effort in moulding the new employee.
• Policies and major decisions decided by foreign partner and have implementation difficulties.
a) The positive factors which lead to the success of Companies
• Consensus decision-making
• Open environment
• Effective dialogue between superiors and subordinates
• Organisation environment
• Democratic, Participative Management
• Flexible Organisation
• Emphasis on right recruitment and selection
• Adequate induction/ orientation programs mould an employee in the Organisation
• Healthy succession Policy
• Sense of belongingness
• Opportunities to grow, emphasis on HRD.
• Free information flow
• Employees of different age groups
CLARITY OF OBJECTIVES/ PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
• Well defined Goals and objectives
• Periodically evaluated
• The employees at various levels are involved in setting these goals and objectives; however
in some cases we find that the Participation level is low.
• Performance evaluation based on results achieved. In some cases it is observed that there is
excessive pressure for results.
• Most of the communication is downward
• Although at operational level the communication is adequate, the same however is inadequate
in organisational changes, policy changes etc.
b) Following Factors were found Detrimental from the Organisation Culture point of
• Mistakes committed not tolerated
• Lack of respect for employees
• Technical obsolescence
• Autocratic leadership style
• Militancy of labour
• Organisational conflicts and non-resolution of the same at the appropriate time
• Discouragement of Innovation
• Unhealthy working conditions
• Subordinates not taken into confidence
• Greater autonomy
• Longer tenure for the chief executive
• Rewarding personnel on the basis of merit and not merely seniority
• Open atmosphere
• Good utilisation of human energies
• High productivity standards
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Prof. Dr. Uday Salunke Director - Welingkar Institute of Management is a
mechanical engineer with a management degree in 'Operations', and a Doctorate in
'Turnaround Strategies'. He has 12 years of experience in the corporate world including
Mahindra & Mahindra, ISPL and other companies before joining Welingkar in 1995 as
faculty for Production Management. Subsequently his inherent passion, commitment and
dedication toward the institute led to his appointment as Director in 2000. Dr. Salunkhe
has been invited as visiting fellow at the Harvard Business School, USA and European
University, Germany. He has also delivered seminars at the Asian Institute of
Management, Manila and has been awarded "The Young Achievers Award-2003" in the
field of Academics by the Indo American Society recently.