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The idea behind this assignment is to illustrate and compare the impact of the British and the Americans on the Indian culture. The attraction of the concept lies in the fact that India had been colonised by the British for about two centuries (mid 18-20th), where as America (USA) being the World Power in the last few decades has impacted the entire civilisation of this planet in rather in-direct ways.
As you might have felt, the basic idea behind the analysis and the comparison is quite contrasting in itself, (in one being an imperialist power of relative past and the other world leading power of the present). Therefore, the impact of the British is presumed to be lot more (at the beginning of the analysis) than the Americans. Additionally, it is worth a mention that the British impact on the Indian culture is a much more thought, discussed and researched area than the other one in question.
Therefore, in order to gather sufficient amounts of quantity and quality of data about 28 Indians who are working or have previously worked in American firms (in India) were interviewed (mostly through the medium of telephone). These employees hail primarily from BPOs, hotels, banks, restaurant chains and a few other sectors.
“Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster." Prof. Geert Hofstede, Maastricht University.
The Present Situation
There are so many differences in the cultural values of the British, Indians and Americans. One of the ways of drawing this comparison is using the Hofstede's dimensions:
- Power Distance Index (clearlycultural.com, 2010)
Great Britain 42/44
(Source: Chapman, 2010)
Quite evidently India stands higher on the ladder of Power Distance “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept is, distributed unequally” (Chapman, 2010) as compared to USA and UK that lie relatively closer to each other.
- Individualism (newadvent.org, 2010)
Great Britain 3
(Source: Chapman, 2010)
The above mentioned rankings go on to show that the Americans and the British have more individualistic behaviour than the Indians. Indians in turn are having more Collectivist behaviour. “Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group—whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called the common good.” (aynrandlexicon.com, 2010)
Great Britain 9/10
(Source: Chapman, 2010)
The above mentioned rankings project the order in which the different societies have clearly distinct social gender roles.
- Uncertainty Avoidance (clearlycultural.com, 2010)
Great Britain 47/48
(Source: Chapman, 2010)
The British Impact
The British Empire had a prominent effect on almost all aspects of the Indian society. The rational and the scientific thinking of the British, to an extent merged and mingled with the Indian beliefs dominated largely by superstitions, religious practices and the most vulnerable caste system. (indianetzone.com, 2010) The colonizers, who had first entered the country in 1757 through the East India Trade Company (indianchild.com), and eventually conquered large part of its territory. The British Raj (Kulke, 2004) made several attempts to educate the minds and rationalise the thoughts of Indians. The affect is visible through the changes that it brought in art, architecture, novels, painting, literature, poetry, drama and the like. (indianetzone.com, 2010).The English made deliberate attempts to educate people like journalists, doctors, lawyers etc.
"During the first half of the nineteenth century, the British rulers decided to make English as the primary medium of education in India. They also envisioned the creation of a class of people in India that would act as a link between the rulers and ruled.” (indianetzone.com, 2010). The British spent a lot of time studying the Indian language, social structure, literature and eventually formulated new strategies of administration and then taught them to the Indians (the few serving the junior administrative roles). Warren Hastings, the Governor from 1772-85, established Calcutta Madrassah for the Muslim officials of the East Indian Company, where the students would be taught in Persian. (indianetzone.com, 2010)
In the words of Thomas Macualya, "We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect." (britishedu.net)
This thought process has had immense affect on India's education system. The ancient India was rich in its traditional education that was inherited from the ancient literature. Majority of this was present in Sanskrit. However the British had a different perspective and therefore they adopted different ways of imparting education.
The British can be credited to conduct the first widespread Socio-Cultural research projects amongst politically, culturally and geographically scattered states of India so as to better administer the large nation more effectively and efficiently.
It is however argued that the impact of the British did not just fade away from the Indian culture after its independence and continues to impact it one or the other ways (Sundaram, 2010) while many others argue that the Americans have been inspiring the minds and the culture of the Indians during the later half of the century.
The independence of India in 1947 is also marked with the formation of two different countries (eventually three countries), India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This was not just an event of political importance but it had a lot of social and cultural implications.
The American Impact
The American impact on the Indian Culture and society has not been through any direct relation/dominance. India, like many other developing countries today has been affected by rather in-direct ways by the Convergence/Globalisation, which has a fair bit of American dominance. Although it is difficult to find evidence that how many Indians adored the English to imperialise and rule them but the craze of learning/adopting American ways is as high as many other parts of the world. (influenceofamerica.blogspot.com, 2006)
The relation between India and USA could better be illustrated in terms of Business. In fact it is one the most prominent ways that Americans have in past influenced/and continue to influence India/Indians. USA is the second largest source of FDI for India after the EU. (mapsofindia.com, 2010) The American Companies started investing in India in 1990s, soon after the liberalisation of Indian economy in 1992. “The companies have seen double digit year-on-year growth in various sectors like Technology, Colas, Agriculture, Automobiles, Equipments, Finance and Banking. According to the American Chamber of Commerce in India, their membership base has soared up from zero in 1992 to more than 300 till date.” (mapsofindia.com, 2010) Despite the number of sectors the American companies have made huge investments, the IT industry stands tallest of all. “US is also the largest trade export destination of India” (mapsofindia.com, 2010)
All these investments have lead to establishment of numerous American companies' subsidiaries, offices, plants and factories etc. This creates lots of job opportunities in the country and apparently all the positions in the companies can not be manned by American nationals, therefore lots of Indians are appointed at different levels. Now it is important to understand whether the management styles/philosophy is universal or culturally sensitive.
Most of these firms lay a lot of emphasis on the idea of creating right culture in the organisations, where the right culture, more often than not has an immense influence of the headquarters. After conducting interviews with various employees who have relative work experience in American companies operating in India, many interesting ideas came forward. A few components of the changing culture may include calling every one by his/her first name, both men and women wearing western cut uniforms (where ever applicable), encouraging the youngsters for higher positions and promoting them at relatively young age, involvement of more and more members of the team in the decision making process, having same cafeterias/ dining area for all the levels of the staff, etc. All these concepts may sound fairly regular to a Western mind however they usually contradict the Indian traditional values of work ethics, masculinity, respect for the elderly and other age old social differences. (It may be worth a notice that the Caste system in India was also based upon one's profession)
One of the other prominent findings from the interviewees has been that most of the respondents believed that the globalisation/convergence/changing corporate culture is changing the highly regarded Indian Values quite adversely. Different respondents had different examples/instances to share about the same. More often it involved changing human relationships as the basic change along with many others things ranging from popularity of Western apparels, food, cinema and music etc.
One of the sectors that are heavily affected by the American firms is BPOs. In addition to the other factors that make India an attractive investment destination, the time difference between the two countries makes India even better place for outsourcing Knowledge/Business Processes. As the time difference is roughly 12 hours and this makes it possible for firms to operate 24 hours. It is worth a notice that Indians have inherited basic knowledge of English from the British and it has proved very beneficial for the BPO/KPO sector. “This contribution (BPOs) is expected to double to 5 per cent (GDP) by 2010. The sector will directly employ about 2.3 million by 2010. To be a part of the BPO industry is to be part of the India growth story that has captivated the world.” (thehindubusinessline.com, 2010). However the BPO sector is also bringing many significant changes in the work/living culture of the Indians. It has the highest attrition rates amongst all industries in India (bpoindia.org, 2010). As well more than 50% employees of the BPOs are involved in voice processes (bpoindia.org, 2010); it also brings a lot of emphasis on the accent. Increasing number of outsourcing firms are providing American accent training to their employees. To sum up the cultural effects of the BPOs, one of the interview respondents stated as that the employees of these BPOs wake up all nights, speak (or try to speak) the American English, wear western brands, discuss American TV serials/movies at work, therefore many of them deserve to get American Green Cards if not passports.
One of the other areas of influence is the Media/TV. Indian TV in the last few years has seen many successful programs like Fear Factor-India, Deal Ya No Deal (Deal or No Deal), Kaun Banega Crorepati (Who wants to be a millionaire), Indian Idol, Business Bazzigar (close to NBC's Apprentice), Boogie Woogie (influenceofamerica.blogspot.com, 2006). Many people believe that the popularity/success of these programs on the small screen is also an index of the changing taste of an average Indian.
Power distance: the British being the imperialist force, always wanted to increase the power distance amongst the subjects.
The Indian Culture and society of today, in many ways has an impact of both British and American Cultures. The amount of English Speaking population in India is approx. 232 million which happens to be second largest in the world after USA. (wikipedia.com, 2010) Now this can be attributed to the Era of British Imperialism as well as the American dominance in the world trade today.
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