If MS Excel is used outside of India


The cost pressure is high, in the IT as well as in the tourism industry. In order to save, TUI Infotec, the IT service provider of the TUI Group, was looking for an Indian development partner and found Sonata Software Ltd. five years ago. In 2006 TUI Infotec became a joint venture in which Sonata Software holds 50.1 percent and TUI AG 49.9 percent. Managing Director Heinz Kreuzer had the task of converting an in-house service provider into an independent company in which cross-project cooperation between Germany and India worked seamlessly. "The inner acceptance and motivation of the employees is always decisive for success," said Kreuzer. It was clear to the 53-year-old that it would not be so easy to get the Hanoverian workforce worried about their jobs on board. Language barriers, cultural differences and dealing with different leadership styles were the challenges.

The employees on both continents initially experienced the extent to which cultural differences affect work processes. Some German employees traveled to India for four weeks each to get to know their Indian colleagues at Sonata in Hyderabad or Bangalore and to consolidate work processes. Sibyll Strunk, project manager and systems analyst at TUI Infotec, was one of them. She noticed that in India, for example, there is no feedback culture like in Europe or the USA: "The customer is king principle there does not allow any criticism of the client. It is difficult to get feedback even on request to find out whether something went well or badly and what the respective factors were. Of course, that makes improvement processes more difficult. This approach has to be established gradually. "

Indian colleagues mediate in Germany

Like Strunk, Andreas Kuhlmeyer, system administrator in the IT operations department, found it helpful to work for four weeks in India and to make personal contacts. He also noticed cultural differences: "A lot is different than in Europe. You have to learn to think differently. In case of doubt, the Indian colleagues always wait for instructions and do not make decisions on their own responsibility, because hierarchies are perceived differently. That is why instructions for action are important Cover all potential difficulties as far as possible so that the work process does not come to a standstill. " In order to get a better grip on the cooperation, there is always at least one Indian colleague in Hanover for a longer period as a translator and agent. "Complex things can also be explained to him. He transmits the knowledge to India and thus takes on part of the coordination," explains Kuhlmeyer.

Chatting at work is part of it

Communication in India was also unfamiliar at first, remembered TUI Infotec employees Strunk and Kuhlmeyer: "You first had to listen to Indian English and the somewhat different type of communication and gestures. Intercultural training and English courses were very helpful. that we could perceive within working hours. " In the intercultural training sessions, the French woman Isabelle Demangeat, who lives in Berlin, acted as an external coach to highlight the different cultural customs. "The aim is always to consider the double perspective. It is less about learning content than about a certain attitude and awareness in practice," says Demangeat. Information about the country and customs is only a small part, even if it helps to identify the faux pas. The focus is on the question of how communication works in the two cultures and how trust is built. In India you move in a network of relationships, a lot happens through personal contacts. Providing factual information to a stranger on the phone only because of a common task is not a problem in this country, but in India it is unusual without detailed information on the context and the people involved.

The German division between work and personal life is also alien to Indian employees. "A remark like," I don't have time to chat at work, I am not paid for that, "would meet with a complete lack of understanding with an Indian and cause deep injuries," explains Demangeat. Personal conversations and relationships are also the basis in the world of work. Ultimately, this approach can also enrich the German working atmosphere.

Communication as a permanent task

Communication needs attention - that is a key message from the consultant. To repeatedly address where there are problems or incomprehension, to appoint a representative for communication quality: These are the tasks for the company. The consultant also sees an essential basis for success in the fact that both sides show their expectations of the respective activity. Further intercultural training courses are planned in which Indian and German colleagues will take part at the same time. Dealing with different ways of working also takes time: "The ability to criticize superiors must be massively demanded, and even then it takes time to break old patterns. This includes intensive inquiries and encouragement to give clear messages if there are disagreements," says Managing Director Kreuzer .

"From an Indian point of view, it is a sign of hospitality to look after visitors outside of the company in their free time. In the West this is atypical, there is more of a tendency to want to explore the unfamiliar surroundings independently Recognizing needs and engaging with them in order to benefit from each other's point of view, "explains Demangeat. The question of how comfortable the Indian employees feel in Germany also determines the success. "The Indian job market is very open and there is high fluctuation. An orientation towards the USA or Great Britain is also more common. If employees feel that they are not being treated well here on a personal level, word gets around quickly and it becomes more difficult to to find highly qualified workers in India, "said Demangeat.

In addition to dealing with language, culture and working methods, efficient structures play an essential role. In offshoring in particular, the average savings of around 30 percent can only be achieved if the cooperation is constructive and know-how is continuously built up in India. At TUI Infotec, German project managers look after customers, while the Indian backbone handles clearly defined tasks. This changes the tasks for the local employees, who coordinate more than produce. "At the beginning we defined standard tasks that can be outsourced very well. My job has become more exciting because there are now fewer routine tasks and more strategic tasks to be carried out," says Kuhlmeyer.

Sibyll Strunk, who works in IT operations, initially had a lot to organize: "It was time-consuming to establish structures and efficient collaboration." This includes creating clear paths. "If a specification was not sufficient or was misunderstood, a rapid flow of corrections must be possible without things being delayed by the time difference," says Strunk. It also took time and experience to assess the shape of a project or task with regard to whether offshoring is worthwhile or whether it is more efficient and cheaper to carry out in Germany. How difficult an overarching collaboration is depends on the extent of the standard tasks - the more industry-specific or individual a project is, the more complex the communication becomes.

Nevertheless: "The insight into a different culture and different ways of thinking is a real enrichment in everyday working life", states system administrator Kuhlmeyer. Despite all the hurdles, Heinz Kreuzer's enthusiasm for the joint project has not diminished. "An intercultural growing together is not a Sunday stroll. However, our experience shows that it can be a calculable process that secures jobs in Germany." (at the)

  1. Project duration: Intercultural projects often take longer. This is due to the more complex communication. It has to be planned.

  2. Communication does not run smoothly: Faulty and inefficient communication channels are establishing themselves. Here it is advisable to set up feedback loops for the quality of communication and to appoint a communication officer.

  3. There are enough misunderstandings in everyday working life when employees come together who do not speak the same language. Therefore: Support employees with language courses during working hours.

  4. Why do they do it that way? Cultural differences are reflected in different ways of working. These should be intercepted with suitable structures.

  5. I am the center of the world. The others have to follow me: Employees can practice in intercultural training that everything is a question of perspective and that you can also adopt that of the other person from time to time. With understanding and the ability to change perspectives, you get ahead.

  6. Coordination problems during the project: Clear definitions help against this. Which profiles do the Indian employees need for which projects so that the cooperation works smoothly?

  7. Lack of team spirit: An international team comes together more easily if they can work together in one place for a certain period of time and exchange ideas directly and personally.

  8. Unclear prospects in the high-wage country: The management should show every employee in Germany a perspective for the future so that there is a willingness to help shape the difficult process with commitment.

  9. High start-up costs for complex projects: It is advisable to create clear definitions and guidelines as to which tasks are suitable for offshoring.

  10. High fluctuation in Asian labor markets: In order to retain employees in the long term, personal support is required. Sponsorships by colleagues in the host country that go beyond everyday work are highly valued.