Corporate Culture Localization

Many global companies have adopted an approach of customizing their products to suit the local needs. McDonalds came up with some Indian burgers to suit the desi palate, Suvidha was Citibank’s experiment at serving the unique Indian market, General Motors shifted the driving wheel from left to right (and forgot to move the wiper and dipper sticks).And HSBC took this as their brand positioning with the World’s Local Bank punchline.

Source: TSK Designs
Source: TSK Designs

Many others across industries have seen success with such an adoption.And it sounds logical coz you are trying to identify the specific needs of the market and churning out something that talks to the consumers, that says that “hey, we understand you. We hear you and have built something just for you.”

But its surprising that these same companies fail to customize and serve their internal customers- the local employees. I have heard so many cases of a sheer culture mismatch, of the parent US/European culture being forced into the Indian arm so that it feels like one seamless unit. Unfortunately, it doesnt work that way. The recent firings at some of the MNC companies has brought this issue to the foreground.

I heard of two young managers who came back from a sales call during the evening to find their access cards are not working at the reception. Someone came down to tell them that their services have been terminated and they could no longer enter the premises. Wow !

Another team was called into a conference room and told they were being let go. The secretary staff was asked to clear their desks and send the stuff down. The team itself was escorted out directly from the conference room. Wow again ! What were the HR managers and business heads thinking?

India is not the West. Our people have a different set of parameters to judge whether they are being treated well or not. And if the local business heads fail to stand up and protest against these Standard Global Corporate policies (apparently the two above are instances of the co’s standard firing policies) they would lose their positioning in the job marketplace.

I can confidently say that people who know about the above two companies, will not flock to these organizations when the job market looks better.