Ugandans are generally no strangers to how Indians approach work. Many Ugandan Indians are involved in commodity trading while others are part of the corporate bulk of the Ugandan elite class in the services sector. Some of them are Ugandan by citizenship.
While there is sufficient interaction of the native Ugandans and their Indian counterparts in the work environment, there still remains a stark difference in the way the two groups approach work. It is actually common to find the average employed Ugandan distraught about how Indians at their workplace are allegedly hard to deal with.
About 10 years ago, when I got a chance to work with them, I was not sure if they were going to make my life difficult or not, going by the common public perception that they were difficult to work with, or for. I subsequently got one of my best work experiences from them and by the time I moved on from working with their organisation, I had taken wonderful lessons that are still useful to me today and which I share below.
They do not procrastinate
One thing that I noticed within a few days of my work with them is that Indians swiftly act on what they decide to do. They do not unnecessarily postpone activities and projects which they have agreed to implement. They prefer to try out opportunities, even if there is a possibility of failure, than to miss out on the chance of trying. In this regard, they also do not entertain any sluggishness within their teams, in implementation of work activities or creation of excuses for tasks not accomplished. I also learnt that Indians are as hard on themselves as they are hard on their employees to produce work results; in fact, they are possibly harder on themselves. This is a key ingredient of their success.
They communicate their dissatisfaction with work results clearly
When an Indian workmate is dissatisfied with your work contribution, you will rarely pick it from the corridors of the work place. They will tell it to you straight, without much sugar coating. This may even happen in a general forum with other work colleagues present. I take it that this is because they never consider work matters to be personal ones, and as such there is no need to be private with you when they are not happy with what you are doing on the job. This enhances accountability for roles and responsibilities within the work team.
They do not harbor grudges about work disagreements
For many of the Indians, a work disagreement is simply that and nothing more. You may even have a heated engagement about a disagreement on an issue, but it ends there. If you carry it into subsequent days of your work relationship, you might actually be doing that alone. The fellow may have long moved on. This helps them to keep focused on the key business issues and not be taken up with trivialities and distractive build-up of workplace emotions.
They carefully prioritise strategic business relationships
Indians in business basically know which side their bread is buttered and they invest a lot to keep the butter supply flowing. In dealing with their strategic partners, Indians are careful to keep these relationships running. They are also often ready to compromise part of their own short-term benefits from such relationships, in the interest of long term objectives and sustainability of the relationships. You may often see this in the manner in which they flexibly handle the extension of concessions to key clients and other strategic partners and how exemptions from previously set positions are exercised towards business partners, with a positive mindset, if such exemptions pave way for longer lasting benefits.
They train and motivate their own, into the businesses they do
It is possible that you will find an indigenous Ugandan saying that his or her children should toil to build their own businesses, as the parent also did toil for what he or she has attained. You then wonder why they have been working so hard in the first place, if their own children must commence the whole toiling experience from the starting point where the parent also began. To expect significant progress when everyone must begin from point zero to make their fortune can hardly be called intelligent. Indians on the other hand put in a lot of effort in training their children in the businesses they do. They decidedly prepare their children to pick up from them with time. This is a business continuity management strategy and advancement model that requires no classroom lectures.
The above are some of the important lessons that the rest of Ugandans can beneficially pick from their Indian counterparts.
Raymond is a Chartered Risk Analyst and risk management consultant