How is life at Cognizant Pune

Study trip: door opener to India

India offers great potential for Swiss companies, especially because of its good economic growth. However, achieving success in the Indian market is a challenge. As part of my part-time business informatics studies (Bachelor of Science FH in Business Information Technology (BIT)) at the Kalaidos University of Applied Sciences, I had the unique opportunity this March to go on a one-week study trip to Pune, India. On our trip we immersed ourselves in the culture of the city of 7 million people and gained deep insights into the Indian world of work. As I work intensively with a team in Pune as a project manager at IBM, it was extremely enriching to get to know the team leader on site and to take very specific knowledge home with me.

Perseverance, a clear strategy and an understanding of the diversity of cultures

In order to be able to establish a company in India in the long term, it takes patience, a clear strategy, an understanding of the many local cultures and still an agile mindset. The visits to Schindler, Geberit and UBS in particular showed me that it is almost impossible and makes sense to set up a company or a branch of business in India for a short period of time. Furthermore, the right people must be identified and trust built through honesty and openness. I had previously experienced myself that fluctuation is a challenge for companies in relation to certain job roles. However, it was very interesting to find out that the dynamic of company changes is sometimes much greater, i.e. employees do not show up for work or change jobs from one day to the next. Finding the right employees was often mentioned as an additional challenge.

Clear definition of expectations and entrepreneurial spirit

At Cognizant, a provider of IT consulting and technology as well as outsourcing services with over 260,000 employees, around 100,000 in India, 2,400 of them in Pune, I was impressed by their western groove and professionalism. In the group discussions it became clear that open and frequent communication as well as a clear definition of expectations are the main factors for successful cooperation between teams in India and other countries.

Image: Teasing out the cultural challenges in business at Cognizant

In a lively exchange with 8 representatives from UBS - from the Head of IT to Head of Facility Management to Head of HR, I was surprised and motivated by their willingness to openly discuss the challenges of culture and HR management with us. The statement “One team, one dream” stuck with me.

Extreme opposites

On a 4-hour journey of discovery through Pune with my Indian colleague from IBM, the first thing I noticed was the extreme contrasts: poor and rich, chaos and yet organized, dirty and clean, as well as hot and cold were only a few meters away from each other. Another paradox is the, at first glance, uncontrolled, dense and loud traffic, which is regulated by loud horns, i.e. mutual information. The most extreme contrast was formed by the new, western-style buildings of IT companies, next to them modern residential complexes and a few meters further a slum. I experienced the most emotional contrast in the warmth and friendliness of the Indians, although they often live under very simple circumstances.

Image: The "normal" market in Pen (left) and a visit to a remote village outside Pen (right)

How I use my knowledge for my work

The personal encounter with the IBM team leader made me realize how important it is to understand the culture of my counterpart in order to be able to work efficiently and productively. Thanks to the informal exchange, we got to know each other better and increased trust. I am convinced that we will work together more effectively in the future and that I will be able to respond better to other Indian colleagues. This is also because I will share my experiences with my work colleagues in Switzerland personally and with my global team in a virtual meeting.

The trip to Pune made me think on the one hand and showed me the reality of Indian culture on the other. I am curious to see how India will develop in the next few years and I would be delighted to be able to travel to it again. In the future, I would like to be more aware of cultures in order to better understand my counterparts, be it at work or in my private life. Often it is the little things that can open the door.


Image: Children in the slum near Pune Airport (left) and the sale of fresh vegetables in the market (right). Two times very different, twice with a lot of warmth.