Indian Techies Told to Mind Their Ps and Qs

Udhay Shankar N
Wed, 17 Oct 2001 19:10:12 +0530

Hm. Interesting. Anybody have personal experience of this?

Indian techies told to mind their Ps and Qs

Imran Qureshi in Bangalore

Indian IT companies are beginning to impart a new dimension to the social 
skills of their professionals travelling abroad -- to be politically 
correct in the post-Black Tuesday era.

At least half a dozen companies in this Indian IT capital have begun giving 
special briefing to senior management personnel on how to deal with the war 
on terrorism while in the US, the biggest market for Indian IT.

"What some companies are doing is to basically sensitise their colleagues 
to the political dimension of the current geo-political situation. Like it 
would be politically incorrect to say that Osama bin Laden is to George W 
Bush what Bhindranwale was to Indira Gandhi," a senior company official said.

The reference was to the Sikh militant preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, 
seen as a political creation of then prime minister Indira Gandhi before he 
became a leader of the Sikh militant movement and was hunted down and 
killed by Indian Army troops in June 1984.

IT professionals are being told not only how to discuss the current 
political situation but also to show solidarity with Americans and 
Europeans and, where necessary, to simply say: "It is not my forte... 
politely, of course."

The professionals are also being told to be "careful while talking even 
among Indians so that some crude remark or joke does not affect business 

Said another official of a software firm: "In the US, where everybody is 
suspicious about everybody, particularly Indian facial features, it is all 
the more necessary for us to ensure that our colleagues don't cross the 
line of control and get into a free-wheeling political discussion."

Officials became alarmed after the case of an Indian IT expert being held 
back by the police at Singapore airport came to light.

All that the Indian is said to have told another Indian professional was 
that in his spare time he played for a band and that he was the guitarist.

An American sitting in the airport lounge heard the guitarist say he was a 
"terrorist" and promptly reported the conversation to the police. "When 
such is the mood, it is all the more important for us to sensitise our 
colleagues on being politically correct," said one official.

Companies have also put restrictions on the forwarding "jokes and other 
hate mail" that is flooding Internet users.

"This is because we don't know where all that mail will be forwarded to, 
and if the company's address is evident, it could affect business. We are 
just being careful," said the official of another company.

"This is one aspect that we realise has to be added to our social skill 
training because of the situation," said one executive.

Imparting social skill training, including situational English, body 
language, presentation, cultural aspects, and time and stress management, 
has spawned into a separate business.

The addition of political correctness into social skill sets is significant 
because the Indian IT industry was hit first by the slowdown in the US 
economy and then by last month's terror attacks.

"In such a situation, it would be stupid for us to lose business because 
one colleague is politically insensitive," pointed out one official.

Indo-Asian News Service

((Udhay Shankar N)) ((udhay @ ((
      God is silent. Now if we can only get Man to shut up.