A Day in the Life: A Culture Dive into India to Connect, Thrive, and Make Strides
As I stepped out of my morning cab to the office, I was immediately greeted by the building security guard, an Indian man in his late 60s. Each morning he greeted me with the same question: “Are you happy? Are you happy in my country, Mr. Grayson? We want you to be happy.” I would answer: “Yes sir, I am very happy here,” or some variation of that. It had become part of my morning routine. One particular morning, he stopped me on my way up the stairs and said (in broken English), “I have to tell you something Mr. Grayson. I’m not too happy. I am working double shifts, sometimes only receiving half of my promised pay. I can barely live. Does this happen in your country?” I replied to him, “I’m sorry to hear that sir. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
The next day, I arrived at the office expecting the routine question. Instead, he invited me to get some tiffin from the street corner. Tiffin, in South India, is code for a “light breakfast.” We ventured over to the street vendor where he ordered himself some idly and me some puri. As I then reached in my pocket to pay, he said “no, I pay, I insist. You are my guest.” I proceeded to argue with him, but he wouldn’t let me pay. As I reflect on this encounter and others similar to this, I have realized what it is about India that keeps me coming back: Indian culture embodies hospitality. It is in their DNA to welcome others. While I was a total stranger, the man took it upon himself to personally ensure my happiness; even if that meant decreasing his well-being. I was a guest in his country.
I’ve experienced the same hospitality since February 1st, the day I began a 3-month extended stay with the First Rate Infotech team in Hyderabad. My job was to facilitate the flow of ideas and knowledge to the Service Bureau team of about six individuals. Although this was my fifth trip to India, I was a bit nervous for the new challenge ahead of training a small team. That nervousness was quickly overwhelmed by the excitement and enthusiasm coming from the team members. I knew right away this would be an experience of a lifetime.
Although I was tasked with training them, my journey of learning from them also began on day one. That first week, the team helped me navigate the basics of living in India: getting an Indian SIM card for my phone, arranging transportation to and from the office, and warning me not to drink water from the tap. My “welcome” lunch was at none other than paradise – The World’s Best Biryani. However, by week two, the man working at the Subway down the street knew my daily lunch order. In the office the team was eager to begin the trainings and take on new responsibilities. I was very impressed by the caliber of talent, because most of them had prior experience as either account managers or equivalent positions in the financial services industry. It wasn’t a surprise that within eight weeks, the team had already surpassed their goals and were adding topics of their own to the list of trainings. I also had the wonderful opportunity of attending the Indian School of Business’ “India Inside Programme” with the head of Business Development for First Rate Infotech. During the week-long program, we heard from professors and industry professionals regarding India’s growth potential and how to navigate market challenges in our respective industries. The insight gained, and connections made were strategic for First Rate Infotech to develop local business in the near future.
Outside the office, I greatly enjoyed trying Hyderabadi cuisine, watching movies in Telugu (with English subtitles), and playing cricket when the opportunity presented itself. I was constantly told my bowling needed improvement, but I made up for it when I batted (I was also careful not to transfer my cricket batting motion to my golf swing nearby at Hyderabad Golf Club). Selfies with strangers, eating with my hands, and learning to drive the two-wheeler bike were part of the unforgettable India experience. One of my favorite things about India is its uniqueness. People say there are “multiple Indias,” meaning that you will experience different foods, languages, and customs every 150 miles you travel within the country. With over 1.2 billion people and 15,000 languages, India is the most culturally rich and diverse country in the world. Yet it is also a country that faces some of the toughest challenges including water scarcity, unemployment, inadequate sanitation, and lack of education for its 270 million in poverty. With poor infrastructure and a large bureaucracy, the difficulty of conducting business is beyond imaginable.
Nonetheless, the country is making large strides to address these problems and First Rate Infotech is playing a major role. First Rate Infotech strives to create stronger communities through its orphan youth empowerment, education, and business initiatives. The groups’ enthusiasm and encouragement embrace our company’s values at the core, both at work and in the community. Love. Give. Serve. Enjoy. Some may say these are just four words, but I witnessed each of these in action at First Rate Infotech.
I am extremely grateful for the relationships developed during my time in Hyderabad, and I depart inspired by their commitment to make a difference in the world around them. It is a blessing to work for a company on a mission and I look forward to returning to India in the near future.
Grayson was responsible for facilitating the flow of ideas and the handoff of processes, and clients in the India office. He developed training programs and materials to aid in knowledge and skills development. He continues to serve as an investment performance auditor in the Arlington office.