Today on Bridge Blog we are featuring an interview with Minna Salminen Karlsson. Minna Salminen Karlsson, a Swedish researcher who has done a research on the”soft” issues in advanced ICT offshoring from Sweden to India. Her project is called ‘OFFSWING’. Recently she visited our Indian office as part of her research. She spend some days with the team. Here are some more details about ‘OFFSWING’, her career and her observations and learning about offshoring association between India and Sewden.
‘OFFSWING’ is designed to benefit the companies concerned by giving feedback about the management of soft issues in their offshoring processes, and to benefit Swedish-Indian offshoring relations in general, by gathering and disseminating knowledge about such issues which have proven to be problematic. This project is supported by Uppsala University and Linköping University in Sweden.
Minna Salminen-Karlsson, assistant professor in sociology, has done research on engineering education and ICT companies since the first half of the 1990’s, as well as on women’s careers in technological work in a European perspective. In particular, she has been interested in computer engineering culture: how it is transmitted in engineering education and how it is formed in highly technological ICT workplaces. She has also researched learning in ICT companies, in particular the learning that takes place in team working processes.
- Why have you decided to study ICT offshoring between Sweden and India?
Minna Salminen: We are a couple of researchers who have done research on gender relations in Swedish computer companies. We realized that these companies are increasingly going global, so we wanted to broaden our research area, too. And when they go global, new issues, such as culture and communication, become increasingly important.
- What are the factors that drive Swedish companies to outsource to India?
Minna Salminen: I don’t think there’s anything that’s specific to Sweden in that respect. In the beginning it was the cost. Now, I would say that it’s increasingly the talent pool, even if cost, naturally, also is a very important aspect. Swedish companies also become more international by mergers and joint ventures, and in that way come into contact with companies who already outsource. Some companies also seek to come to the Indian market with their products, and outsourcing can be a first step in business cooperation or learning to know the Indian setting.
- What are the main benefits for Swedish companies when outsourcing to India?
Minna Salminen: That is also something that is not particular for Sweden. Cost and talent. Something that I’ve heard that might be a bit special for Sweden is the need to structure up the work in Sweden to be able to outsource it. Some companies think it’s a benefit to be forced to do it, as Swedish company culture in general often is not that good in structuring and documenting.
- How does the communication between Indian and Swedish companies work? Do you have positive and negative examples?
Minna Salminen: There we have some issues that seem to be specific for Sweden. First, of course, it’s the language issue. English is not the first language for Swedes and many Swedes prefer conducting their work in Swedish. Learning to understand the Indian pronunciation in particular can take some time. When it comes to more overall issues the reluctance of Swedes to be precise in their requests, in their follow-up and in their feedback, and the reluctance of Indians to say no to a request can cause a number of problems. The positive examples are there when both parties have found a functioning way of handling that difference and are personal enough so they perceive each other as real colleagues.
- Do you think there is something Swedish companies can do to prepare themselves for working with Indian companies?
Minna Salminen: To start with, try to get acceptance for the idea among those people who are affected by the cooperation. It’s not always easy, because outsourcing to India always actualizes the question of redundancy in Sweden. If possible, meet the partner in person, either by going to India or getting people from the Indian partner to visit Sweden. It’s not always possible, but it often helps a lot. Some general cultural training might be good, I’ve heard different opinions about how important that is, but it’s good if people have a general understanding of the cultural differences that directly affect the work. However, that’s not always easy to do, and it’s also important to beware of confirming stereotypes about how “Indians” are, because there are both general patterns and individual differences. Learning to communicate clearly and precisely is important, but I don’t know how much you can train that beforehand, and how much has to come when you start working together.
- Do you think outsourcing to India leads to loss of jobs for Swedish employees?
Minna Salminen: Yes, I know it does.
- What did you find out from your visit to Bridge India office? What was your experience?
Minna Salminen: It was fascinating to see a small multinational which is very different from the big multinationals, and also to see how people work with small clients. It becomes more personal and the Indian employees get more space to really try to attend to the customer. Bridge was also the only company I visited outside Bangalore, and I think the mentality is different in Kochi – an Indian developer I met in Sweden said it would be, and that was true. The pace is calmer, the people more relaxed, which is a bit more like Sweden. Compared to the multinationals in Bangalore it seemed like more fun to work at Bridge, and when you enjoy work you also do a better job. I know Bridge does a lot of work to bridge the cultural differences, but until I’ve talked to the customer side, I cannot really say how well that works.
Sini Jince(Bridge Blog admin): Thank you Minna for sharing this information and Visitors, please leave any questions or comments you have for Minna below and thanks for reading!