November 15th, 2010
My first day in the Delhi office. A little anxious, a little excited…I was ready to meet new people and begin my professional experiment in India.
7:15 am – 9:00 am: Commute
I finally understand why office hours start late in India. The typical commute to work:
- 7:15 am – take a rickshaw to the company van service stop
- 7:30 am – board the ‘company shuttle’
- Snooze for 1.5 hours with head bobbing violently
- 9:00 am – arrive at the office
The company shuttle – Most companies contract with private van services to ferry all their employees to work from most parts of the city. For some companies, this is their second biggest expense after real estate and ahead of wages. The shuttles carry 4-8 people from each area and are feared on the roads because of their rash driving – by the other not so gentle drivers of Delhi!
Thankfully, my commute is a tad better than this typical commute.
PHOTO: Traffic jam with a thousand company vans waiting in DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon, Haryana
9:30 am: Reporting time
In the short walk from the entrance to the training room, the office looked fairly similar to corporate offices in the U.S. – glass cabins, white board walls, open cubes, coffee machines, etc. I noticed that several cubes had pictures of gods and goddesses, some had pictures of family members. People were dressed more informally. Indian attire (salwar kameez, sarees, etc.) was most common for women. My Brooks Brothers business suit was definitely an overkill!
10 am – 11:30 am: Joining formalities
Get one thing straight – you need a PAN number (similar to the Social Security Number in the U.S.) for everything in India. Depending on your passport or visa, you may be able to get this even before coming to India (check the process online). I highly recommend that you do this if you can.
I filled out the necessary paperwork and provided documents that even included transcripts for the 10th and 12th grade. The equivalent of a 401K in India is a Provident Fund account. Interestingly, the default beneficiaries for this account are your parents.
11:30 am – 2 pm: Deloitte overview, policies, and procedures
HR provided an overview of Deloitte India – the organization, divisions, leaders, and hierarchy. Unlike the U.S., consultants have bosses here. Staff are “owned” by partners and report up through the chain of command to a partner/senior director. And of course, there are many more levels in the organization pyramid:
Analyst > Consultant > Sr. Consultant > Manager 1 > Manager 2 > Sr. Manager > Director > Sr. Director/Partner
2 pm – 2:45 pm: Lunch
Lunch at 2 pm – I was starving! The whole training room probably heard my stomach rumble. We went to the office cafeteria for lunch – all you can eat vegetarian buffet for Rs. 40 (<$1)!
Note: Salad included mooli (radish)
2:45 pm – 3:35 pm: IT and admin logistics
Got my username and password, a brief overview of privacy and security procedures, temporary badge…everything I needed to get setup in the office logistically – laptop would take another day and my official seating assignment would take a few days.
Approvals, approvals and more approvals!
- How do I get an air card? Fill out form A and obtain partner approval.
- How do I make long distance calls from the office? Fill out form B and obtain partner approval.
- Where is the mail room? I’d like to get a notepad, stapler, and some basic stationery. Please speak with JP – you will need to fill out form C and obtain partner approval.
- How do I change my password while at client site? Send an email to IT, CCing your partner for approval.
3:35 pm – 3:50 pm: Medical insurance session
Unlike the U.S., this was a fairly straight forward process. We had very little paperwork to fill out but the coverage was small – by default, the firm covers you for Rs. 1 lakh ($2000) in medical expenses. If married, your spouse is also covered for the same amount. For a nominal yearly premium, it is easy to purchase additional insurance, up to Rs. 2 lakhs ($4000), for each parent/parent in-law.
Anything above this amount is out of your own pocket or you can buy insurance in the open market.
3:50 pm – 4:00 pm: Tea break
Tea is to India what coffee is to the U.S. It was delightful to have a good, strong cup of tea readily available at work.
4:00 pm – 4:45 pm: Banking
This was frustrating and would probably be illegal in the U.S. If you have not opened a bank account yet, you may want to wait until you start work. In India, you have to get your salary deposited into a bank account of your company’s choosing. I was forced to open a salary account with Standard Chartered Bank. I could not get my salary deposited in my existing bank account in India or get a paper check issued that I could deposit myself. I couldn’t even use the savings account I already had with Standard Chartered Bank since that would limit the account benefits (e.g., free ATM withdrawals, debit card for life, no minimum balance).
4:45 pm – 5:15 pm: Meet your department
So I was still in a consulting company – only a few people were not travelling and in the office. Those who were in the office seemed more reserved and introverted than I am used to in the US, especially when talking to strangers. On the other hand, conversations with colleagues they knew seemed informal and friendly. The word “yaar” (slang for buddy) was used in almost every sentence.
I walked around the office and introduced myself. Self-introduction seems uncommon here.
5:30 pm: Catch the office shuttle for a 2 hour commute
Life revolves around the office shuttle timings. Everyone runs to catch the 5:50 pm since its the only one that services most locations. The next shuttle is at 8 and services a very limited set of places. This rules out any socializing over drinks after work.
My first day at work was over. I had been inducted into Deloitte India and a new journey had begun. On the way back home, I missed Boston – the sense of belonging, the culture, the fun at work. I missed happy hours during trainings, going out for drinks in the evening regardless of people’s title, even the dreaded Deloitte Strategy & Operations Fundamentals Boot Camp! Over the years, I had built deep friendships with my colleagues in Deloitte Boston. I’m hoping that I’ll find equally fun people in New Delhi.