India’s diversity means agreement can be a rare thing, even on the Vada Pav

A recent discussion with a group of young Indians was a great insight into the diversity of India.

I had asked the group what is in a Vada Pav (Mumbai’s favourite street food)?  Generally Vada Pav contains spicy potato filling, in a cut bun with layers of spicy garlic and green chutney. By the way, it is delicious!

vada pav7

One in the group did not think it had potato, Another member thought is was based on chick peas. Then the discussion went on. Finally, there was a happy confusion about Vada Pav.

This is India. Often you find there is no common understanding on what seem fairly simple things. Ask a group to tell you what a “crore” or a “lakh” is and pretty soon your head will be spinning.

Why does this happen?

It is not India, but many Indias. This is not one country – this is a country of countries. There are so many Indias and common understandings across the whole country are rare.

Major festivals often have different names or slightly different spelling of names, depending on where you are.

This is diversity and needs to be understood if you are to succeed there. India manages to stay together but it really is an amalgamation of ethnicity, culture and over 26 major languages.

Investigating culture pays off. Underestimating cultural difference can be the beginning of the end for your project.


Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

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