Moving to India. Step 1: Opening moves

Maarten Winkels

Working abroad has been a wish of mine for some time now. Xebia offers me the opportunity to live and work in India. Through this blog series I will keep you informed of the progress and challenges of this project.

Currently we are in the opening stages. I’ve had some meetings with the Management Team to discuss the possibilities and problems of such an undertaking. But first I had to tell the home-front…

Last summer I worked for three weeks at the Indian branch of our Company. I found it to be a great experience: Although much of our professional culture is the same and "Xebia Standard", I really liked the atmosphere at the office and the friendliness and respectfulness that seem to be so natural in our Indian colleagues and possibly all Indians(?). A Dutch colleague and I stayed in a hotel (comfortable and huge rooms) and we spend the (always too little) time we had in weekends exploring the richness of the Indian culture in the New Delhi region (of course we visited the unforgettable Taj Mahal in Agra!). I fell victim to the charms of the Indian (mostly Punjabi) cuisine. All in all it was a wonderful time!

While I was there, I started thinking about the possibilities of living and working at the Indian office for a longer time. We (my partner and I) have always been interested in other cultures and far-off places. Her focus was mostly on South American countries, because she loves the dances of that region and the passion of the culture. We spent a couple of months doing voluntary work and traveling around those parts, but I found that working in my profession (IT) in a region that is so underdeveloped is not easy. In India I got the feeling that we would both be able to work in our own field of expertise (hers is Theater Therapy, a form of Psychotherapy that uses Theater as a medium between therapist and client) without having to travel to far from our home.

After returning home, I told Maaike (my partner) about these ideas and she was instantly enthusiastic. When I told my boss of our intentions, he was also very interested and so the idea started to evolve. During the last few months I have spoken about this with a lot of people. My family is mostly excited about the possibility to come visit us and explore the region, while most of my colleagues both in India and in the Netherlands think it will be a great benefit to the overall operation. I’ve been trying to make the idea more and more explicit and explore the possibilities.

We are still in the opening stages. Last week I had a meeting with part of the Xebia Management team to discuss commercial opportunities and financial consequences.

Commercially we think that having a native Dutch speaker at the Indian Office will be an advantage to our customers. Most of our customers are Dutch and lots of documentation is in Dutch. Having a native speaker at the off-shore site will improve communication between the client and the Indian developers and also between the on-shore and off-shore team. Inter-cultural communication between team members is often not a problem, but time differences, distance and technical problems like low bandwidth make it sometimes hard to get all subtleties across. Bridging this gap by having a representative of the on-shore culture at the off-shore site seems like a good improvement. Our Commercial Manager expects our customers to value this service.

Financially there are a few things to arrange. Theoretically speaking, I could work at the Indian office under my contract with the Dutch organisation. I would still have to pay taxes according to the Indian regulations. This would mean that my Dutch employer would have to communicate with the Indian tax office. That doesn’t sound like a workable process to our Financial Manager. The other option would be to transfer my contract to our Indian company. This by itself doesn’t make me feel very comfortable: Dutch and Indian labour laws are quite far apart and the Dutch laws have a lot of financial and social benefits and are very protective of employees with respect to ending their contract. If I would sign a contract with the Indian company I would loose a lot of those advantages. To cover these differences, I would sign a separate contract with the Dutch (or International) company to make arrangements for special cases like termination of the work relationship. Although these arrangements are not concrete yet, it gives me enough confidence to start further on this road.

Next step will be to visit India together as a couple. Maaike has never been there, so we’ll take a few weeks to decide whether we could live there and what it would be like. I’m quite confident that this will not be a problem, since she’s always up for another adventure. I’ll keep you posted.

Comments (5)

  1. anjan bacchu - Reply

    January 23, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    hi there,

    it's nice to know that you would like to work in India. Chad fowler (of rails/pragmatic fame) went to India -- he spoke about it in a book -- http://perlcast.com/2006/01/27/interview-with-chad-fowler/

    It will be nice to know your experiences -- you should keep writing blogs so that more could try/not.

    good luck.

    P.S : I'm an Indian living in the US.

    BR,
    ~A

  2. Kuldeep - Reply

    January 24, 2008 at 5:19 am

    Hi Maarten,
    It was nice to hear that you had a wonderful Indian experience and as a Indian i am proud to hear that.
    Well one thing i would like to point out is that India is still not all developed and have all the basic infrastructure in place .Whatever the news channel and papers says about rising India is right and also wrong
    in the sense that India has a long way to go.

    Things to keep in mind :
    1) Security : Its always good idea to be extra cautious especially at night in foreign country.
    2) Accommodation : Choose a right one with Power back -up and in good locality. Your Company HR should be able to help you out.
    3) Never try to be very friendly with people you don't know especially when you are visiting places like Agra , Jaipur.
    4) In rural places , people don't see foreigners very often so their reaction can be exaggerated.

    All the very best to both of you.

    Note: I am an Indian Software Programmer , having worked in US and UK ,presently in Delhi.

  3. Vikas Hazrati - Reply

    January 24, 2008 at 7:28 am

    I think regarding the contracting part you need to work that out well before you take the leap. You should not have to repent later.

    When I worked in the US, I was bound by the US company laws and not by the Indian company for whom I was working in the US.
    So my guess is that if you want to work for a long time in India you would be bound by Indian labor laws and would be filing taxes etc according to that. The idea of signing a parallel Dutch contract sounds feasible.
    All the best!

  4. Nazu - Reply

    January 28, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Hi! I was excited to hear about Maaike's work and am hoping that you will be in Bangalore which is where I am. There is a lot of theatre here and I feel a lot of great work she could do with theatre therapy. Actually I work as a therapeutic clown with Docteur Clown a French NGO, (in fact one of our group is from the Netherlands!) you can check out our website at docteurclownindia.tripod.com Do get in touch if you want more info and good luck with your move!

  5. Alex Schrijver - Reply

    February 6, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Hi Maarten,

    It's great to hear you get a chance like this. I also had the opportunity to do a project for 2 weeks in Chennai for the largest financial institution in the world. It was a wonderful experience and I still have my "cricket cup" that we won that sunday. (I batted half the game, which was unexpected by them.) I'm maried to an indian (at that time just 1 month :)) and now we are looking to go to live and work in india. As a Dutch speaking 5 languages, I hope it will not take us too long to find a suitable job. Especially seen in the light of your remark: "Bridging this gap by having a representative of the on-shore culture at the off-shore site seems like a good improvement."
    I wish you all the best in your journey.

    Alex

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