Day 2: Explore

Indian Cultural Lenses

After a first immersion in Bangalore, and getting a feeling of what user research really entails, a workshop aiming to explain key points of the local culturel was facilitated by Shilpa Subramaniam, Co-founder and Director at The Learning Gym

Shilpa explained the main value lenses we would discover locally, and how they might differ from our own cultural references.

She underlined five main areas:

  • Layered communication
  • Personal networks & connections
  • Group identity
  • Status
  • Jugaad – resourcefulness

Shilpa firstly explained that Indians often use layered communication: when people tell you something, there’s a strong chance that there’s another meaning underneath the first, and potentially a few more under that one. She illustrated that when asking someone on a Friday if they’ll manage to achieve a task by Tuesday, and the answer is “we’ll try”, there’s a strong chance that means “we probably won’t have time to do it”. Therefore, if often helps to simply ask when the other person expects to be able to achieve the task.

Secondly, she noted the importance of personal networks and connections in India, meaning that to achieve a certain result, it’s often more important to know the right people rather than having an accurate and detailed plan. In our case, this meant that arriving in a community with people the locals already knew was a reassuring and positive way to initiate a relationship.

Third, she discussed the importance of group identity, and explained that generally when people are interviewed in India, there’s a strong chance they would give answers for “we” rather than “I”, where all members of the group act as ambassadors for each other.

Third, she discussed the importance of group identity, and explained that generally when people are interviewed in India, there’s a strong chance they would give answers for “we” rather than “I”, where all members of the group act as ambassadors for each other.

The session closed with a role play between the students acting as interviewers and Shilpa as a local interviewee. Everyone in the room was amused that the situation can be very awkward if an initial friendly discussion (at least exchanging names and giving a reason of visit) and clear questions were not prepared.

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