Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Europe And Asia ...

Having travelled to Europe recently (ok ... not so recent ... that was August), there is a basic difference in the way things are done in those parts of the world. This post is about my thoughts on this.

In Europe, the way i saw it, there is the stress on order. There is a well defined way of doing things, and things are far more streamlined than they are in Asia. Lets take a look at how you go shopping. In Europe, you walk into a shop, look around, pick up the things you want o buy, pay for them, and walk out. Asia is a different ballgame altogether. You dont just walk into a shop. Shopping is an experience by itself. Whether it be Fashion Street in Mumbai, or Janpath or Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, or New Market in Kolkata, you dont just walk into a shop to buy anything. You go to a shop, and you look through the things you want to buy, and even those you dont want to buy. And then, the shopkeeper keeps showing you things which you didnt even ask for to begin with (which, i must add, is probably the most important revenue stream for the shopkeepers). Then you narrow down to a set of things you might be interested in, and then, the fun begins.

I call this the dance of existence ... of both the shopkeeper and the buyer trying to get maximum value from the transaction ... the (usually) lady trying to bring down the price, while the shopkeeper tries to keep a straight face while telling her that at that price, he would be making a loss. With the (usually) ladies telling the shopkeeper ... theek lagaao, or theek theek bolo, or theek kore boloon (depending on whether you are in Mumbai, Delhi, or Kolkata). And finally, arriving at a price which the (usually) lady will claim is still too expensive, and grudgingly pay for, and the shopkeeper will protest that this is far below his buying price. And so on ... even after the purchase has been made.

In fact, from what i understand (havent been able to locate images for this, so if someone knows of any links, please let me know), the supermarkets in China also have recognized this, and there is the usual bazar kind of atmosphere out there, too. Thing is, this is not just a difference in the way the markets operate. This is a cultural difference. This is a difference in mindset, and you would find this present even in the way work is done in Asia, as opposed to Europe.

Which means that in Asia (i am writing primarily from the perspective of India, but please feel free to let me know about China, and other parts of Asia, too ... would highly appreciate), exchange, not just of merchandise is not a straight-forward transaction ... this is an experience by itself. And, maybe this is something which needs to reflect in the way we look at transactions within organizations as well. More so, for knowledge transactions ... we cannot just assume that people would share knowledge in a linear way, without this dance of existence going on, and the transaction taking a most circuitous route. Knowledge shared, in this context, is accompanied with a lot of things which seem, at first glance, to be irrelevant, but are as much a part of the transaction, as the core knowledge which is being shared.

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