Indian Workethic


My MBA class included an interesting individual who hailed from India. From the country’s elite class, she enjoyed a privileged life. As a daughter of a wealthy business man, she grew up in a home with servants to deliver on her every whim. As a young maiden, her father easily arranged her marriage to a sharp, handsome Indian businessman attracted to her beauty and inheritance.

As a 40-something student in an English MBA programme, her privileged life was stifled. She had to figure things out and do for herself as the exchange rate wouldn’t allow for servants and conveniences. And this change brought with it some growing pains both for her and the rest of the class.

I don’t intend to single her out–she has and would recount the tale in the same way as family ties are respected in India. It’s true that self made millionaires are the most revered in America and that being perceived as a trust fund kid is something to be somewhat ashamed of. But that’s not true elsewhere…old money stands tall in many if not most cultures around the world.


Though I’m sure my impression of the Indian upper class is tainted, with this image (and other upper class encounters) partially fueling our image of the Indian people, I was unsure of what we might find during our venture to India. It makes sense to me now, especially as the work of those at the bottom support those at the top, but the impressive Indian low-level work ethic initially took me by surprise.


One such example of the Indian work ethic can be taken from a brick plant that we passed on our way from Cochin to Munnar. Here, hard-working employees work in the 90+ degree heat to gather soil and water to place in the brick molds. Once molded, the wet bricks are then taken and stacked in the sunlight and heat in order to cure. Once cured, employees then stack the bricks in high towers with openings for the wood fires necessary to fire the bricks. After firing, trucks come to pick up the bricks and they’re off to make homes for the wealthy and other structures. As much of the developed world moves toward service rather than industrial career paths, the manual work ethic in Indian was striking. While not sophisticated and, perhaps, attention to detail appears lower than in most developed economies, India’s people are not afraid to work hard to make ends meet.


Another example may be found within the Tea Plantation communes of Munnar. Employees work long days along steeply sloped hillsides gathering tea leaves for harvest. Rather than mechanically gathering leaves, all trimming and plucking is done by hand–scaling the area’s 24,000 hectares of tea trees every 15 days. Munnar’s temperature is a more livable 70-100 degrees, but the physical labor involved and treacherous inclines make the work dangerous and taxing. As do the 6 day schedule and long days.


And still other examples can be found across the country. From the construction workers in Mumbai digging earth by hand to install central power and water veins in little more than sandals and a workman’s skirt and turban to rice patties worked by hands — it’s apparent that life in India is hard. And my classmate’s lifestyle is not commonplace.

This entry was posted in Adventure Travel, Asia, India. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Indian Workethic