Malankara World

General Interest Reading

For Indians Its 'Me' - No 'We' or Teamwork

by Tapan Chakrabarti

[Editor's Note: The following is extracted from a discussion between IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) alumni about development in India vs. China. Knowledgeable sources say that China is way ahead of India in both infrastructure development and in GDP growth. India is languishing way behind. The question was why. One answer may be in the way we work together. Most Indians excel when they work alone; but do very poorly when they work with others.

This behavior also may be extended when it comes to our charitable activities. As Christians we are supposed to reflect the image of Jesus to others. How many of us are actually doing it? Is that comes from our culture? - Editor.]

What interested me in all those discussion is the topic of 'me' vs. 'we' and there is something that we can do about this.

One thing I have noticed being in the east is 'we' is always more important than 'me'. Japanese, Koreans, in particular, and Chinese included are willing to work for their country, company, society ahead of individuals. Before I came to Japan I used to think it's forced onto them to work late. Now I know it's not forced, it comes from their natural feeling to sacrifice personal comfort for betterment of the collective whole they belong to. Not only Japanese and Koreans, I have seen how groups of Chinese, Vietnamese, Philippinoes work together as a team.

In comparison, I find we Indians are very egocentric. I come across many Indian professionals; most work well with other cultures but when it comes to working together with another Indian, it turns out to be a race of who is 'greater.' Once the boss-subordinate or a senior-junior relationship is established it works ok. But if you tell them they are peers and need to work together - the difficulty is enormous. Comparison of social status, designation, size of house etc. are more important than simple ability to respect each other and work together. You see this in all Indian social organizations, associations etc everywhere. Each one at the other's throat for some trivial reasons. Therefore, most Indian achievements you see in history are individual achievements (exceptions excepted). We excel in individual intelligence and performance but when it comes to collective intelligence and performance, a group of Indians together is often a failure, at least in comparison to our other Asian neighbors. My Chinese colleague who worked in KBR in Singapore where huge majority of the engineers are Indian asked me this question, why one Indian can not work with another Indian when both of them work so wonderfully with other cultures? Our progress is badly hampered by this inability to work together and there has got to be a way out. In spite of all our gods, yoga, Gita, Vedanta, meditation and love for our motherland why are we so full of individualistic ego is beyond my understanding.

Is it our education? Our society which is overly hierarchical that working as peers creates such an unease? Education in IITs and IIMs trains some lucky lot to work as groups but many others are deprived of such environments.

Isn't there something we can do to eradicate this disease from the Indian psyche?


Dear Tapan,

You have brought up an important point and my observations are similar to yours. I think it has got something to do with our caste based social structure. No matter what we say, the centuries old hangover does not go away.

Tirthankar Banerjee


I am tired of this discussion. We are great in talking only. We are assuming that there are someone or "they" who need to fix things in India. However, as individuals we do not want to act and take a step to fix things. I am equally guilty. It is very easy to say what's wrong with India but we do not want to say that we are responsible for this.


See Also:

10 things to learn from Japan... a nation in a Crisis
The behavior of the Japanese people during the national crisis is a great lesson on civic behavior during a time of crisis.

A Valuable Lesson in Life
This is what I am looking for to be in my manager. I want to recruit a person who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the sufferings of others to get things done, and a person who would not put money as his only goal in life.

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