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Lessons From India

I have been toying with the idea of writing about my experiences managing remote sites and especially managing teams in India. The onset of Covid has been a catalyst for me to tell this story.

I have managed remote sites in Europe, Japan, and India during my career at various times. But the last 15 years have been focused on starting and building teams in India. My hope is that my experiences would be of help to those who are building teams in India.

The second wave of Covid in India has been tragic with many young folks getting affected by it. I recently saw a story of a young professional who passed away and he was the only breadwinner and his colleagues were seeking financial help for his family This reminded me of a incident when I was setting up the operation for Actel in the summer of 2009 in Hyderabad, India. I was developing the benefits and HR policies for the Indian subsidiary along with our HR manager, our first India employee. We were trying to finalize on our medical, life, EPF, vacation, holidays, transportation, meals and other benefits, policies etc. The HR manager had enough data on the local plans/benefits so we could compare our plans/benefits with the industry norms. This was all new learning for me.

In the US, most companies provide 2x to 3x the salary as term life insurance for no cost to the employee and if the employee wants higher coverage, they can purchase additional coverage at minimum cost. I always liked that benefit since I never had any life insurance coverage outside the company. I recommended to our HR manager that we must offer a similar coverage, 3x the salary as the life coverage amount with no cost to employee. The HR manager informed me that most companies in India do not offer such high coverage and we do not need to offer this higher coverage to be competitive.

I was in favor of offering higher coverage and we decided to offer this coverage, similar to our US policy. My reasoning for this was based on the following:

  • this is a critical benefit and if something were to happen to the employee this benefit could offer some financial support to the family, since most employees do not have life insurance on their own
  • India has high rate for road accidents and the majority of them involve young folks
  • cost was not an issue

About nine months later, around middle of 2010, the young HR manager in his mid 30s, our first employee and a good friend, collapsed in the office. He was quickly taken to the nearby hospital, he had suffered a brain hemorrhage, he went into a coma and passed away after three days. The HR manager left behind a 10 year old daughter and a wife and he was the only breadwinner. We were all shocked by this tragedy.

The family lost a loved one and were unsure what future awaited them and we lost a very dear friend. Since we had a 3X salary as life coverage benefit, we were able to secure a long-term financial stability for the family. He was the one who was not for larger life coverage and his family was the first one whose financial security was made possible by this coverage. The Cosmos works in mysterious ways.

Higher life coverage is essential and more critical during these Covid times, At least the families who have suffered a loss would have less concerns about financial security. When developing policies always focus on supplying critical benefits, such as health and disability. We never know when that will save a family.