Management of Culture and Management through Culture in the Indian Software Outsourcing Industry
T he rise of the software and information technology (IT) enabled services industry in India is emblematic of the latest phase in the development of global capitalism, in which services and ‘knowledge’ work are increasingly relocated from the post-industrial economies to low-cost locations in the developing world. The development of enclaves of high-tech offshore production and services (as well as low-end services such as call centres) in industrialising countries such as India raises new questions about globalisation, labour and cultural identity. First, the outsourcing of IT services across national borders, and the organisation of software development projects through multicultural, multi-sited ‘virtual teams’, have foregrounded the question of culture and cultural difference in the corporate workplace. Second, key sites of global capitalism such as Bangalore’s IT industry have produced culturally marked categories of globalised technical workers who are linked into the global economy in novel, technology-mediated ways. The emergence of the figure of the Indian software engineer in the global cultural economy is the outcome of several processes, both discursive and practical. These include theories and techniques of ‘cross-cultural’ or ‘global’ management that have been developed to manage multinational workforces; the specific conditions and modes of organisation that govern outsourced offshore work,
such as the ‘virtual team’; and the transnational work experiences of both Indian software engineers and their Western counterparts, which have produced standardised narratives about cultural difference that in turn structure interactions in the workplace and shape the subjectivities of workers.