Navigating India’s Holidays
If you work with a global team in India, have been to India on a business trip or are trying to manage large-scale operations involving India, you’ve probably been bewildered at all the holidays that seem to pop up unpredictably to affect your well-devised plans and schedules. You may have been blindsided a few times too, learning about a holiday at the last minute and having to scramble for back-up solutions upon learning that your India team has the day off.
Not long ago, I was presenting a “Working with India” workshop to a global IT infrastructure team in the United States. The team leader warned me that he and others would need to be in and out of the class: “I’ve just learned there’s some religious festival going on in Bangalore today, and we’re going to have to provide back-up coverage.” The “some religious festival” was, in fact, the main secular holiday of the state of Karnataka, marking the day on which the state had been formed, celebrated regularly on Nov. 1 since 1973.
I’ve been surprised at how little Americans and others working with India tend to know about the holiday system within which their Indian counterparts operate. Indian holidays tend to be seen as an unfortunate nuisance impeding the flow of work. There is little interest in what they are, how they are observed, and what they signify culturally. It’s even rare to find accurate knowledge of Indian holiday calendars and for work with India to be planned around these calendars.
The cost of this ignorance is considerable in terms of work schedule disruption, unnecessary stress and also missing opportunities for using the recognition of Indian holidays as a tool for relationship-building and motivating the Indian teams.
How the Indian Holiday System Works (see 2010 calendar here)
All-India Public Holidays
State Public Holidays
Ad Hoc Holidays
Getting Correct Information
Because private companies have considerable latitude in selecting which holidays to observe, you also need to know what the holiday lists of the different companies are. And you should probably learn about these holidays the Indian way not just finding somewhere to look it up, but by having people tell you personally.
6 Quick Tips for Navigating Indian Holidays
Tip #1: Understand the overall system and learn the specific holidays of the various Indian states and companies you deal with.
Tip #2: Every year, build the relevant Indian holiday dates into your corporate and team calendar, and take them into account in your operational planning. Leverage to advantage the differences between the Indian holiday schedules and your own.
Tip #3: Build an “Indian holiday watch” role into your operational planning, so that you can be apprised of unplanned ad hoc holidays and can quickly recalibrate your work schedules.
Tip #4: In the holiday policies for your own employees in India, especially at a time of skilled labor shortage, recognize the motivational impact of allowing for the observance of important national and state holidays.
Tip #5: Through both reading and talking with your Indian colleagues, get to know the meaning, observances and flavor of the different holidays for those who celebrate them.
Tip #6: Show recognition and appreciation of Indian holidays through occasional oral and email holiday greetings to your Indian colleagues. You’ll be surprised to find out how much this is appreciated.
© 2007-2010 Karine Schomer. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint granted provided the article and byline are printed intact, with all links visible and made live if distributed in electronic form.
Dr. Karine Schomer is President of Change Management Consulting & Training, LLC, and leads the CMCT India Practice, specializing in cross-cultural training and management consulting for doing business with India, competitive advantage through cross-cultural awareness, business etiquette and protocols, cross-cultural communication and teamwork skills, outsourcing management best practices, and offshore team leadership strategies. For more learning resources check the CMCT Articles Archive.
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