Working With Americans: Stories and Lessons from Cabot Solutions

“As I studied in Canada and had relationships with Canadians, I always wanted to work with Canadians. My impression of this market, though, was not the reality. Canadians are more conservative and risk averse than their American neighbors. They also do not think of outsourcing, and less likely to think of outsourcing in our domain as the mobility solutions market is not as wide spread as in the U.S. These factors encouraged me to provide outsourced mobility solutions to the U.S. market.” shared Venkatesh Thyagarajan, the CEO of Cabot Solutions, a leading mobility solutions provider in Infopark, Kochi. 

While working with Americans was not his first choice, he has grown to understand and appreciate the market and business culture of Americans. While the American business culture is very different than the Indian business culture, he has found ways to bridge these gaps in Cabot Solutions to provide a top-notch customer experience

The Importance of Face to Face Interactions 
Jennifer Kumar and an international guest provide cross-cultural
management sessions to employees of Cabot Solutions, 2013.
To start off, I asked Venkatesh about the importance of face-to-face interactions with Americans in business. Many cross-cultural experts note that as Americans rely on words more than personal context, face to face interaction is not so important. I wanted to know Venkatesh’s thoughts on this. As Cabot Solutions has been engaged with one US client for over three years without a single in person meeting, Venkatesh believes this can hold true in some cases. However, as he believes Americans do not always think of India first when thinking of outsourcing their mobility solutions, having the opportunity to go to the US, network and meet people face to face does, he argues, build context and credibility both ways. To understand the market and customers experience at an even deeper level, Venkatesh argues, registering a business in the U.S, having a physical office and at least one full time staff in the U.S. goes a long way to building deeper credibility and market knowledge. 

Assumptions Lead to Unique Challenges 
Jennifer Kumar and an international guest provide cross-cultural 
team building sessions to employees of Cabot Solutions, 2015.
Most Indian companies know the value Americans place on contracts. Cabot Solutions was no exception. This caused problems as the India team assumed that since the Americans signed the contract they also read it. This was often, sadly, not the case. Soon, his teams realized that most clients would read only the pertinent and understandable portions like the delivery timelines, cost structure and related administrative details – focused on the discussions with numbers, most likely. Often, unless they were highly technical, they would miss out on reading the fine print about the technical elements, like the responsiveness of the final solution or the list of devices compatible with their app. This meant that when it came time to showcase particular technical elements of the design, the clients were surprised or upset or confused to see that it did not fit into the design or wasn’t rendering on all the devices they assumed it would. To solve this problem, Venkatesh’s team has implemented a few processes. The most critical of these starts before the contract is even signed. Termed the “read-through,” the India team meets with the US client over Skype to review the contract in detail and address any question or clarifications. This allows for clear and precise communication between both sides. This also allows for the American client to ask any questions and clear their doubts at this stage itself. Also, another way this problem has been solved is by implementing weekly demos. While, Venkatesh notes that most weeks very few or even no changes need to be made, this avoids small problems becoming large ones as well as understanding any requirement changes the client may need along the way. 

Applying American Business Process to Build Relationships 
In addition to this, Venkatesh notes that doing business with Americans is more straightforward and often much easier once you understand some basic American business processes. With special relation to invoicing, payment collections, and change requests, Venkatesh shared some process implementations that he applied to client interactions that have helped a smoother, well-oiled approach to engaging with clients. While some of these processes may not apply in the Indian context, and had to be learned as he went along, some may be applied in India in different variations. One such process is the late payment fine. Not a common business penalty in India, the late payment fine is so commonplace in the US, that most Americans assume late payments would have a late fee attached to them, and would often pay the late fee if they pay the transaction after the due date. 

With all these lessons and adaptations, Venkatesh says that the most enjoyable aspect of working with Americans is their attitude toward taking risks and innovation. Americans are more apt to try new things, be open to new ideas and take risks on them than those in other markets, says Venkatesh. Americans will also be willing to pay a premium for such innovations, which always helps the bottom line! 

To get in touch with Venkatesh Thyagarajan and to work with the invigorating team at Cabot Solutions, visit: http://www.cabotsolutions.com/

Author, Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director of Authentic Journeys, based in Kochi, India helps teams like yours to bridge the US – India cultural gap for better returns on investment. Contact us on the website

Related Posts: 
App Release Checklist Guidelines 
Engaging Employees and International Clientele: A Conversation with Cabot Solutions 
Cabot Solutions Featured in the Authentic Journeys Chronicle 2013, 2014-2015 


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