Working In The Impact Investment Industry In India

The weeks before starting the fellowship, I had so many questions about the workplace in India. I was placed at an impact fund and having worked in London and Mexico in brokerage houses, I was very intrigued by the working culture in the financial services in India. The dress code, the female/male balance, working hours, etc.

I was not wrong in wondering about these questions as things are very different here. Let’s start with the dress code, Mexico is very formal where men wear suits and ties and women have to look very professional; London has dropped the suits and ties but are still very formal and they are very fashionable. India is very relaxed and there is room for colors. I loved seeing the women dress in colorful kurtas, Yellows, reds and blues are everyday colors at the office, nice sneakers are allowed during the week and on Fridays, you may even wear running shoes.

The working hours are also very flexible and getting to the office at 8AM is unthinkable. Most people get into the office at 9:30AM which is quite early by Indian standards but then you can have the morning tea with your co-workers. Lunch is a quick bite, and at least in my experience, most people bring food from their houses as it is very common to have a cook at home. Afternoon chai is a must, it’s a good break in the afternoon. And to my surprise, working from home is a big practice, if you are not feeling good you can stay home, if you need to leave early, that’s ok too. It’s amazing to see the work-life balance that Indian workers have here.

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Now onto the female/male balance in the workplace. The finance industry is a male oriented industry everywhere in the world and India is no exception. Even though working in the impact space is more diversified, it’s a male predominant environment. A peculiar fact is that most guys above the age of 27 are married and their wives do not work. It seems that if they can provide, there is no need for the wife to work. The women who work here are mostly married but do not have kids, and it seems that once they do have kids, they will stop working. There is one exception for a lady who works part time as she has kids. I feel like the workplace is a few years behind on the female-male balance but very slowly the pattern is being disrupted.

The biggest difference has to be the way Indians congratulate each other. I spent my birthday here and was very surprised when everyone came to say happy birthday and shook my hand! Whenever someone closes a deal, buys a car, or a birthday, there are a lot of handshakes and some sweets. Being in India, I would have imagined a lot of hugs and may be even dancing but here, in an investment bank, it’s just handshakes.

Overall, people at the workplace are very nice but they are reserved and shy. It takes time for them to open up. But if you meet them outside work, that’s another ball game.