Three Working Truths That Make Indo-German Co-operation Successful

– Lukas M. Hofmann


Let us roll back the calendar—it was six years ago that EXA was founded as an Indo-German partnership. A team of Indian and German IT-industry veterans pooled their collective experience with a vision to build a company that provided customer-centric technology development, expertise and consulting within a clearly defined set of technology and industrial areas. But it was one thing to envision such a partnership model and another to execute it. Often, cultural differences, variations in working styles and a shifting point of focus take an organisation away from its initial ideals. However, at EXA, we recognised that the confluence of vision and technical ideas that created the company would also be one of its key differentiating features and strengths. In keeping with this, achieving an efficient and effective Indo-German co-operation was our priority. Since then, over the course of our journey, this unique partnership has been the hallmark of EXA’s success. Let us look at some of the factors that have helped us achieve such a working model based on co-operation.

Evolving a partnership through everyday processes

At EXA, we see three main principles that have created the Indo-German co-operation that shapes our work. One, we combine the best of both worlds through joint teams. Two, there are frequent interactions and communication—nurturing relationships based on trust. And three, we allow for a real exchange of experience and opinions. While these principles might come across as being idealistic, they have been the foundation of our practice, driving our work and processes. So how does one take such a vision and implement it?

Strategic decisions: To begin with, these are the result of conscious executive decisions. Cross-functional teams are implemented, and channels are established for frequent communication from the beginning. However, there are also practices that EXA evolved. After all, trust and collaboration take time and depend on the selection of the right people. These are not driven by executive decisions.

The right people: Fundamentally, the key to facilitating co-operation lies in having the right team. Further, the same rules ought to be applied to everyone. We always make an informed and conscious decision about who we hire both in India and Germany and ensure the right fit and compatibility of values—for both EXA and the individual employee. Our project teams almost always consist of members from both countries. Additionally, for collaboration to work, employees ought to be eager to share their own experiences and ideas as well as listen to those of others.

Shared values: In a bilateral workforce mix like ours, it is necessary to factor in issues such as multifaceted cultural complexities, differences in communication styles and varied approaches to conflict resolution and problem-solving. These issues affect the ability to work well together in a global team. In such a scenario, organisational values become guiding beacons in creating a company culture that all employees can identify with.

Collaboration: Daily co-operation between colleagues from India and Germany shapes the way EXA operates. Moreover, frequent exchange of colleagues between the Indian and German sites is the norm. On the one hand, this facilitates a seamless mutual give-and-take that allows the strengths, talents, technological proficiency and best practices from both sides to converge to deliver high-quality work and technology solutions to clients. On the other hand, our colleagues go beyond exchanging technical proficiency to leverage cultural experiences from both backgrounds. Such exchanges enable all employees to learn from each other and experience a different culture apart from work during company events and outings. Being able to appreciate cultural practices and their influences on working styles is critical to managing a working relationship. For instance, we have an annual tradition of celebrating both Christmas and Diwali holidays.

Our employees come together for occasions apart from work too, regularly getting together for backyard barbecues that feature a fusion of Indian and German food. It is when people come together to break bread and respect individual tastes that they can create a bedrock of mutual respect and collaboration. This creates a strong spirit of “one team” that pervades EXA’s workforce, irrespective of their projects, location and nationality.

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Drawing from the best of both worlds

This co-operative mode blends the best practices and strengths from India and Germany into a working combination that delivers. Typically, our German colleagues know the requirements of our large European clients, whereas our Indian colleagues are tech-savvy and adept at transforming these into actionable project items. We have observed that the young workforce in India demonstrates eagerness and willingness to perform. We try to match this with the experience from Germany to create teams that deliver the best results for our clients.

Our teams comprise colleagues who are experts in what they do. Typically, our projects in an SAP environment, big data, analytics, connected manufacturing and the financial transformation sphere require both subject-matter expertise and proprietary knowledge of possible future technological challenges. In this environment, our solutions like EXA GVC, OTP and the ISA framework are the results of a close collaboration between our Indian and German colleagues. Moreover, a culture of sharing without fear, driven by the curiosity to learn from each other, reinforces this mutual give-and-take.

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Building a successful Mittelstand company

Our Indo-German co-operation has always been a part of our corporate culture, and from the start, we have established both sides and sites—Bengaluru, India and Heidelberg, Germany—as equally important entities. Today, with our size, operating model and independent ownership, EXA is an epitome of the Mittelstand model and one that features a unique Indo-German heritage. As we continue to grow organically and work towards cementing our place as an expert in the technology and industrial areas, our functioning as a Mittelstand company has provided several useful takeaways that mark our continuing journey. Deciding on an area of focus within technology and industry, growing steadily while limiting excesses and forming close customer relationships have all formed the backbone of our corporate strategy. Fuelled by a desire to deliver excellent solutions to our customers and master the challenges of digitalisation together, being an Indo-German Mittelstand company will remain a strong part of EXA’s corporate DNA.

Partnerships are not built overnight. They require nurturing and constant input to achieve the best outcomes. Only when a company consistently commits to these working truths—throughout its growth path—will it be able to achieve tangible results. EXA’s success has been driven by leveraging the strengths of both cultures and the experiences of all our colleagues. I’m certain that our Indo-German heritage will continue to be a key asset for our growth as a company and a vital element for all of us at EXA to continue to learn with and from each other.