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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The importance of cha-shingara in doing business

Having worked in an international arena for more than 2 years now, I would honestly admit that I do miss the complimentary food supply that used to be an essential part of most business interactions in Bangladesh. May be its not recognised as a part and parcel of every business entity in Bangladesh, but food does play an important social role in all spheres of life in Bangladesh and may be business settings are not an exception. A glass of water is simply rude and miser, I don't remember not being offered and served atleast a cup of tea or coffee in almost in every business meetings I have ever had in my working days in Bangladesh. In more sumptuous situations, tea or coffee was certainly followed by either a lunch from Boomers or Fakhruddin's Kacchi or some ever green Shingara or samosas.

I doubt if there exists any empirical evidence to prove the importance to serve food or drinks prior or before any business meetings. May be it is related to a large extent a company's corporate culture and more generally to a country's social norms, which penetrates into the business environment. Its therefore hard to claim that it should be a prerequisite to any business dealing or to break the ice and to make every participant be at ease, with their stomachs and taste buds being taken care of. There are examples of countries around the world who have done and who are still doing successful business deals without the involvement of any culinary elements. But somehow I strongly am biased towards the influence of food in every sphere of business in Bangladesh. Even if it mákes you feel drowsy after lunch and even if you fear that it might derail the course of the business conversation, I argue that food and drinks have that inherent power to create that initial bridge or the mental (and stomach) connnection that needs to take place before we can get into serious matters of business. Again, there is no science or management theories behind it - its just an honest confession from a food lover who looked forward to the quality and promptness of any snacks being served or atleast offered - as the indicator of the warmth - fake or genuine - of a potential counterpart.

Life here is different. We meet, shake hands, exchange pleasanteries, settle down and get into business. Even water is may be too expensive to offer during an economic recession in the West. Not that any one is expressing any dissatisfaction towards it, everyone is getting along as if its normal. May be its taken for granted in many business cultures that getting the social tuning right by means of culinary elements is no way a pre-requisite of a successful business relationship, and its true that it works. However, it might be interesting to experiment how people might react to such cross-cultural import of food related tactics in order to establish a social connection first, prior to establishing any solid business connections. After all, we do business with people and its not a sin to mix business with food.