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In India, workplace etiquette rounds out the coursework

July 6, 2010 16:30 by Ann Pace

(From The Washington Post) -- They call her India's Miss Manners, and she is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar industry to make Indian companies more competitive globally by improving their workers' social skills.

Pria Warrick has become the guru of graces for a new generation of call-center techies, chief executives, animation artists, MBAs and Bollywood film stars, all of whom are helping drive India's rise as a world economic power but sometimes without a certain polish.

"Backs straight! Napkins on lap. Great. Class, cut your burger neatly," Warrick told a class of young Indian professionals, methodically performing fork-and-knife surgery on a McAloo Tikka patty -- a spicy potato burger from McDonald's -- as practice for dining in Europe and the United States.

Warrick's school is part of a fast-growing trend in corporate India to remedy what analysts and recruiters call a serious impediment to India's global economic goals. Although many skilled Indian workers have degrees from top universities, analysts said they are often jaw-droppingly inept at the basics of international workplace etiquette: dressing properly, hosting a meeting, making inoffensive small talk and even using cutlery.

Fearing that such deficiencies are hurting India's leadership potential, companies are spending millions of dollars on corporate finishing school for tens of thousands of workers. In many cases, those workers are products of India's burgeoning middle classes who are the first generation in their families to enter the nation's booming and globally minded economy.

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