GEM Engserv Pvt. Ltd is an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization, certified by TUV India in accreditation with National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB).
GEM Engserv has been now in business for over 13 years. We have experience of providing multiple services (quantity surveying, rebar detailing, and project management) to customers in India and abroad. We have observed that our productivity is invariably higher while dealing with international customers as compared to Indian entities. This observation is not limited to a particular sector or country or any nature of service.
We have often wondered whether we have more qualified or experienced resources deployed for international assignments, but that is not so. We then sat down with our team to dive deeper in the matter to find out what makes our experience with international customers different (decidedly better) than with our Indian counterparts.
We came up with the following list, some related to technical issues, some to managerial issues but a common thread running through all is to do with mindset and attitude. The list does not necessarily follow the most serious to least serious or most common to rarer issues. Leaders, managers, procurement specialists, and other stakeholders can examine these and create positive changes within their respective spheres of influence. The list is too long to compress in a single article, expect a Part 2 of this article! We will deal with the pre-award stage of the process in this part.
So here we go.
Our international customers always share all drawings (including a list of drawings) and data right at the time of sending us an enquiry. They know exactly what the service provider will require, and one does not have to ask for these details.
The Indian counterparts often work with a mindset of revealing minimum possible information. One has to ask and chase for getting the inputs and sometimes a folder containing many drawings, each with a strange alphanumeric file name is dumped. We have to open each file, check its relevance, and create our own list of drawings before we can get down to estimating our efforts required and preparing fee proposal.
This is another aspect about which both parties must have absolute clarity. Again, the international customers (at least the ones we usually work with) know exactly what they want in very specific terms. Indian customers often ask us to propose our own scope and fee structure.
As a result, they must receive quotes from different service providers which vary in scope and other details. Then they try to pick up the best scope statement and ask every service provider to now align their proposal with this revised scope. We suspect that the customers use us (or some other vendor) to do their job of developing the scope of the work statement. The loss of productivity all around goes unnoticed!
We are often pleasantly surprised when the international customer simply approves our fee. The only thing that they worry about is the quality of deliverables (which we take great pain in maintaining) and the timelines.
If the proposed timeline does not suit their needs, we are simply informed of the matter and both parties can move on. There is hardly any negotiation. More than avoiding the pain and uncertainty of negotiation, it is the saving in precious manhours that makes the whole proposition very attractive.
Indians simply love to negotiate as if they need to show ROI on the negotiation skills training programme that they attended! They might lose more in terms of time spent in multiple rounds of negotiations than the discount that they are able to extract, but who cares.
As pointed out in the previous paragraphs, international customers live the belief that ‘time is money’. It is evident that they invariably have a pretty good idea of the time required for the assignment factoring is lower productivity than they have come to expect from even the best Indian service provider.
Their assessment of the time if invariably very realistic. Even if we provide a very competitive fee, if the timelines are not as per their expectations, we don’t have much chance of getting the work awarded. Disproportionate assessment of time required to complete the assignment raises a doubt in their minds about our understanding of the scope and our capabilities.
Indian customers, on the other hand, have a tendency to compensate for all delays that have taken place till the release of the RFP by squeezing us (the service provider) by demanding very aggressive timelines. It is another matter that even after commercial terms are negotiated and finalized, it takes a long time for the work order to be finalized.
This issue takes off from the issue dealt with in the previous paragraph. In the case of international assignments, the customer’s decision is communicated to us very quickly, often within a few hours of our fee proposal.
The go-ahead is crisp and clear as all terms are already thrashed out. In most cases, e-mail confirmation is all that we need and get to carry out the work, share our submittals, raise invoices, and receive payments. There are no separate work orders with hitherto un-discussed terms and conditions and no SAP entries etc. We have to be alert to their e-mail communication as the clock starts ticking immediately.
With such a fast turnaround of decision-making and professional communication, the response has to be equally professional and as per commitments made at the proposal stage. A possible reason for this happy state-of-affairs is the fact that the person who is dealing with us is both the receiver of our service and running the procurement process.
In the Indian context, the service receiver is some other department, and the responsibility of appointing a service provider is with the procurement department. The separation of need and accountability results in the back & forth that may be happening between departments causing the delay!
In part 2 we will deal with issues that are mostly within the domain of the service-receiving department.