Small Business Dilemmas

Having had experience managing a small business in Canada, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about how small scale, socially aware businesses are run and organized here in Dharamasala, India. For the past week I have been volunteering at a doll workshop named, Dolls4Tibet. Of course there are the typical challenges that occur here that also happen at home. For example, trying to find reliable, trustworthy and hardworking employees that will bring something unique to your business or petty drama that occurs between the employees. However, in my opinion, the challenges of running a small business in Canada are minuscule compared to the obstacles that I have seen here. Dolls4Tibet, has been trying to create a work environment where women from Nepal, India and Tibet can come together and work as a team and break down prejudices. While this is often the case for the majority of time, there does seem to be some hurdles. In our preparations for our India field school, we learned that tensions could exist between the Indians and the Tibetans. While the women at the workshop are all very sweet and welcoming, it seems that from time to time the personalities of the Indian/Nepali women tend to clash with the personalities of the Tibetan women. This can create tensions in the workshop that are challenging to resolve. While tensions like these can be seen in Canada due to our diverse populations, the social dynamics of Dharamsala are so unique with so many polar cultural groups that the tensions seem magnified. Another thing that I have noticed is that the work culture here is very different from what I have seen in Canada. For example, in order to get anything accomplished or to get information from venders, they must be nagged multiple times a day in order to encourage them to get their work done. Furthermore, the women at the workshop will come in everyday at random times, give very short notice of time they need off and when asked why they are late or why they need time off they only give a simple excuse like, “ I have something to do”. It appears that there is no sense of urgency in their work culture or that they don’t take into account the implications that their behaviour can have on the business as a whole. However, from what we have learned from our preparations, when making ethical judgements I must consider why these work ethics exist from the other culture’s perspectives. By recognizing that these work cultures occur, I must learn how to adapt to these differences and realise that these are not personal work ethics and that it is a part of their culture. While there are many challenges in running a workshop with so many different cultures, religions and work ethics, it is definitely helping to break down prejudices, which is a major positive outcome. – Erin


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