A Day on the Job in South India

In 2010, I was working with an online education start-up called Ukindi. As a part of the development process, I flew over to work directly with our developers at Neemtec in South India, near Kanya Kumari (the southernmost tip of India). The company was cool not only because it was small and in a very small-town environment, but also because the boss, Leo, tended to hire locally, so there was a family atmosphere there as well, which I liked. This posts is a typical day at work.

Getting to work:
I’ve never worked on a job where I’ve had a driver, so I felt like a VIP every day when they came to pick me up and drive me to the compound. Leo’s dad, Sekharan, was kind enough to offer me digs in the compound, but I am definitely a guy who needs air conditioning, so I stayed at a hotel by the beach in KanyaKumari, about 40 minutes drive from the compound.

Map to Neemtek

A map from my hotel in KanyaKumari to the Neemtec compound

The drive to the IT compound was through the endless wind farms in the south, always to the music David the driver was cranking in the car…but with the occasional stop for cows along the way. Here’s a photo of the aforementioned holy cows, doing their thing on the main highway that connects all of India from North to South, as well as a video of the drive in…and the cows..which I loved.

Cows doing their thing

Some cows doing their thing as we drove into work from KanyaKumari.

And for those of you who actually watch video in blogs, here’s a few cuts from the horn-honking, cow dodging drive to work.

The design and programming team:
What I liked best about working with the guys in India was they were just so nice. And polite! Forget about hoodie-sporting, pizza scarfing geeks. The engineers and designers in India were always dressed in shirts and slacks, beyond polite, and just very nice people to talk with. And the women — all the women I saw anywhere in South India, in fact — wore sari சேலை. Definitely one of the most beautiful forms of clothing in the world.

Office group

Some of the programmers in the team

Most days, I worked directly with Leo, who is the boss and owner of Neemtec, sitting on the left below, or with the project leader, Mastan, sitting beside me. Both great guys who were also with us over in Hong Kong for a pilot program.

Aircon room

Chillin’ in the only air-con section of the office with Leo and Mastan

The compound is also Leo’s family home, and every day they gave me three squares a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Leo’s dad insisted that I didn’t eat in the hotel restaurant as it was unsafe, he said. The family residence had its own water purification system, and Leo’s mom made some amazing food, always catering to my tastes. Leo’s dad and mom are definitely two of the most charming people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing!

In the photo below, we had a special lunch all together. I have some footage on this for another post. Interestingly, in the south of India, they don’t drink directly from their cups. Even paper cups they hold up, then tilt back the head and pour! I tried it. It didn’t work so well.

Also, as you can see, people eat with their fingers off of banana leaves in the South. I’ll also have a post on that as well. Not an easy thing to get used to, especially since pretty much every dish in the south is in some way involved with gravy.

Lunch with the engineering team

Lunch with the programming team

And after lunch, there was me, as usual, scarfing down a banana. India has more types of banana than you can imagine. Leo’s dad made sure I tried them all. One, in particular, the tholuvan palam தொழுவன் பழம் became an addiction. I was eating about 5 of the things a day. If ever you go, be sure to hunt a bunch of these down and go to town on them!

Note, that’s Leo’s dad on the left and his mom in the foreground in the purple and red. Wish I could find the pics of us all together!

After lunch

A snack and chat with the family after lunch

And a few more pics of the team and the surroundings.

The team

Just outside of the programming office

Neemtec rooftop

From the roof of Leo’s place

The back road to Neemtec

The road and neighborhood behind the compound

Neemtec gate

The road into the Neemtec IT compound