Blurred Boundaries? System/Environment Interactions in a Multinational Consulting Firm in Mumbai/India

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 17 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Frauke MOERIKE, Heidelberg University, Germany
This paper illustrates on the example of a multinational corporation in Mumbai the interplay between the social system organization (Niklas Luhmann) and its environment. On the one hand the company established its boundaries sharply through strict rules of organizational membership, outgoing communication to clients, or symbolic acts of differentiation in elaborated access procedures. This boundary was furthermore iterated daily through the interaction with the ‘freelancers’, who were assigned a dedicated area in one of the office locations, which served as an interaction membrane. In contrast to these dividing lines, however, stand the relationships with contractors, who contributed substantially to the organization’s value chain, worked alongside “the real employees” on identical job profiles and question how these boundaries are existent in daily work practice. Furthermore had the firm established “campus recruitment” partnerships with the higher education system in India. These allowed for the company to exhibited recruitment sessions directly at the MBA schools, which in return advertised this partnership as a selling point for their program. As several of the employees state, the existence of these partnerships had triggered the decision for a specific business school years before they actually came “on payroll” of the company. But there is another twist to that relationship: the official university ranking of the respective Business School furthermore determined the level of the job the company offered at the institution, i.e. the higher the ranking the higher/prestigious/well paid the job. This multi-sited ethnographic research was conducted as part of an ongoing PhD project in organizational anthropology over the duration of 12 months in 2013/14 at the three offices of a multinational consulting company in Mumbai (India) with a total of approximately 800 employees of various hierarchy levels and designations.