It’s been a little more than four months since I’ve been in India as an AIF Clinton Fellow, and one of the the aspects of Indian workplace culture that stands out to me is the importance of chai time at the office. Chai breaks during the work place are a must, especially for my coworkers and I at BEMPU, my host organization. As a public health startup that creates life-saving technologies in the field of neonatal and maternal health, BEMPU’s office is always busy. My work day at BEMPU ranges from coordinating clinical studies around India to writing grants proposals. BEMPU consists of the Public Health, Product Design, Production, Government, Engineering, Finance, and Customer Service Teams, and we all work closely with each other in interdisciplinary teams to ensure that our products create as much impact in neonatal health as possible.
To support our productivity, everyday we have someone who comes to serve us chai at 11am and 4pm, whom we call Auntie. My coworkers always look forward to their daily fix of chai as we sit on our desks and get work done under tight deadlines.
Breaking from this routine, we have day-long meetings at least twice a month that involve nearly all BEMPU employees. In that case, we order chai from our favorite spot nearby, Chai Point. It’s a popular chain around Bangalore that delivers hot chai and pastries within 30 minutes. As we discuss the research and development of our current and upcoming products, having a cup of chai is a must to power through the meetings and stay productive. Important decisions are made during these meetings: we discuss the timeline of our projects, adjustments to be made to improve the projects, marketing of our life-saving products, and the clinical studies needed to test the products. It is a chance for BEMPU to revisit where we are now and where we are going in the near future.
Over my first few months here, I’ve found that chai time not only serves as an opportunity to converse about work-related topics, but it has also been a way to get to know some of my coworkers and receive advice on how to handle life in Bangalore. My coworkers have given me valuable tips on how to deal with the madness of Bangalore traffic, where the best places to eat are located, and more. We also have a few cross-cultural conversations about food habits. For example, during one of our chai conversations, I’ve learned that iced chai is an absolute no-go in India, despite its massive popularity in the United States.
So far, I am so grateful for chai time, not only does it allow me to take a quick break from work and refocus, but it has also allowed me to foster relationships with my fellow BEMPU employees.