Vivek Goyal, Co-Founder of Play Shifu has recently become a firm upholder of No Sir No Madam culture. Play Shifu is an augmented reality technology start-up based in Bengaluru. They create innovative augmented reality-based games for children aged between 2 to 10 years. The concept is to merge tactile and digital play patterns to educate and entertain children.
Vivek pursued his engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. Furthermore, he earned his MBA from the prestigious Stanford University, Stanford, USA. Before launching Play Shifu, Vivek has worked for eBay and on his own start-up in Palo Alto, California, USA.
The cultural difference between India and United States of America left Vivek in awe. He says, “In USA, I have rarely addressed my professors as Sir/Madam. While working for eBay, I never used Sir/Madam to greet my seniors.” Work seemed enjoyable and pleasant, as, formalities were not imposed on us, he adds.
Although, a few MNCs have brought the casual culture in India, many companies still do not practice the first-name tradition. In India, employees often tend to exercise Sir/Madam custom to show superficial respect. This creates hierarchical differences and a less positive environment to work in.
Vivek states, not having salutation barrier creates a sense of openness between him and the team. He ensures that everyone feels equal in his workplace. Therefore, he voices that equality inculcates empowerment. Vivek confesses that No Sir No Madam has helped in achieving parity. Removing communication barriers is important to imbibe self-respect in employees. Working staff feels motivated and starts identifying themselves as an integral part of the company.
Sir/Madam culture is dominantly noticeable in public sector in India. Vivek remembers observing people address his dad, who is a government official, as ‘Sir’. However, it was only the juniors who used this nomenclature so frequently. Sir/Madam compulsion in the government sector is used to obtrude a superior complex, he articulates.
Furthermore, he shares — this has created a form of suppression. By labeling someone as Sir/Madam you give up your right of questioning them. It inherently creates a form of authoritarianism, he believes.
Over the years, Indians have got used to being referred as ‘Saheb’ (Sir). We have forced the habit of addressing others as Sir/Madam on the proletarian section of society. Thus, this enactment has created social discrimination based on work a person does.
Vivek opines, the next generation to be the flag bearers of change. He contemplates — changing the perception of people who have been following Sir/Madam culture for decades is difficult. Although, this change can be brought about by the upcoming generation, he feels.
School is the first place where a child learns to use ‘Sir/Madam’.
He conjugates, “If the next generation is brought up without this decree, it will solve the entire problem. It may not be needed to call teachers by name, but Sir/Madam is the other extreme end. We can be innovative in our approach.” Kids need to be taught that respect should not be demanded. Moreover, these habits and notions are the ones that they will practice when they enter the corporate world.
Vivek suggests that start-ups and open-minded institutes should imply No Sir No Madam ideology without fail. He emphasizes the importance of changing the mindset in the government sector with the help of social media. Although, he accepts this is not 100% prevalent in his current startup, he vows to consciously ask everyone to use first-name on a regular basis.
Finally, having seen both sides of the world, he infers — there is no harm in adapting to a specific cultural habit that is effective and working. Overall, No Sir No Madam preaches that respect is not earned with your designation, rather by your work, thoughts, and behavior.