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with Catherine Nickerson

With the advent of globalization, Indian companies have not only competed successfully on the home turf, they have been more than willing to take the battle abroad. With this emerging trend, "Business Communication across cultures" assumes critical importance.
In this interview with Dr. Catherine Nickerson who has more than twenty years of experience in teaching and research in the field of business communication, we aim to bring out the difference across Anglo-Saxon cultures in terms of their business communication practices, how they differ, as a whole, from business communication in India. We also look at the contemporary issue of CSR as a form of business communication.


Though there has been so far a western bias to the intercultural communication studies, the scenario has been changing. In intra-organizational communication, issues like written communication and power distance are where the Indian business communication stereotype diverges the most from the western setup.

In B2C communication, the pejorative connotations of the "Made in India" tag are now a thing of the past with the success of campaigns like Ayurveda and Incredible India. Also, Indian IT companies have fared well when it comes to B2B communication. However, the lack of soft skills and sophistication in communication still remains a cause for concern and is an area where academia can step in and help.


From the interview

"There has been a western bias in much of the research that has been done in intercultural communication... a lot of theoretical models used to explain what has been happening in inter-cultural communication have originated in the West and have been applied out of context where English is a first language for example However....recently, over the last five years there has been much more awareness that this needs to be corrected"

"One of the ways that corporations deal with... putting through a multinational, multicultural workforce is to train them to become members of a particular organizational culture."

"There is quite a lot of research that has been done in marketing communication literature that looks at how you reach a consumer population by changing the particular appeals that you use in advertising and that is something….that as far as I am aware has not encompassed India as yet. But there is a lot of research that could be done…and how if you manipulate the appeal that you use in advertising so that you appeal to a more individualistic idea rather than a more collective idea"

"In emerging economies in particular... CSR campaigns tend to be very much on philanthropic initiatives. If we look at western companies in general they tend to focus much more on what is generally referred to as ethical initiatives"

Industry and Academic Opinion

"In a recent article on intercultural business communication, we take stock of some of the more noticeable trends in the field. Possibly the most regrettable is the continued Western bias in intercultural and cross-cultural communication research and studies."

Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini, Nottingham Trent University, UK. Guest Editor, Business Communication Quarterly, Sage Journal

"In business, domestically and internationally, where the boundaries of markets and corporations are more fluid than ever and where managers are thrown together into new international organizations and alliances, these (communication)competencies are vital. Especially in the business realm, it is dialog or death"

Howard V. Perlmutter, Emeritus Professor and Director of the Emerging Global Civilization project, Wharton

"Be sensitive to local cultures, the differences between the 'high context' Asian cultures and the 'low context' Western ones"

Narayan Murthy, Founder, Infosys


Catherine Nickerson has more than twenty years of experience in teaching and research in the field of business communication. She has held senior positions in India and in the Netherlands, and she has also lived and worked in the United States and the United Kingdom. She holds degrees from the Universities of Durham (BA) and Birmingham (MA) in the United Kingdom, and a Ph.D. from the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and she has received research scholarships from the British Council/Dutch Research Council, and from the University of Michigan.
Dr Nickerson's work has been published widely and she has edited a number of large-scale publications and she herself is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Business Communication (Sage) and also a member of the Editorial Boards for the English for Specific Purposes Journal (Elsevier) and for HERMES (Copenhagen School of Business).


Mr. Sanjay Kalra, Former CEO, Tech Mahindra

Sourav Mukherji, Associate Professor, on Knowledge Management in Indian Software Firms

Dr. Catherine Nickerson, Associate Editor, Journal of Business Communication (Sage)

Dr.Trilochan Sastry, Professor, IIM Bangalore

Dr. Padmini Srinivasan, Assistant Professor, IIM Bangalore

Dr.R. Srinivasan, Associate Professor, IIM Bangalore

Dr. Vijaya Marisetty, Associate Professor, IIM Bangalore

Dr. Rajeev Gowda, Professor, IIM Bangalore
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