Meeting styles will be heavily dependent upon the type of organisation with which you are engaged in business.
Many of the emergent and highly successful hi-tech, finance and bio-science industries are actively pursuing western-style business methodology and this will result in meetings following familiar patterns with agendas, a chairperson and reasonable time keeping. More traditional Indian companies will, however, retain more local approaches to meetings and these may cause the international business traveller more concerns.
Meetings with more traditional Indian organisations are likely to seem very informal with the possibility of interruptions where unknown people enter the room and start to converse about other, disconnected issues or where your contact breaks off to answer the phone. Do not show irritation should you find yourself in this situation – just accept it as part of the nature of life on the sub-continent.
As a heavily relationship-oriented society, meetings may initially centre on seemingly non-business-focused discussions. This is an important part of the cycle of business and should not be rushed or dismissed as time wasting. Show that you are a person to be taken seriously by engaging in the necessary small talk. Only when you have convinced your contacts of your personal worthiness, is business likely to flow smoothly.
Gift giving is an endemic part of life in India and it is thought that the gift giver is the one who should thank the receiver. (The gifts given during life are seen as an aid to a better after-life.)
Gifts need not be large or expensive but should always be wrapped. Traditionally, gifts are wrapped and not opened in front of the giver. When wrapping gifts avoid black or white paper which is considered unlucky.
Try to be thoughtful about the religious conventions and sensitivities of the receiver – do not give alcohol to a Muslim or beef to a Hindu.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
India is notoriously difficult. It scores badly on the ease of doing business index and a lack of investment in infrastructure over the past twenty to thirty years can test even the most seasoned of business travellers. So why bother with India when there are easier potential markets?
We feel you really do need to look at doing business in India for a number of very strong reasons. Firstly, India stands poised to become one of the world’s largest economies over the coming years as economic liberalisation kicks in after decades of political stagnation. It has a population of almost 1.3 billion of which 50% are under the age of 30 and therefore the consumer potential of the country is almost limitless. Secondly, the lack of historical investment in the country means that India needs everything. You cannot point to a sector which is not crying out for investment and new product ideas. Thirdly, and very importantly, India has a highly educated, aspirational workforce who can help you build your business on the ground.
India is the ‘next big thing’ – you really cannot afford to ignore it.
You cannot ignore India but if you want to business in India successfully, you need to understand it. You need to understand the cultural drivers and expectations of the people you will be working with when you get there and you need to understand how that cultural knowledge can help you succeed in-country.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Indian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: