Background To Business in India

As a country, India covers a land area greater than that of Europe. Its inhabitants speak a bewildering array of languages (16 official languages as well as innumerable local dialects and patois).

The people live in twenty-eight states and seven union territories. It is hardly surprising; therefore, that India is a country about which it is very difficult to make sweeping generalisations.

Yet India presents a massive market opportunity for companies who wish to expand their markets internationally. With a population of more than 1.2billion – many millions of whom are reasonably affluent and possess large disposable incomes – the sub-continent is widely tipped to be the second or third largest economy in the world within the next 20 years. (It is already the 3rd largest economy by GDP Purchasing Power Parity).

People often forget that business in India (growing at about 8% per annum GDP in 2017) is powered by a very strong domestic market which has seen strong performances in all three sectors or agriculture, industry and services and that these sectors, coupled with high savings rates and a very favourable demographic trend, make India much more than merely a low-cost option.

Any business organisation that wishes to profit from India’s rise, would do well to spend a little time studying the cultural norms which drive the thinking of the Indian people.

Although it is difficult to generalise about the approach to business in India, there are certain factors which would seem to be almost universal in their applicability and which need to be borne in mind when working with Indian contacts. These issues include the fact that India is a country in which relationships are placed before business and thus the relationship phase of the business cycle could be considered to be the most important.

In addition, the legacy of the caste system ensures that businesses are extremely hierarchically structured and that the boss is very definitely the boss.

These issues will be looked at in more detail later in this country briefing.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in India

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

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:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips