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.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in India only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.