Essential Business Etiquette Tips for Doing Business in India

by Diane Marcus, Essential Business Etiquette

If you have thought about doing business in India, but are hesitating, think again. There are many good reasons to consider doing business in India.

The official name of the country is The Republic of India. It is located in South Asia. Its northern borders consist of Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and China. To the south is the Arabian Sea, The Indian Ocean and The Bay of Bengal. It has a land area greater than all of Europe. The climate has a wet and dry season. Monsoon season can be a bit trying for people who aren’t used to it. Be prepared with a raincoat and umbrella if you travel at this time. India can be very warm, depending on the season.

The first good reason to do business in India is its population. There are about 1.2 billion people in India. Although there are still many poor people, there is a rising middle class. India is on target to have the fifth largest purchasing power in the world by the year 2030.

The second good reason for Americans to do business in India is that a large number of people speak English. Although, many languages are spoken throughout the country, most educated people speak English. That alone is a great comfort.

The third good reason to do business in India is that Indians are accepting of women in the workforce. Unlike Muslim countries where women are not accepted, men don’t seem to have too much of a problem working with women. That said, women should still dress conservatively. The safest style of dress is probably a pant suit. Businesswomen should never wear short skirts, see-through blouses or anything too low cut. They should be a bit reserved and not too friendly with men.

India is trying hard to attract foreign investors. This brings us to the fourth good reason to do business in India. The new government is trying very to make it easier for foreigners to do business there. That does not mean that there is not a lot of paper work to sort through, but it is easier to do business there today than it was ten years ago.

The main religion of India is Hindu. This religion has been there for thousands of years. Keep in mind there are also many other religions including the Muslim religion. Therefore if people need to stop during the day to pray, just wait respectfully until they are finished.

Many people in India are vegetarians. If you take clients out for lunch or dinner, you must ask about their eating preferences. Many restaurants will have one menu for vegetarians and another for non-vegetarians. Eating meat in front of them could pose a problem, so always ask them to make a recommendation where they would like to eat.

Food can be very spicy in India. If this is a problem for you, consider ordering an omelette which is always safe. There are some foods that people in India eat with their hands, so do not be surprised at this. Tipping is appropriate in many restaurants. Ask the host if the tip will be added to the bill. If you get great service, leave a bit more.

Indians have a good work ethic. That brings us to the fifth good reason to do business there. There is great respect for the boss or person in charge. Workers follow orders well and do not need to feel equal to their boss as people in Canada or Australia. Do not be concerned if meetings do not begin and end on time. However, you will need to be on time, even if they are not.

Indians do not rush into making a deal. There is a great emphasis on developing relationships. This means they will want to get to know you before signing a contract. This can take some time and you should be prepared to spend some extra time there. If you do get invited to their home, you may be asked to take off your shoes. Do not refuse to do this. It would be very offensive if you did not comply. You have heard of the expression, “do in Rome as the Romans do”. This would apply here.

You should take into consider that like Mexico, Indians are a family oriented culture. They would not appreciate any advertising that is offensive to the family. If you give a gift, keep in mind that Hindus will find items made of leather offensive and Muslims will be offended if you give liquor. This would be an automatic deal breaker.

Finally, there is a massive market opportunity available to those who want to do business in India. However, just because they speak English does not mean that English culture prevails. Again, do a lot of research before going there or to any country outside the United States you want to do business with. Making a faux pas can cost your company thousands of dollars. You have spent a lot of time and money getting there. Don’t make a mistake that could have easily been avoided. Be sure to do your homework before you go.

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