It is quite a challenge to create an overview about India’s culture, as it is so populous and it encompasses so many different languages, identities and last but not least, religions. These religions and their shared values are the main drivers of India’s business culture.
There are, however, quite a few tips and tricks that can help you act respectfully in any business environment within this beautiful and so diverse culture:
- Age-based Respect: Respect for the elders and an age-based hierarchy are considered core values in India. Make sure you treat Indian elders with visible respect.
- Conservative: India is quite a conservative country and in order not to insult the counterpart in any shape or form, you must choose a conservative fashion attire, especially if you’re a woman.
- Negotiation Time: Indian negotiations tend to take quite some time. This is because Indians tend to take their time when making any major decisions, assessing the risk thoroughly, no matter the urgency or the importance of the decision.
- Humour: Completely avoid crude humour, especially one that involves swearing. Indians enjoy a playful and light humour – more of a friendly banter and some light teasing.
- Personal Space: Another important fact is that they tend to value their personal space very much, meaning that they are not prone to any physical contact, further that the necessary ones (such as greetings).
- Order of importance – in India, people enter a room in the order of their importance in that set meeting; hence the highest ranking person will be the one arriving first and so on. The same rule will apply to introductions.
- Casual Interactions: Take time to get to know your business partner – engage in casual conversations and try to get to know one another. For Indians, the personality and the energy of their business partners is very important.
- Business Card: Use both hands when presenting a business card, making sure the writing is facing the other person. In the case in which you hold a university degree, your business card should include that info.
- Flexibility: Everything in India is considered to be subjected to change. This means that they regard contracts more as an agreement of collaboration, rather than a clear, legal document. The specifications of the agreement must be negotiable, as Indians tend to demand flexibility – as they offer.
- Benefit of the doubt: Avoid to make any direct judgements in absolute terms until you potentially have a clear understanding of all circumstances available. Indians tend to give the benefit of the doubt up until clearly proven otherwise.
To summarise, India can be quite a difficult country to adapt to their business culture – if compared to what we are used to nowadays in Europe, but however, their conservatorship managed to keep their culture, as well as manners alive. Building personal business relationships in India are incredibly important, so you should definitely invest in social activities with your business partners, as well as getting to know them – this will be helpful for yourself too, as it would clear out the negotiations much faster, as well as it would build a bucket of trust.