Cultural do’s and don’ts in India

Indians are easy to work with. Of course they can be used to different (company) culture and habits than you are used to. Trust is important in the Indian culture. A good personal relationship is as important as a business relationship. Take time to establish a personal relationship with your business contact, visit the company and also get to know his/her family. Be aware of hierarchy in Indian companies. It is useful to know who is in charge of making final decisions. Indian companies often operate in different sectors. Scales might be different, a holding might offer jobs to thousands of employees. This does not give an indication about the quality of the products or services the company offers. Indians often accomplish their targets rather by adopting and improvising than a strict and detailed planning. Therefore being a more flexible business partner suites better in the Indian culture. Indians expect you to negotiate about the price and conditions. Consider a multi-annual strategy. Being successful takes time.
  • Be cautious with handshaking with people of the opposite sex. You can best wait until your host starts a handshake.
  • Shaking head in the Indian culture does not mean ‘no’. It is only a sign of understanding. Indians shake their head often as a sign that they hear and understand what you are saying.
  • Meetings usually begin with a friendly chat. This can be about personal affairs-including your health and family. Do not try to rush this.
  • Indians do not like to say no. If something is not possible, Indians would use expressions like ‘may’, ‘that would be difficult’ or ‘Let’s try to do so’.
  • Preferably plan your business appointments one to two months in advance. Contact again shortly before the appointment to confirm the agreed date and time of the planned the appointment. Bear that last minute changes in time and place in mind.
  • Many Indians do not eat meat for religious reasons. Consider this when organizing a lunch or dinner. Provide plenty of vegetarian alternatives.