- You can write a letter to a new contact in India
without first securing a formal introduction, but referrals and
introductions may give you more credibility and result in a faster
response. However, you should feel comfortable sending a “cold”
letter to introduce your company and state your intentions.
- Well-known international companies will receive
better responses than smaller unknown entities. You may follow
the letter with a telephone call.
- Direct you first communication to the senior-most
person possible. Indians are very status-conscious and will
seek to match you with a person of equal status from their organization.
- Indians may seem unreceptive on a first call, but
this is more because they do not know you yet rather than due to lack
of interest. If possible, make an in-person visit.
- If you use and introduction or referral, be sure not
to make the Indian feel obligated or pressured to work with you.
Indians do not respond well to outside pressure or obligation.
- Once in India, you can schedule impromptu meetings,
most Indians will be willing to meet with you provided their schedules
permit the time.
- It is advisable to maintain a local presence either
by assigning someone from your company to serve in India or by hiring a
local representative or agent. This person should be able to
manage local administrative tasks and business relationships.
- Joint-venture collaboration or a technical transfer
with a small minority equity stake are frequently the most effective
approaches. Indians need to be proud and boastful.
Name-dropping is common practice and people compete to list their
- When evaluating local representative firms, be wary
of the person who tells you he or she has very extensive
connections. Check his or her references thoroughly.
- The desire to be more “Western,” that is “better,”
makes many Indians compete against one another rather than assist each
- In general, foreign businesspeople should avoid
trying to do business close to India’s major holiday periods, such as
- Be sensitive to the religions and regional holidays
that your Indian counterpart may observe.
- Some executives arrive at the office late in the
morning, but they also tend to stay late at the end of the day.
Do not schedule any appointments earlier than 10:00 am. Also
avoid the lunch ours between noon and 2:00 pm.
- Indians are habitually late to appointments and do
not mind if foreigners show up as much as fifteen minutes late.
- First meetings should be held at an office or in
your hotel lobby.
- Be careful not to make assumption about a person’s
role based on his or her sex; there are senior female managers and both
men and women work as secretaries. Male secretaries tend to be
predominating in the public sector, female secretaries in the private
sector. Most secretaries or assistants often function as
gate-keepers. They should be cultivated for advise about the
- In general, Indian surnames usually indicate the
part of the country where a person originated. Unless you know
someone well, always use a title, such as “R.,” “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or
Miss.” And the surname when addressing a person. Wait until
invited to use first names.
- You should always use formal titles and family names
with senior government officials regardless of how long you have known
- Superiors are often called “Sir” or “Madam” by
Indians, although foreigners are not expected to follow this practice.
- Most Indian businesspeople greet each other with a
handshake or the namaste, which is a traditional greeting carried out
by placing with palms together as in a prayer at chest level and
accompanied by a slight nod of the head. Foreigners should feel
comfortable shaking hands.
- When greeting senior government officials, a numaste
is more appropriate and will be appreciated by all Indians. In
larger cities, shake hands with men and women. In smaller towns
and rural areas, a namaste is more appropriate.
- Business cards are exchanged at the first meeting
although not necessarily at the beginning of the meeting.
- Begin each meeting with small talk on topics such as
your travels, the weather, and positive impressions of India.
Indians enjoy talking and will quickly share their overseas experiences
with you. It is best to refrain from talking about sensitive topics
such as politics or religion. Indians usually believe that they
are better informed about the West than the reverse. Western
ignorance of things Indian is often perceived as an insult by Indians,
who are unable to comprehend why India has not been a major focus for
Westerners. Indians have always perceived themselves as a global power
and are often miffed when others do not. Be sensitive to these
types of issues and display an interest in India and its culture.
Building relationship is important and will require more than one
- You can begin to discuss business after about five
minutes. Business meetings should always be conducted with a
business purpose. If you are only interested in general facts
finding and relationship building, make sure your Indian counterpart
knows this in advance.
- Early meetings should maintain a formal tone.
Indians are eager to ensure that they are perceived as serious business
contenders. You may find that your Indian counterpart wants to
discuss business immediately without any casual conversation.
Follow your counterpart’s lead.
- Gifts are not required, although small gestures such
as sample products may e appreciated.
- In the first few encounters, do not physically touch
your Indian counterpart or pat him on the back. Some Indian men
will touch you when discussion or explaining a point. Never touch
a woman, other than to shake hands.
- The feet are considered the dirtiest part of a
person. Do not place your feet on a chair or table as this is
- Do not point with one finger, but instead use your
whole palm. Beckoning should be done using the whole hand.
- In general, well-educated and affluent Indians
follow European etiquette rules.
India has a five-day workweek, although this differs by industry and
region. Most businesses, banks, and government offices are open
10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Monday to Friday, but city offices may be
from 8:00 am to 6:00 p.m. Some businesses are open for a
others for a full day, on Saturday. There is a one-hour lunch
all days. Office workers usually work forty hours per week, while
factory and industrial workers work a forty-eight-hour week. Due
inadequate power supplies, factories often have staggered schedules
with each factory in a district closing on a different day of the
week. Shops are usually open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm and
also closed one day per week, although the day differs between regions
and within cities.