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Making Contacts
  • 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 “supposed” contacts. 
  • 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 other.

Meeting People:

  • In general, foreign businesspeople should avoid trying to do business close to India’s major holiday periods, such as Diwali. 
  • 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 bureaucratic processes. 
  • 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 them. 
  • 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 meeting.
  • 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 considered disrespectful.
  • 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.

Work Schedule

India has a five-day workweek, although this differs by industry and region.  Most businesses, banks, and government offices are open from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.  Monday to Friday, but city offices may be open from 8:00 am to 6:00 p.m.  Some businesses are open for a half-day, others for a full day, on Saturday.  There is a one-hour lunch break on all days.  Office workers usually work forty hours per week, while factory and industrial workers work a forty-eight-hour week.  Due to 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 are also closed one day per week, although the day differs between regions and within cities.

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