Understanding Business Culture of India before Doing Business in India

India being one of the fastest developing economy in the world, every year lots of foreign companies are either Opening an Indian subsidiary or go for Liaison office registration in India or Branch office in India. In recent years, Subsidiary company registration in India has increased.

India is a hugely populated country with different languages, culture and religions. Therefore, it is difficult to make general remarks about business culture in India. However, following tips will be handful to anybody who wants to do business in India.

  • In India, normally in business meetings, handshake is done although some Indians might also use “Namaste” by folded hands. While addressing women, “madam” is used and while addressing men, “Sir” is used. Also, the suffix “Ji” may be used especially when addressing someone senior both in age and in rank.
  • Business dress code mostly consists of lightweight suit and ties are not compulsory, except in traditional sectors such as banking or law. Women are advised to wear a trouser suit rather than a skirt.
  • English is one of the official languages of India and is widely spoken in business. Instead of straight forward replying “no” which is considered as an offensive message, Indians prefer to make statements like “I will try” or “yes, but it may be difficult”, or “we’ll see”, when they likely mean “no”.
  • There is an issue of punctuality in India. In case of business meetings at say 11 A.M you may expect the same to start at 11.30 or 12.00 noon. Similarly there is no adherence to timeline for closure of meeting.
  • Indians value their business relationships and mostly make decisions on basis of trust and gut feeling besides statistics and data.
  • In India, the structures are on hierarchically basis and decisions are generally made at highest levels. Therefore unless and until top management like director or senior manager or partners are present in the meetings, decisions are not likely to occur at that stage.
  • In India, there is more formal relationship between employer and employee and normally, employees don’t address employer with his direct name as in western culture.
  • Indians are quite flexible in terms of deadlines and often like to work at last minute as compared to their western counterparts.
  • Corruption is quite rampant in India and unlike in west, it is also at every level i.e. at bottom level as well as top level, therefore, needs to be quite vigilant while doing business in India.

It may be noted that there are many India within India. Also, there is difference in cultures and traditions in north, south, east and west, therefore, any foreigners who want to work in India shall sensitize themselves as well as their staff regarding the business customs and norms in India so that there is no surprises and there is some level of comfort while dealing with Indian companies as well as their staffs.

Author: Anil Agrawal
EZYBIZ India Consulting LLP, New Delhi. The firm is business and tax consultancy firm providing consultancy in Taxation, Regulatory, Transfer pricing, Valuation, Corporate funding and Business set up matters. He may be reached at 9899217778 or anil@ezybizindia.in.

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