Role of Indian Culture in Business Promotion13th February 2020
Indians are strongly guided by their respective religions and their shared values. Respect for elders and hierarchy are core values that permeate all aspects of Indian society. Indians also place huge importance on family and community. And as in many Asian cultures, the concept of saving face – avoiding blame or any type of shameful situation can influence decision-making processes and affect your business dealings in India.
Building good business relationships and trust are important in India, so you should expect to spend plenty of time at meetings, dinners and social clubs with potential business partners. In a first meeting, let the Indian host guide the initial stages of the conversation. As in some other Asian cultures, Indians like to develop a personal connection first. So expect to be asked and prepare to ask your own questions – about family.
Role of Indian Culture in Business Promotions are:-
- Greetings and titles
A handshake is the standard way to greet men and women in a business setting, whatever their age or seniority. When meeting with small independent retailers in non-urban areas, you may be greeted by your potential partner with the word namaste (pronounced nah-mas-tay). You may reciprocate by repeating the word, with the palms of your hands together and a slight bow or nod of the head. Often people will slightly nod or bow their heads when shaking hands, particularly with senior figures. The left hand is considered unclean and as such, should never be used alone to offer or accept a handshake, drink, food, money, gifts or business cards.
- Body language
Indians tend to value their personal space and are generally not prone to making much physical contact. However, it is not uncommon for Indian men to engage in friendly back patting. This is a sign of friendship and a positive signal for your working relationship. Indians are generally expressive and use body language to convey messages that are not always verbal.
Showing the soles of your feet or your shoes, or pointing your feet towards anyone, is considered highly disrespectful and insulting in India, as is stepping on or over papers, books, religious offerings on the ground – and especially people.
It is rude to touch anyone’s head. Pointing with fingers is also disrespectful; if you must point, use your thumb, with the rest of your fingers curled into a fist, palm facing upward.
- Business cards
These are essential when conducting business in India and must be handled with respect. Make sure your card includes your name, company name, position and email address, all in English. If you have a higher degree such as a masters or a PhD, you may wish to disclose it on your business card, as it will earn you greater respect in India.
When presenting your card, do so with both hands holding the card at the top in between your thumb and index finger with the writing facing the recipient. After receiving a business card, spend a few moments examining it, providing positive feedback with a smile, before placing it either in your chest pocket or in front of you at the table.
- Corporate culture
Depending on the type of Indian business you are dealing with, it is not common for middle management to have decision-making autonomy. Make sure the person you are negotiating with is senior enough to commit to business and partnership decisions. Do not begin business meetings by getting straight to the heart of the negotiation. Take a short time to ask personal questions about your contact’s family and background, covering topics such as how long they have worked in the company or industry and where they grew up. Make a concerted effort to be on time for formal business meetings, but be aware that they will not always start on time. Indians are less constrained by time than Australians.
- Dress code
Conservative, professional attire is expected in the business setting, although this can differ depending on the season and the city. Men should generally wear a suit (with tie) and women should wear a business dress or a suit with a blouse (not low-cut and, in the case of skirts, not too short). In summer, however, it is more acceptable for men to not wear a jacket. Women should avoid wearing short outfits or exposing their shoulders.
- Indian Business Meetings and Negotiations
Give as much warning as possible of your intended dates of travel and try to schedule your meetings well in advance. If you require help with your India trip our business advisors based in both the UK and India can help source qualified leads, set up introductions, and arrange business meetings as well as plan productive business trips to India. Do bear in mind that the arrangements may change several times and may not be confirmed until the day of the meeting itself. Although punctuality is expected, be prepared for meetings to start and finish late and for interruptions to occur on a regular basis. Negotiations can be slow by UK standards. Be patient and demonstrate good character; forcefulness will likely drive your contact away.
- Understanding Business Relationships in India
Business relationships are of the utmost importance. Indians will base their decisions on trust and intuition as much as on statistics and data, so be mindful of the importance of a good working relationship. Take the time to engage in small talk and get to know your prospective partner. Rushing straight into the business issue could be perceived as rudeness.
- The Role of Hierarchy in Indian Business
Indian businesses are often very hierarchically structured. In negotiations, decisions are generally made at the highest of levels. Therefore, unless the company director, owner or a very senior manager is present at a meeting, a decision is not likely to occur at that stage. Roles are well defined and tasks such as manual labour will only be carried out by a specific person. An Indian manager is typically not expected to carry out tasks that could otherwise be undertaken by someone at a lower level in the organisation.
When you choose to set up an India based office you will need to take into account these cultural differences. If your office does not follow a vertically structured hierarchy, with closely defined responsibilities, it will be important to create a dynamic feedback and communication mechanism between your UK and Indian employees to encourage collaboration. Interactions between UK and Indian staff may at times cause miscommunication. For example junior staff in India may not be used to making decisions or questioning senior staff with the same level of freedom as their UK counterparts.
You may well find that your Indian operations are much more flexible than your UK operations. Indian’s are often prepared to take on time sensitive and important tasks at the last minute.. Likewise your Indian staff may find the rigidity of timelines on the part of UK staff challenging and inflexible. Sensitising your UK and Indian employees about the cultural differences is therefore important for smooth day to day operations.