Doing Business Indian Style
When doing business with other countries and dealing with clients from other cultures it is first important to understand the culture and values of the culture you are dealing with. Comfort and respect is so important when doing business and the best way to show a person that you respect them as a person and prospective client is to show them that you have done your homework to make them feel comfortable with doing business with you in a way that is familiar to them; religion, language, status and business style are all factors that need to be taken into account when doing business with India clientele. Behavior, etiquette and approach are all modified depending on whom you are addressing and the context in which they are being addressed.
There are no steadfast rules but having knowledge on cultural facts and their influence on business will assist business owners to have more successful business interactions with prospects of other cultures different from your own.
In India although the official language is Hindi, English is the language of business commerce in India, taught from the time they are in preschool. Many Indians however might speak quite rapidly, with an accent unfamiliar to Westerns. If you experience difficulty, the best approach is to ask them to please speak more slowly. Indians you’ll meet are multilingual, and may take offense if you imply their English is poor or not understandable.
When arranging a meeting set it up well in advance, showing respect for their time, be punctual for your meeting, show respect and timeliness. Avoid meetings near or on national holidays or festivals of which India has many such as Diwali or Holi. These are meaningful and religious holidays for them that are reserved for family. Indian people are very family oriented and have great faith, living but the rule that everything happens for a reason and is out of their control, whereas Westerns try to control and rush through everything. This is quite the opposite to the way Indian people think and to them family and faith are more important to them than business or money, so be flexible and understanding if last minute cancellations happen.
Indians only deal with those they know and trust – even at the expense of a great deal, contrary to belief, so it is vital to establish a good rapport with any prospective client; diving right into business and your offer with an Indian person can be viewed as rude and pushy. Be patient, unlike Westerns, time is of no matter to them when it comes to decision making, attempts to rush or influence there process could sabotage the deal. Instead use the time to instill confidence in you and build the trust factor with them. This is a more productive way to get your desired result. Relax and go with the flow, work on building that strong relationship.
Begin building trust with proper introductions, and demonstrating respect and modesty (in dress and demeanor). Dress for success to leave the best first impression women should dress conservative and professional; men should dress in a suit. Convey appreciation to your host. When entering a meeting room you should always approach and greet the most senior figure first. Start with conversation to get to know each other and build rapport with your prospect. Some good topics to start with would be families, tradition, latest business news or cricket all Indians are big cricket lovers so if you don’t know anything about the sport it would be a good idea to brush up. Avoid personal matters; do not comment on matters such as the poverty or beggars.
Business cards should be given at the start of a meeting with an Indian person and great respect should be shown in receiving and handling of that business card. Use your right hand or both hands when offering your business card and accept their card respectfully with care and not abruptly stuffed it in your pocket or purse.
Take the time to cultivate personal relationships and establishing a reputation of integrity is important. Accept social invitations (dinners, weddings) which may last many hours; these are opportunities to experience Indian hospitality, appreciate the culture, and extend your network.
Indians expect you have thoroughly researched your proposition, and can provide in-depth data analysis and details. Indians appreciate a factual and personable delivery style that starts with the ‘big picture’ before getting to the implementation specifics. Indians persuade through competitive data; repetition, insistence, and rigorous detail and may make vigorous, emotional appeals to underscore their proposition. A response in kind is most effective (avoiding an aloof or rational approach).
It is quite common Indians may overlap each other while speaking, increasing the volume and speed of dialogue – if this is the case, don’t wait for an invitation to speak: jump in and talk over someone to make your points.
Generally, India’s culture promotes pleasing people; thus feedback that might be unpleasing (problems, criticism, confrontation) is generally avoided. Indians are usually conscious of status and feedback is offered from higher to lower rank (based on age or position).
- Negative feedback – Indians do not want to convey bad news, and will often work hard to remedy a situation before letting you know of any delays or missed goals. Criticism is subtle, “That’s not quite what I was looking for.”
- Positive feedback – Indians appreciate compliments on their performance, but may deflect direct praise and expect others to do so also, displaying the trait of humility.
Indians do not base their business decisions solely on statistic, best price or exciting PowerPoint presentations. They use intuition, feeling and faith to guide them. Always exercise patience, show good character and never exhibit frustration or anger this is considered highly rude and can several effect or lose that prospect entirely.
Patience, personal warmth, and persistence will bring opportunities. Remember, relationship first and results will follow.
The above differences in culture, business practices and business etiquette show the advantages cross cultural awareness brings. By tailoring your behavior and approach when doing business with Indian prospects can maximize your potential for success.