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Cross-Cultural business communiacion in India

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Cross-Cultural business communiacion in India


One of the most striking features about India, which any foreign traveler must appreciate, is the size and diversity of this country.

India is the seventh largest country in the world in terms of size, with a total landmass of 3,287,590 sq km. Located in South Asia, it has land boundary of 14,107 km with its neighbours [Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal and Bhutan] and a coastline of 7,000 km, which stretches across the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal iin the Indian Ocean.

India is a country of both diversity and continuity. It is a creative blend of cultures, religions, races and languages. The nation’s identity and social structure remain protected by a rich cultural heritage that dates back at least 5,000 years, making India one of the oldest civilisations in the world.

One of the fundamental components of Indian culture, vital for your business organisation to succeed, is an understanding of the traditions and ways of communicating with others tthat form the basis of India’s society.

It is advisable to schedule your appointment at least a couple of months in advance. If you are making your appointments before coming to India, do emphasize that you will be in India for aa short period of time, if this is the case. It is also useful to reconfirm your meeting a few days before the agreed upon date.

Do be prepared for last minute changes in the time and place of your meeting. It is useful to leave your contact details with the secretary of the person, so that, in case there are changes, you can be informed.

Formal or informal communication:

• In general, people are addressed by their name [without the prefix] only by close acquaintances, family members, or by someone who is older or superior in authority.

• Do use titles wherever possible, such as “Professor” or “Doctor”. If your Indian counterpart does not have a title, use “Mr”, “Mrs”, or “Miss”.

• Do remain ppolite and honest at all times in order to prove that your objectives are sincere.

• Don’t be aggressive in your business negotiations – it can show disrespect.


• The head is considered the seat of the soul. Never touch someone else’s head, not even to pat the hair of a child.

• Beckoning someone with the palm up and wagging one finger can be construed as in insult. Standing with your hands on your hips will be interpreted as an angry, aggressive pposture.

• Whistling is impolite and winking may be interpreted as either an insult or a sexual proposition.

• Greet by pressing your palms together and bow slightly. Say “Namaste” (nah-mah-stay).

• Among the younger urban Indians, a ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ with a wave of the hand is also an acceptable form of greeting when making informal contact.

• Talking to a woman who is walking alone is not advisable, since it is likely to be seen as a proposition or other inappropriate gesture.

• Allow women to proceed first.

• Ignore beggars.

• Respect age and seniority.

• The comfortable distance to be maintained during an interaction is much closer in India than in most Western countries. In general, a distance of about 2 or 2 ½ feet is seen as comfortable. However, since India has very high population density, in public spaces [e.g., public transport, a queue, etc.], don’t be surprised if you find people almost rubbing against you.

Meetings, Presentations, and Negotiation Tactics:

• For scheduling, Indians do not use time so much as people and events. Therefore, be flexible.

• Appointments made early are helpful.

• Many businesses are family-owned.

• Subordinates stand when superiors enter the room.

• Meetings are very relaxed.

• Begin business conversation with small talk.

• Indians are enthusiastic about discussing politics and political figures.

• Be open and friendly.

• Presenting and exchanging bbusiness cards are a necessary part of doing business in India. You must bring plenty since people exchange business cards even in non-business situations.

• Indians do not directly jump into business negotiations; in fact, that may be seen as rude. Building a relationship is often considered a prerequisite to doing business.

• Similarly, showing hospitality is part of the negotiation process. Often meetings start by offering tea/coffee and snacks. It is courteous to accept the offer.

• PowerPoint presentations are generally accepted to start the discussion. It is necessary, however, to send a more detailed proposal in advance. Often, the details of the proposal are vetted by some middle-level executive, who will then brief the superior about them.

Communications :

• There are more than fourteen major and three hundred minor languages spoken in India. The official languages are English and Hindi. English is widely used in business, politics and education.

• The word „no“ has harsh implications in India. Evasive refusals are more common, and are considered more polite. Never directly refuse an invitation, a vague „I’ll try“ is an acceptable refusal.

• Do not thank your hosts at the end of a meal. „Thank you“ is considered a form of payment and therefore insulting.

Non – verbal communications:

• Indians do not mmaintain continuous eye-contact while talking with others. Direct eye-contact may be seen as intrusive. On the other hand, do not feel uncomfortable if you find an Indian gazing at you; this is because Indians are curious–to the extent of sometimes being intrusive–about foreigners.

• Standing with hands on hips is seen as aggressive.

• Do not point with ...

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