Understanding Business Culture in India

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Whether you want to start a business in India or hire employees in India, it is important to understand the unique business culture here.

The business culture in each country says a lot about each place as a whole. The business culture in India is no exception. Many companies are seeking to hire employees in India or start their own company here. For example, the tech industry is booming in India and India churns out tens of thousands of management and engineering graduates each yearcultivating a young, highly-skilled workforce. There is a lucrative talent pool in India for you to hire. 

Indians are typically guided by their respective belief systems and their shared values. They strongly value their elders and respect hierarchy. Like in many Asian cultures, the concept of “saving face”, or avoiding blame or any type of shameful situation, can affect the way decisions are made while conducting business in India. Understanding the business culture in India helps a company succeed in the Indian market. Keep reading to learn about the unique business culture in India. 

Taj Mahal, India

Greetings Used in Indian Business Culture

A simple, firm handshake is the standard way to greet men and women in a business setting, regardless of age or seniority. There are some Indians that may use “namaste”, a common greeting that involves pressing your palms together with a finger pointing upwards and accompanied with a slight bow. When one enters a business meeting, greet the most senior person first.  

Communication and Body Language 

More than 22 major languages and dialects are spoken in India; however, the official languages are Hindi and English. The business language spoken in India is English, which will make managing a global team a lot easier because having a shared language among all employees will help to mitigate communication issues. 

Indians are generally animated and expressive. They will use body language as a way to convey messages that one may not pick up verbally. It is important to note that showing the soles of your feet or shoes, or pointing your feet towards someone is considered disrespectful. Since Indians place significance on formal titles, such as doctor or professor, it is encouraged to address those with authority by their formal titles.  

man paddling in boat in Indian river

Role of Hierarchy 

India is a hierarchical society. Depending on the type of Indian business you are engaging with, it is uncommon for middle-management to have the authority to make decisions. It is important to make sure that the person you are negotiating with has the seniority to commit to business and partner decisions. Different roles are strictly defined and tasks like manual labor should only be done by a specific persons. When you hire employees in India or use HR outsourcing services it is important to remember this.   

Business Meetings 

Small talk before a meeting is common and encouraged. In a business setting, Indians may ask about your family or your background as a way to get to know you better. Show an interest in things that are not business related and talk about something that happened on the way to the meeting or the weather. Since small talk is encouraged, business meetings may start a few minutes later than scheduled. 

Business meetings in India may not come to a decision. When pitching an idea, be prepared to hear “maybe” or “I’m not sure”. In an effort to save face, Indians consider a direct “no” too confrontational. Reframe the question to be open-ended if possible so that “no” is not a possible answer. If you are starting your business in India, it is important to remember this and respect the cultural norms of Indian business. 

Cultural and language barriers can get in the way of effectively running a global team, to learn more about how to overcome language barriers in the workplace, check out our 5 Steps to Overcoming Language Barriers in the WorkplaceNNRoad’s trusted experts understand the different business cultures around the world so that you are better equipped to start your business in a global market. NNRoad also provides employment services, company formation, payroll and tax, and benefits. Contact us today to discover how we can help you expand globally.

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