Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Learning the Business Customs of India


When you greet other people in India, they may take the namaste form, and put their hands in prayer position under their chins, and bow in your direction. However, younger Indians, and many people in the business world, usually shake hands with people from the West. If you greet someone, you should acknowledge their title, such as Professor, Doctor or Engineer. Saying the suffix “ji” before the person’s name shows respect as well. Wait to be given permission to use someone’s name without any titles.

Indian companies work under a strict hierarchy. Decision making goes from top to bottom. It can take a while to communicate certain matters.

Indians like to do business with people they know, and people they have formed relationships with. It is a good idea to first be introduced by a third party, as that gives you credibility.


Do not get upset if a meeting does not happen on time in India. It is not a culture of punctuality. Meetings can be postponed, canceled or rescheduled with very short notice. You also must be patient, as there is a load of bureaucracy, particularly when you are dealing with the government. If you wish to make an appointment, you should do so by letter, one to two months before your prospective date. You should also confirm this meeting, to make sure there is no last minute confusion that could potentially be avoided. Call a week before, and that morning. The best meeting times are during the late morning or early afternoon. Arrive at meetings on time, and expect a good deal of small talk before bringing up any business matters. Have a lot of patience for decisions being made; they take a while.

Keep in mind that Indians traditionally have a hard time saying no, and avoid confrontation. This is beginning to change, however. Do not put a lot of emphasis on legal matters when you are doing negotiations, because Indians are distrustful of legal systems. If negotiations go successfully, they are often celebrated by a meal.

Business clothing is conservative and dark in India. Men and women should wear dark colors. Attire is less formal in Southern India, because it is much hotter there.

In terms of business cards, you do not have to translate them into Hindi, as many Indians in the business world are familiar with English. They are exchanged after greetings and introductions. You should give and receive cards with your right hand. If you have a educational degree or honor, indicate it on your business card.


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