India is a land rich with tradition and superstition. As the country’s economy opens up, more and more American companies are seeking out business opportunities there – and as with any foreign country, it is important to first understand the culture. Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing business in India.
First and foremost, the business environment does not operate as quickly as it does at home. Punctuality, especially in government offices, is not a very high priority. You may find yourself waiting for hours to meet someone with whom you had fixed an appointment. To avoid this, it is best to call just before leaving your hotel – you can reconfirm your appointment and find out whether the person has arrived or not.
The traditional Indian greeting consists of folding your hands with palms pressed together as you would in prayer, but with fingers pointing upwards rather than forward. In most cities today, however, a handshake is a perfectly acceptable greeting. A western woman should not initiate a handshake with a man in India. Many Indian women will shake hands with a foreign woman, but not with a foreign man.
Elders in India are never addressed by their first name. It is always advisable to determine and use the proper title while addressing an older associate.
When you are invited to an Indian home, it is customary to remove your footwear as you enter. Although few people still insist on this, always ask.
When you wish to point, use your chin or your full hand, but never just a single finger, as this gesture is used only with inferiors. The chin is not used to signal to superiors. The best way to point is with the full hand.
It is also advisable to use your right hand while offering an item to another person – especially money, papers or books. The left hand is considered “unclean.”
In India, it is considered rather offensive to step on or trip over someone — even if done accidentally. Make apologies immediately.
Last but not the least, avoid displaying anger; it is the worst way to achieve anything in India.