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Indian Heritage and Business Etiquettes – Concepts and Values to Know

In a diverse and complex country like India, it’s difficult to impart generic conclusions that could be used by those wanting to do business here. Regionalism, religion, language and caste are all factors that need to be taken into account when doing business in India. Behavior, etiquette and approach are all modified depending on whom you are addressing and the context in which they are being addressed.

Unlike western societies, in India religion, fatalism and collectivism are all components of daily life and they need to be respected for a healthy and successful business relationship. Despite the traditional caste system being dismantled, remnants may still be witnessed in the Indian hierarchical structure of business practices and decision-making. There is a strong sense of tradition tied into daily business practices. Yet, signs of change are becoming more evident. Ever since the economic reforms began in 1991, India’s market is growing rapidly. With its geographical positioning in the Indian Ocean, a major international trade route, and with its rich mineral and agricultural resources, India’s economy is witnessing increased inflows of foreign investments. India is also recognized for its competitive education system and vast pool of highly skilled laborers, making it an attractive market for foreign businesses.

No matter what the industry is, foreign businesses should expect some degree of differences in business norms in India. Included below are some basic business etiquettes that the U.S. companies should follow when developing and maintaining relationship with Indian businesses.

Business Etiquettes:

o Do use titles to address Indian counterparts, such as “Professor” or “Doctor”. If he/she does not have a title, use “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, or “Miss.”

o Do wait for a female business colleague to initiate a greeting whether it is verbal or physical. Indian men do not generally shake hands with women out of respect.

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

o Don't be aggressive in your business negotiations – it can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect.

o Don't take large or expensive gifts as this may cause embarrassment. If you do take a gift make sure you present the gift with both hands.

o Don't refuse any food or drink offered to you during business meetings as this may cause offence (sample small portions at least). In addition, it is useful to keep in mind that traditionally, and religiously, majority of Indians are vegetarians and do not drink alcohol or smoke.