Cultural Close-up

When Working with Indians...


Invest the Time to Create Meaningful Relationships

  • Get to know your Indian counterparts and establish a relationship; this will help you exponentially in conducting business with them.
  • Don’t be offended by seemingly intrusive questions. Remember that they are means to build relationships.
  • Be prepared to be introduced to colleagues, peers and even friends and family members of those you might be working with.
  • Reciprocate hospitality by extending invitations to colleagues/business partners whom you work closely with.

Be Flexible When it Comes to the Concept of Time

  • Understand that Indians view time as stretchable and slight delays in deadlines are considered the norm.
  • Keep in mind that meetings may not follow an agenda, conversations can go off at a tangent and interruptions are constant. Indian executives seem to juggle the chaos in a relatively calm way.

Consider Appropriate Environments for Giving Feedback

  • Offer commendations to the team as a whole if you think they’ve done a good job. Being commended in public is an automatic motivational factor for most Indians.
  • Don’t criticize colleagues/subordinates in front of others. Criticism should be meted out in private and tactfully.

Take a Slow and Patient Approach to Persuasion

  • Don’t try to aggressively coerce your Indian counterparts to understand or agree with your business plan. New concepts may take some time getting used to for an Indian audience, particularly if they challenge religious beliefs or existing social structures.
  • Ensure that you paint a clear picture regarding the long-term benefits of a proposal, since Indians tend to think in the long term.
  • Don’t focus entirely on short term benefits, Indians generally favor a long term view and will react positively to a proposal that details long term benefits.

Understand the Unspoken

  • Don’t interpret the terms “I’ll try” or “We’ll see” at face value- more often than not, they actually translate to “No” which isn’t directly conveyed.

Explore the Variables Involved in Business Ethics

  • Demonstrate awareness for the differences that arise between traditional and modern business ethics in India.
  • Don’t be too critical of the Indian style of working or business ethics. You might not understand the system but it works in India.