India is an ancient land steeped in its cultural glory. It is also a land where business and trade flourished since the days of Indus Valley Civilization. This is why the Indian Business environ is still rooted in its cultural ethos. Anyone aspiring to have business associations with Indian firms must first familiarize themselves with its Indian Business Culture & Etiquette.
Most people think that Indian Business interactions mean just exchange of Business Cards. But this is not so. There is a lot more that one has to learn from this Indian Business Culture & Etiquette Guide. So let’s start.
A guide to Indian Business Culture & Etiquette
The Indian business scenario comprises of 2 types of companies – traditional companies that still follow the ancestral lineage of ownership and business operations and the modern ones adapting to western culture and globalization. Make a note of these tips to get your way around the workplace.
- India still follows the orthodox method of greeting using “Sir” or “Madam”.
- However westernized they may be, even in the Corporate world, Managers and senior-level executives are still addressed as “Mr./Mrs./Miss…”.
- Using first names are not acceptable professionally unless and until you are a peer, subordinate or junior.
- In the Corporate world, handshakes prevail mostly with men and with women too these days. Otherwise, a Namaste with folded hands is the best.
- Elders are treated with reverence even in office.
Exchanging Business cards.
- After the formal greeting, an exchange of Business Cards follows as a matter of Business introduction
- The Business Card is a sign of respectability in the Business world. So carry it always.
- A Business card lends credibility to your enterprise and vouches for its authenticity.
- Always offer and accept Business Cards with your right hand only. Using the left hand is taboo in India for such business exchanges. Make sure you keep the card safely in your pocket.
- The first impression is the best impression. So make sure you carry a well-designed creative Business Card of premium quality with complete contact information and no errors.
You can read our blog, Business Card Etiquette – Dos and Don’ts for more.
- Business Meetings in India are semi-formal. They begin with small talk and general chatter.
- Business relations are strongly based in India on personal rapport. So don’t be surprised if you are asked personal questions about your family. Answer them politely and evince interest in the other person as well.
- You can greet everyone together with a common greeting but make sure to greet seniors and superiors individually.
- Avoid dominant gestures like “hands-on-hips”, “pointing fingers”, “pointing feet” or “putting up feet on furniture”.
- Apart from the initial handshake, touching women is not encouraged.
- Dress formally for meetings. For men, a coat and tie are preferable for high-level meetings or even just a tie will do. Women need to dress formally in pant-suits or long skirts. Revealing attire is not encouraged for formal meetings.
- Meetings in India usually start after 10 am or so and maybe delayed than stipulated in commencing. Likewise, they might extend later too than expected.
Social & Dining Etiquette
- Etiquette demands that you carry a gift like a sweet box when you go to someone’s house for the first time.
- At dinners, eat with your right hand even if you are left-handed as the left hand is considered “unclean”.
- Please wait to be served by your host or waiter.
- At dinner, avoid controversial topics like India-Pakistan, religion etc.
- Remember to thank your hosts praising them for the dinner.
India is slowly moving towards global culture. So we can expect and welcome some changes in the Indian etiquette. Still some practices like the exchange of Business Cards and Personalized Gifts do prevail and continue to form the foundation of Indian Business Culture.