It is not easy for outsiders to do business in India as Indians have a different perspective, attitude and understanding about the different strokes of life. You have to be patient and even have a sense of humor to do business with Indians as things can get entertaining and frustrating at times while you try to get instructions across. If you are newcomer to India, and plan to do some business consulting here, these 7 tips should prove worthy to you!
1. Be wary about the Indian standard time where meetings scheduled for 10.30 seldom start till 10.45! Don’t try enforcing discipline about punctuality as 9 out of 10 Indians consider clocks to be decorative pieces! Instead, make your adjustments and schedule meetings based on this delay and not waste your time!
2. Indians don’t like asking questions, so you never know if they had understood whatever you said! Most just sit silently, planning to ask questions when it’s appropriate, which is usually too late. So while you think everything is going fine, they will ask you questions and make objections only at the last minute.
This is why you need to do the questioning, asking them if they had understood everything said. Follow up your conversations with questions to clarify they had understood everything said. Once you manage to develop the habit of asking questions, and they overcome their fear at questioning authority, then they might end up asking more questions than you can manage!
3. Indians prefer referring to others with titles like Sir and Ma’am. It’s a habit cultivated in school and carried over through college to bosses and business associates. It’s better ignoring this practice and using these titles to perhaps address your senior counterparts. For the others, refer to them on a first name basis; with some practice, they too will like using the first name system to address each other!
4. Most Indians don’t know, or follow deadlines and are uncomfortable meeting deadlines! It’s your responsibility to get written confirmations from your staff about your deadlines. Clearly write down and show them your schedules and keep asking for updates.
5. While Indians have lots to complain about things like the Indian government, economy, cricket team and anything Indian, they don’t like hearing outsiders complaining about them, no matter how true the truth may be!
6. Indians just don’t have the habit of writing things down. Perhaps it’s because they are lazy or overconfidence about their memory powers. It’s left to you to remind them, and insist on documenting all tasks rendered from the start of your business alliance to prevent possible confusion and complications.
7. Indians are very bad at saying no as they have always been taught not to contradict elders and anyone in authority like teachers, bosses and business partners. This can lead to problems as they don’t refuse work, accept projects they can’t complete on time and end up making futile deadlines. Do business with those Indians who at least know, and can say no occasionally, but be wary of those who make absurd promises.
Last but not least, nothing’s personal to Indians. So don’t be surprised if your colleague asks you about your wife, parents, kids, salary and other sundry topics! Indians don’t follow the concept of privacy and are naturally inquisitive and curious as they are used to being crammed and living together in most parts of the country!
It’s okay if you are not interested in talking about these personal topics; however if you do share them, you will definitely end up with some lifelong friends while doing business consulting in India!