Tips on doing business in India

The Delaware-based Produce Marketing Association has compiled some information on India to help members who want to conduct business there. It includes some tips that are fairly accurate, but require a little clarification.

It is common to begin meetings with small talk. In India, inquiring
about family showsPigsfeet
friendliness. Conversations are a way for your India
counterparts to get to know and feel comfortable with you. Small talk
is also used to help build relationships. Good conversation topics
include politics, cricket, films, and Indian Economic Reform. Indian
traditions and history are also welcomed topics. Try to avoid
discussing Pakistan, poverty in India, and religions.

You may mention Pakistan, but only in the context of cricket and only if India has just beaten Pakistan. If Pakistan has just beaten India (as is often the case), limit your cricket references to statements such as: "I hope a swarm of crickets descend upon Pakistan."

Gift giving is customary in business culture. … Hindus should not be given gifts made of leather; whereas, Muslims
should not be given gifts made of pigskin or alcoholic products.

Gifts made of pigskin should be avoided at all costs. You may also want to avoid giving bottles of pigs’ feet. (No matter a person’s religion.)

This is a hierarchical culture, so greet the eldest or most senior
person first. Also when leaving a group, each person must be bid
farewell individually.

If you greet anyone out of order, you must start again from the beginning.

Shaking hands is common, especially in the large cities among the more educated who are accustomed to dealing with westerners.

If someone extends a hand in rural areas, do not try to shake it. Put some money in it.

Business cards are exchanged using your right hand after the initial
handshake and greeting. Be sure to present the text facing the
recipient. Also receive business cards with the right hand.

Remember: Use your right hand to conduct business and your left hand to do your business.

The word "no" has harsh implications in India. Evasive refusals are
more common, and are considered more polite. Never directly refuse an
invitation, a vague "I’ll try" is an acceptable refusal.

"I vill try" is even better.

If invited to your Indian counterpart’s home, you should arrive on time and remove your shoes before entering.

Please do not remove anything else. At least not until you get to know your host better.

Photo by jasmined

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Aman Singh says:

    Good stuff man!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: