- October 22nd 2011
And here’s part 2 of our Indian business travel guide by Priya Parul
Attire: India, being in the tropical zone, is warm most parts of the year. Except for the northern regions, the rest of India does not experience winters. If you are travelling in April-September, keep your clothing cool and light. Formal shirts and trousers are the norm here with a blazer/ jacket thrown in for more formal meetings. For women, conservative business formals can easily be worn. If travelling in the months of October-March, it is recommended to carry warm clothing, depending on the part of the country you are visiting.
Business Entertainment: In a usual scenario, your hosts will insist on taking you out for lunch/ dinner or arranging the same for you within the office premises. It is one of the traits that come naturally to Indians. Working lunches have increasingly caught up. In case you would like to have a drink with your meal, it will be a good idea to ask your host about it, albeit discreetly. If you are in Ahmedabad or anywhere in the state of Gujarat, it will be better to abstain as Gujarat is a dry state. Most locals frown upon alcohol and you may not want to put yourself and your host in a tight spot. It is also a good idea to avoid beef as Hindus, the predominant religious group in India, consider the cow as sacred.
Businesswomen: Though India has opened up considerably and most metropolises have cultures akin to those of London and New York, there may be a slight difference in the way Indians interact with women. Do not be offended or surprised if your male host does not look at you while talking. With respect to safety, you should have dependable arrangements with respect to your accommodation and commute. It is unwise to step out unescorted after dark. At work or outside, if you encounter any sort of harassment, do not hesitate to raise an alarm.
Currency: The Indian currency is Indian National Rupee or simple Rupee. Most importance currencies like Dollar, Euro, Pound, and Yen can easily be converted at various points. All large establishments also accept credit cards and travelers’ cheques. For day-to-day use, however, it is advisable to carry the Indian rupee.
Transport: The public transport system is insufficient, given the large Indian population. It is, thus, avoidable for people unaccustomed to it. Ask your Indian counterpart to make stay and transport arrangements for you. Alternatively, your hotel would be able to provide you with transport. However, if you are adventurous and want a flavor of the real India, step out on the streets and flag a taxi or a three-wheeler called auto rickshaw. In Mumbai, you can safely assume to be billed by a meter system, but in other cities, you will have to put all your bargaining skills to work! For a point-to-point travel, enquire about rates beforehand so that you are not taken for a ride. If you have company and time on your hands, you can try other means of transport like metro, local train and bus.
Weekends and After-Office Hours: Enquire about local places of interest and utilize your weekends in exploring these. E.g. if you are in Delhi, you can do a heritage walk which will take you through the Mughal dynasty. In Mumbai, you can explore the various street markets and simply let your hair down in coffee shops along with beach.
Shopping: The richness of India gets reflected in the wide variety of wares it seeks to sell. From comparatively inexpensive branded merchandise to handicrafts, you can have a field day picking up mementos for dear ones back home. In large shopping malls or showrooms, the prices will be fixed but in small shops and roadside kiosks, there is room for bargaining. Do not shy away from haggling as there is a good chance that you are being quoted an inflated price.
Sightseeing: If you have time on your hand, make sure you visit a few tourist destinations. India is rich in its diversity which gets reflected in its mountains of Himachal, deserts of Rajasthan, beaches of Goa, backwaters of Kerala, temples of south India, and mangroves of Sundarbans. Depending on the region you are visiting, make provision for a trip to nearby points of interest. There is much to take back from India!
Safety: As with any other big city, Indian cities have their share of law and order challenges. However, for most parts, it is safe to stay and carry on with day-to-day work. Be careful about your documentation; have the contact details of your embassy/ high commission handy; and exercise a little more restraint than normal. Till you are familiar with the city, it is best to step out in company, especially after dark.
India is huge, and diverse. What applies to one region may be in complete contrast to another. So when you reach, observe the local customs and follow accordingly. Ask, if you have doubts. Your Indian friends will be more than willing to educate you on their tradition.
The skyline of Mumbai may look like that of Manhattan at night but India still preserves its mysticism of being the land of the maharajas and snake charmers. So do not just do business here; discover India. India cannot be ignored any longer.
- October 21st 2011
Doing business in India? Then you’ll appreciate this ready reckoner from Priya Parul.
India is at a stage when it cannot be ignored. With a GDP growth of 7.8% (2011 Q2 estimate), India is one of the most rapidly developing economies. It is attracting multinationals and investors in large numbers. Visiting India, and doing business here, is quite an experience though. So whether you are an investor looking to meet future partners or you are an MNC employee here to engage with your global team, this post may just be what you need to read.
Geography: Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad are the most prominent cities for business purposes. While Delhi, being the capital, is the seat for all governmental activities, Mumbai is the financial capital. Bangalore and Hyderabad are the IT hubs, and Ahmedabad is emerging as a strong investment destination with a number of special economic zones coming up. Whereas Delhi is to the north, Ahmedabad and Mumbai are in the west. Bangalore and Hyderabad fall in the southern part of India. This is helpful in order to keep climatic conditions in mind when travelling. The north experiences severe summers and winters; so, if you are travelling to Delhi (or anywhere in the north) during October-March, it is wise to carry warm clothing.
Business Behavior: Due to the large presence of multinational corporations in India, the etiquettes followed here are quite similar to the globally-accepted ones. This stems largely from the British influence dating back to the colonial rule. Compared to cultures like Japan, India is more absorbent of other traditions. This is perhaps due to the existence of a wide variety of cultures within India itself.
For a meeting, a handshake is acceptable as a form of greeting. If you are meeting a lady, however, it may be better to wait for her to extend her hand. Exchanging of business cards too takes place in a simple manner. Indians prefer to open conversations with small talk, usually bordering on personal. So if your host asks you about your family, do not think it to be intrusive. It is merely a way to make you feel at home.
Considerable importance is given to position and/ or rank. So if you are meeting your subordinates, do not be surprised if they insist on calling you Sir or Madam. Similarly, if you are meeting a senior, politely enquire how s/ he would like to be addressed.
Most Indians are comfortable with English but they may have a thick accent, depending on the part of the country they belong to. Similarly, they may take a while to understand your accent. So speak slowly and ensure you are being understood. Also, ask a person to repeat if you have not followed the thread of conversation.
Though Indians are quite tolerant about religious diversities, it is a wise move to not initiate discussions on religion. Political discussions are more acceptable. As with any self-respecting nation, India is fiercely proud of her cultural heritage and history. It is thus good to focus on the positive aspects of the growing and developing India than to dwell on the pain points like poverty, filth, and backwardness. Read up on the current affairs in order to have intelligent and safe small talk with your Indian colleagues.
The occidental cultures are more direct and to-the-point. You may find Indians different when it comes to this. A simple no would be said with a lot of politeness and hesitation. While interacting with Indians, it is good to be a little less abrupt and more evasive. E.g. if you wish to decline an invitation, do not say no directly. Instead, say, “It may be difficult but I’ll try.”
In a business interaction, the process is more important than the outcome. Indians will focus on the soft aspects of the interaction, e.g., the relationships being formed. So if you want a successful result of your visit, ensure you give as much importance to the people as to the numbers.
Do not be upset if your hosts or Indian counterparts turn up late for an appointment. Indians have a relaxed concept of time. So do carry enough material with you to keep yourself busy if your Indian meeting delegates do not turn up on time.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of our India Business Travel Guide.