Indian Business Culture

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In engaging with a different culture it is important to tailor one’s business approach efficiently, in order for any exchange to be successful. This can be especially important for Westernised companies who deal with the East (or vice verse). Here we focus on how the management of Western companies (particularly in America) deal with India.

On a practical level it is important for engagements in both countries to be a mutually communicative process; whether in boardrooms in your main headquarters or at the Indian base of the company you are working with. Three steps to success:

The ‘Boardroom’…
-‘Be Active’ is the key in communicating with Indian executives. Actively listen to what is said, actively notice the body language on display and actively consider the meaning behind the pragmatics (what more is there to say? What else do I need to know?).
-Indian executives are not as active, or to put it another way ‘direct’, as their American counterparts. To an American this communication may seem passive or even vague, this is not the case, it is simply that this expression is the cultural norm in India and thus affects how boardroom conferences are conducted. Consider that American executives may seem sharp or even abrupt to their Indian counterparts.
-These differences may be more prominent when bad news has to be broken or when difficult/impossible tasks are suggested.
-Actively engage and question Indian executives and they should be able to provide you with the factual reassurance you require. If uncertain then asking is key to success on both sides.

The Country…
-This goes with most –if not all- countries. If you have the opportunity, or if it is feasible, make the opportunity to visit the environment of the Indian business you work with. You cannot gauge the enthusiasm, atmosphere or commitment of a workplace and its staff via powerpoints or even through video-conferencing.
-Try to immerse yourself in the environment: see where the strengths and weaknesses lie, as well as the overall potential of the business.
-Visit annually and send a trusted senior employee at least twice a year. If possible take your partner or a family member with you to try and fully engage with India as a cultural experience. Taking someone who is not in the same business as you might also be beneficial, as it will provide you with a different kind of perspective on the country.

Indian Business…
-As a ‘growth’ country India is an exciting business prospect for many American companies, however it can also seem a little unstable. With such a proliferation of opportunities in the country any business you work with might have to act quickly to secure their own future.
-So always prepare for the possibility that a better deal may present itself to an Indian business and leave them with the prospect of terminating your contract early.
-The Indian economy is currently in a frenetic and opportunistic stage of development. Your company may want to take advantage of this position, but so do Indian companies.
-Always have a viable alternative supplier or partnership lined up in case an Indian company has to suddenly change direction and can no longer provide the service you require.

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