Doing Business in India

Doing Business in India | BCBusiness

With a population of 1.2 billion, India is a prized market for Canadian businesses. But before heading east, as B.C. companies are increasingly doing, it’s wise to learn the importance of flexibility and family

The Greeting

NAME GAME When first addressing someone, use only the last name until told otherwise. Practise the pronunciation of business associates’ names before meeting them in order to avoid embarrassment for both parties.

BE SELECTIVE Don’t pepper everyone present with one of your business cards; instead, offer one only to whoever is leading the meeting.

RESPECT STRUCTURE Hierarchy is crucial in India and should be acknowledged whenever possible. At any meeting, make note of who is the most senior representative and direct questions to them.

The Meeting

DON’T TAKE OFFENCE Interruptions are common during meetings in India and having an associate take a phone call or having a colleague pop in with a quick question is a regular occurrence. Do not take this as a personal insult—this flexible approach to meetings is to be expected.

BEWARE THE TRAFFIC India is an incredibly dense country, so travelling from one meeting to another can be immensely time-consuming. Avoid scheduling meetings during morning and evening rush hour and allow enough time between each appointment to navigate your way through the busy city streets.

The Meal

BEER OR SODA The approach to alcohol varies drastically throughout the country. In some regions it is customary with dinner, while in others it is expressly forbidden. Follow your host’s lead and adjust your beverage choice accordingly.

FAMILY STYLE Personal relationships are important in India, and it is not uncommon to be invited back to your associate’s home for a meal.

LACTOSE-FREE If coffee or tea are offered after a meal, take them black, as it is not customary to take either with milk.

Social Customs

GRACIOUS HOSTS Indian partners may spend a great deal of effort ensuring that you are comfortable—including picking you up at the airport and showing you to your hotel. This attention is common and should be accepted happily.

WARDROBE While men are advised to wear suits, ties are often optional, and on particularly warm days jackets can be forgone. Female travellers should leave skirts and dresses at home, and instead wear light pantsuits with sandals.

SEATING CHART Ask where you should sit before seating yourself at a meeting or meal—the seating arrangement is not arbitrary and usually reflects the hierarchy of the group.

ETIQUETTE PROFS Manoj Singh, Westport Innovation Inc.’s senior director of South Asia market and partnership development; Karim Kassam, Ballard Power Systems Inc.’s vice- president of business and corporate development