Doing Business in Mumbai

Doing business in Mumbai | BCBusiness
Mumbai: city of contrasts.

With a population triple all of B.C.’s, India’s largest city offers a wealth of opportunity

India’s largest city can prove a challenge in adaption and flexibility for Vancouverites. “It’s always important to use local knowledge but this is triply true in India and Mumbai especially,” says Christine McLaren, resident writer for the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Mumbai. Case in point: her employer was developing a marketing strategy and PR campaign and defaulted to taking out newspaper ads, even though locals advised that the most effective way to get word out was to hire an elephant with a banner on it. Eventually they did hire an elephant, with great success, but not before wasting time and resources on pointless media buys.


It’s important to embrace the informal. “So much of Mumbai’s economy is informal and it’s usually the most efficient part of the economy,” says McLaren. To get things done quickly, be prepared to hire a lone operator rather than an established business and to forego the formality of a receipt. On the opposite end of the spectrum, getting anything done through official channels involves massive paperwork and a considerable time investment, so bring your patience and the right documentation when dealing with bureaucracy.

Cold Calls

Don’t be shy to pick up the phone. “In India it’s appropriate to cold call people and often it’s even expected,” says McLaren. Don’t always expect a reply from email but if they do reply and tell you to call later, it’s an invitation, not a brush-off.

Beware Holidays

“In Bombay it seems like there’s a festival or holiday every week, which makes scheduling deadlines a bit difficult,” says Eric Leyland, principal of Vancouver’s Design Management Services. Make sure that the holidays are on your radar (which draw on the Christian, Muslim and Hindu faiths as well as political and national celebrations) and be ready to close shop. Even if businesses aren’t closed on a holiday, traffic and transit grind to a halt so they might as well be closed. If you’re at the wrong place at the right time, you may find yourself swept up in a crowd of half a million people marching a Ganesh statue to the sea during the Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, for example.