Using ‘namaste’ when greeting a business associate in India will get you off to a good start. A handshake is also an accepted form of greeting, but using the word ‘namaste’ demonstrates an understanding of Indian culture. The following tips will also help smooth the way.
Indian business is very hierarchical, reflecting their social caste system. Make sure that you have a good knowledge and appreciation of their culture in order to maximize your potential and avoid any unnecessary pitfalls.
Relationships are the basis for all business dealings, so be prepared to invest time and effort into developing a solid foundation. Always try and deal with the senior people who will make the decisions to try and avoid delays in reaching a conclusion.
Plan and organize meetings well in advance of your trip, they may often be postponed. Be punctual as this shows integrity and respect and greet the most senior people present first. Meetings tend to begin with a lot of small talk, generally on personal matters such as family, education or sport. Definitely avoid any reference to politics, religion and the caste system!
Indian business people rarely use the word ‘no’, this is considered too direct. They prefer to use ‘maybe’ or ‘I’m not sure’. If this happens, change tack or rephrase a question if you can. Avoid any hard sell or being too demanding, as Indians prefer harmony and respect. Remain calm and patient throughout the negotiating process as they do like to bargain and will often barter for what they want.