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Business etiquette in India in 14 points

Since 2015, India has the most dynamic economy in the world. In 2016, it posted a growth of 7.6%. And thanks to the attractive foreign direct investment


programs in all sectors set up by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, exporting to this country is easier today.



Trade between Canada and India is profitable: $ 8.2 billion in 2015, almost double the figure of 2010 ($ 4.2 billion).

Nathan Nelson of EDC, Chief Representative in India, told ExportWise what every Canadian should know about doing business in this thriving market. Basically, it’s about following the rule of three “p”: “presence, price and perseverance. “

  1. Persevere:  First of all, be ready to persevere in all your relationships. India is a densely populated country where competition is fierce. Indians are accustomed to fighting each other’s attention to survive; in business, it’s the same principle. “They know that to get something you have to work hard,” says Nelson. It’s in their education: we get nothing without anything. ” Canadians doing business there must also abide by the rule.
  2. Make phone calls as well:  E-mail will not be enough. Indians love other means of communication, like WhatsApp and text messages, but they have a soft spot for the phone. “To do business in India, you have to be there, to spend time. “
  3. Have a chat:  Interested in topics that are not business-related: Be sure to say a nice word about what you’ve seen on the road or about the food we offer.
  4. Speak English without fear:  English is one of 22 official languages, so do not be afraid of the language barrier. No one will blame you for using English – almost all Indians learn it at school.
  5. Be careful with familiarities:  India has a conservative culture where physical contact (handshaking, braces between a man and a woman) is not common. “If you’re a woman, do not be upset if a client does not shake your hand. Indians prefer to avoid physical contact before getting to know you. “
  6. Use your business card:  Give your business card – but no need to bow, as is the custom in other Asian countries. At the first appointment, get ready to answer questions that you would not be asked in Canada or in Europe: if you have children if you are married … it may be that the interview oscillates between business and private.
  7. Know that a yes can hide a no:  If an Indian agrees to meet you and says he is very busy, it is possible that your appointment will be canceled at the last minute. Indians prefer to cancel a meeting later rather than refuse it. This does not mean that your projects are in the water, but that your interlocutor has other priorities.
  8. Be aware of dress:  Indians are generally much more conservative in their outfit than us. Men will be able to wear western dress, but women will wear pants rather than skirts, although, in the big international companies of Mumbai and Delhi, Indian women dress like in Canada. Many Indian businesswomen still wear the sari as attire.
  9. Consider the traffic jams:  In big cities, wait for setbacks. To be on time, leave half an hour in advance. Generally, if you are late due to traffic, your hosts will understand.
  10. Pay attention to seniority:  Indians are very attached to the hierarchy, do not be surprised. Generally, at an appointment, only the most senior person will speak, but your interlocutors will understand that Canadians do not apply the same rule.
  11. Think of your vegetarian diners:  Are you planning a business lunch? Ask if there will be vegetarians. If so, make sure they have a satisfactory menu choice. In the restaurant, if you order meat, make sure that it will not offend the other guests.
  12. Do not rely too much on the Wi-Fi network:  You will find in the cafe and the hotel, but it does not always work very well.
  13. Refine your strategy:  Do not see India as one big country. Rather target a location – Mumbai or Delhi, South India or North India – and develop your relationships there.
  14. Do not forget the tip:  In India, you give a tip – it amounts to 10% of the bill in restaurants


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