Tips for succeeding in Business in India/Tips for successfully adapting in India

The basis of success as a foreigner whether doing business or living in India is awareness. The astonishing kaleidoscopic variety of India and the apparent chaos can be mind-boggling.  But four things are essential for success in adapting to India

  1. Patience - You'll need patience everywhere in India. You'll learn very quickly that IST doesn't mean Indian Standard Time as the official version says but Indian Stretchable Time. In Hindi and many other languages the word kal means both yesterday and tomorrow. Indians are oriented towards the past and time is not a limited resource like in the west but a continuous stream of flowing infinity.  In this polychronic culture timetables are not so sacred as in the west and unforeseen delays are more the norm than exception. Waiting can make you nervous and frustrated or it can give you the opportunity to read up material you had no time to read earlier.

  1. Connections - In India you need to get to know the people before you make a business deal. Business culture reflects the basic values of the society, which is the family. A majority of Indian businesses from Chennai to Chandigarh are family owned. Indian business relationships, in fact the structure of the social fabric is hierarchical. Indians based their identity on family/group/caste membership. It is not uncommon that an individual sacrifices her/his individual goals for the benefit of the larger entity to which they belong. Age and seniority are very respected in India. The relationship between hierarchy, power, status and caste can be perplexing. In the 1970s, Jagjivan Ram, the defence and deputy prime minister was the second most powerful man in the country yet in his birthplace Chandwa in Bihar he was treated by upper class Brahmins as a harijan or social outcast.

  1. Awareness of local customs and business practices - There are 14 major languages, which you can see on the currency notes, with 900 minor ones. Learning about local customs helps smoothen interaction. In south India they move their head sideways to signal 'yes' but in north India it is the opposite.  Guests in India are advised never to refuse food or refreshments offered by the hosts. But you have to decline initially and accept only when pressed for the second time. If you accept directly you show that you are greedy. Similarly with Indian guests you have to press many times before they accept.Do not offer or accept anything using your left hand.

  1. Knowledge of how the Indian worldview is different from the Western - In India the worldview is not linear like in the West but cyclical. Almost all of life's major events are widely believed to be predetermined and thus beyond the control of the individual. An external locus of control allows Indians to accept their own and other people's present situations as effects of actions in previous lifetimes.  This submission to fate allows Indians to live side by side with the poverty and squalor, which turns up ever so consistently like a ubiquitous spook causing an enormous sense of guilt and shame among westerners. Westerners who believe they control nature and shape their own destiny might have difficulties accepting the effects of this doctrine of Karma on individual ambition, work ethics and how much effort people are ready to put towards improving their lot in life.

It is wise to seek advice before your first meeting with Indian business contacts to avoid making mistakes.

The second culture in our series is India.

Read also about China

DO NOT do these in India

  • Never eat food from roadside stalls. They are not bad, but your system is not accustomed to such delicacies and you might end up sick.
  • Never drink non-boiled or not bottled water. Even many Indians who have lived out of India for a few years sometimes suffer stomach upsets on drinking local tap water.
  • Don't offer bribes to get any job done. Leave that to a local. Bribe taking and bribe giving are a common practice in India but it is a very complicated art. You can do much damage to your cause by getting yourself exploited and not getting what you want.
  • Don't make fun of Indian English. Indians are very proud that many Indians speak (some with a strong accent though) and write better English than most native English speakers.
  • Never get upset when someone asks personal questions relating to your age, marital status, income and family background.

Curious Facts about India

  • India has the most post offices in the world!
  • The World's first university was established in Takshila around 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century was another great achievement of ancient India in the field of education.
  • Evidence of Navigation in the river Sindhu 6000 years ago has been discovered. The English word 'Navigation' is very close to the Sanskrit word NAVGATIH.
  • Bhaskaracharya (5th century) rightly calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun to be 365.258756484 days.
  • The founder and creator of Hotmail, the world's No.1 web-based email program is an Indian, Sabeer Bhatia.
  • India is the only country besides US and Japan, to have built a super computer indigenously.
  • There are 3.23 million Indians in USA (1.5% of the population). Indians are the wealthiest among all ethnic groups in America, even faring better than the whites and the natives.
  • An Indian steel tycoon, Lakshmi Mittal is the fifth richest billionaire in the world with IT entrepreneur Azim Premji coming close.

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