Do’s and Don’ts of Indian Business Culture

indian business culture do's and don'ts

Do you have an upcoming business trip to India?

If you have, you should know that Indians tend to do business on a personal and friendly basis.

Do not carry a stereotypical image of Indian business and think that you would need a translator. Most businesses use the English language only. Anyway, a translator would be hard to get since people use a wide array of languages besides Hindi.

There are many reasons to learn Hindi, but it isn’t necessary when on business trip.

However, you must know Indian business culture do’s and don’ts to have a successful business trip. Let’s take a look at the things you should be mindful of when conducting business in India.

Indian Business Culture Do’s and Don’ts

While there are subtle traditional behaviour that is hard to point out and explain, there are some aspects that we can shed some light on.

Lets start with…

1. When Planning Meetings

indian business culture do's and don'ts - prep for meeting

If you have to plan meetings in India, here is a heads-up: It will be a long process. This is because you have to worry about national or regional holidays that might get in your way. So better keep an eye on the Indian calendar before planning any significant event.

You should organize meetings knowing they can be postponed to a later date at least once.

People enter a meeting in order of importance; the highest-ranking executive will arrive first, and so on. The same goes during the introduction.

When you present or receive a business card, use both hands or only the right hand – I know this sounds weird, but it is a traditional thing, so bear with it.

And a point to be noted here is that your business meetings could be held over dinner or drinks, it is pretty standard, but they are used chiefly for establishing contact rather than making business decisions.

You should also note that the owner takes all business decisions or the company’s director if the owner is not present. And if both of these entities are not present during your meetings then it is likely that you are still engaged in negotiations and won’t reach a final agreement at this meeting.

2. Greetings and Small Talk

business greeting in India

There are quite a lot of cultural differences you might experience when you meet your business partner.

Many try to shake hands when greeting, but it might brew some confusion among your Indian Business Partners.

The Indian way of greeting your partner is either with a namaste or by placing your hand in front of your chest and taking a slight bow forward.

Every meeting in India starts with some small talk; you don’t go straight to business. If you haven’t guessed, Indians are interested to know about the person they are dealing with, so be prepared for personal questions.

Yes, it is a bit different, but you’ll realize that being open to personal questions will help you gain trust in your business partner. I might even go out on a limb and say that good personal relations are more important than any other factor.

This brings us to our next point…

3. Relationship Building

work relationship in India

As pointed out earlier, personal relationships play a significant role in Indian Business Culture. This makes third-party introductions almost necessary as Indians prefer to work with people they trust.

They look for honest commitment and trust in any business they do.

They’ll ask questions you might think are irrelevant or too personal, but try to be patient for business relationships. If you lose your temper, you can kiss the business opportunity goodbye.

All matters of dispute and conflict need to be dealt with the most diplomatic attitude.

If you are unsure about how things might go down during your meetup, it would be best to hire a supervisor and consult them, have them do the dealings on your behalf.

4. Business Gifts

indian business culture do's and don'ts - gifting

It is pretty common to exchange little gifts.

A-Pro tip: wrap the presents in yellow, green, blue, or red colors as they are considered colors of luck.

These gifts needn’t be expensive as they are only symbolic and goodwill gestures. It is always a good idea to gift something native to your home country or some perfumes or cutlery.

Another point to remember – Indians are religious people, so if you are planning on gifting an adorable luxurious leather bag or something of the sort, I suggest you don’t.

5. Maintaining Social Protocol

We’ve already discussed this in an earlier section of this article, but it deems another mention.

You must stick to the organization’s social hierarchy protocols during the meetings.

Always address the most senior person first. Don’t get flustered if your meetings are postponed or interrupted. The communication will also take some time to get used to as Indians are pretty indirect.

It would help if you tried to adopt this way of communication; it allows you to be accepted and respected in your business circles.

Suggested Readings

How to Structure Sentences in Hindi?

Ins and Outs of Hindi Grammar: Your Ultimate Guide

Must Know Indian Hand Gestures : Decode the Body Language of India


What is the proper business etiquette in India?

Indian society is strongly guided by their religion and shared values, with respecting elders and hierarchy at the forefront. They value family and community above everything.

What is unacceptable in Indian Culture?

The sole of your feet should never point at another person. So sit in a way that avoids this. Also, please don’t touch the top of someone’s head without asking permission; it is considered rude.

How does one behave in a business meeting in India?

Normally a handshake would do, although some Indians may use namaste. But common practice is placing your hand on your chest and doing a slight bow. When initiating a meeting, always greet the most senior person first.

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All that said, don’t overthink things. Act natural and professional and friendly, and you’ll do just fine. Remember above discussed do’s and don’ts of Indian business culture and you will be good to go.

You can also learn to structure Hindi sentences to improvise conversations and make yourself right at home.

If you wish to learn Hindi, consider taking online courses because it is challenging for non-native speakers to understand. We are rooting for you to watch classic Bollywood movies without needing subtitles.

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