Long before the East India Company emerged on the subcontinent in the early 1600s, scores of traders had graced India’s shores to bolster their business profits. Today, multinationals flock to India to augment their business processes and IT services and to search for growth in India’s burgeoning market of 1.2 billion. With an economic growth rate of 8.6% year on year in 2010/11, the future is looking bright for the world’s largest democracy. Like any emerging market, however, Doing business in India comes with its share of risks and challenges.
The World Bank ranks India as 134 (out of 183 countries) for Ease of Doing Business, with government bureaucracy and inadequate infrastructure major contributing factors. Protecting intellectual property, enforcing contracts and communicating cross-culturally can also present significant challenges. Nevertheless, the economic reforms of 1991 and subsequent economic liberalization policies have opened India to foreign direct investment, which surpassed 37 billion in the 2009/2010 fiscal year. Many Indian states have established Special Economic Zones, successfully attracting investment from IT, BPO, and manufacturing sectors. Other industries experiencing significant growth in India include telecommunication, energy, construction, education and retail.
Business in India Quick Facts
Business language: English
Hours of Business: Traditionally Indians work from around 10am to 7pm Monday – Saturday. Most Indians will not leave the office until their supervisor does. A five day work week is becoming more common and hours are often adjusted to accommodate the needs of international business partners.
Dress: Suits are expected for executive level business interactions. Smart business casual is appropriate for mid-level managers and employees will often dress casual. Indian businessmen generally do not wear short-sleeved shirts or polo/golf shirts in the workplace. Pantsuits or skirts are appropriate for women, provided that they are at least knee-length.
Gifts: Gifts are appropriate but should not be overly expensive. Always accept gifts in both hands, and do not open them in the presence of the person who gave them to you. Invitations to a business partner’s home for dinner are common, as personal relationships are the basis for establishing trust in business.
Business cards: Traditionally cards are presented and received using two hands.
Gender equality: While India has had both a female prime minister and president, women remain underrepresented in the workplace. International businesswomen are generally treated as equals, as their position and status often override traditional gender roles.
Stay tuned for Doing Business in India Part 2: Cultural Values