Why doing business in India takes time

Doing business with India is more time consuming. Why? It is mostly because of what researchers call a “diffuse” culture, which is characterized by being indirect.

Most westerners come from “specific” cultures which are very direct in communication and expect absolute clarity in all of their dealings.

You can see that diffuse and specific do not mix that well.


If you rush a meeting in India, you will almost certainly leave with a “yes we can do business and looking forward to it” but then nothing will happen. So, plan for long meetings, do not rush away, make large breaks between appointments so you can go with the flow. Diffuse takes time.

Diffuse cultures prefer to take time, to work around issues, and they link every part of life – work and private, formal and social, all mix together. In specific cultures, everyone rushes from one specific thing to another, they get to the point and keep most parts of their lives (such as work and private) separate.


  • Your social outing with Indian colleagues might go very late – evening meal might not start until  9pm or 10pm
  • Indians will rarely say “no” – preferring “I will try…”
  • You can easily make appointments on the weekend with many contacts
  • A good sign is when your contact introduces you to someone senior to them – which often comes right at the end of a very long meeting…

Of course, for every cultural generalization there are exceptions. And when we talk about culture, it is not about which is better or worse, it is about gaining insight and understanding.

Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

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