5 essential tips for doing business with India in 2022

Generation change is seen in shopping malls across India

Growing at around 9 per cent this year, India is well on track to be number 3 or 4 economy in the world. It is also one of the youngest countries on earth – with around 50% of the population aged under 25. Demand outstrips supply – for everything.

Here are some tips that might help your experience, but keep in mind you will find many variations and contradictions of these points in the very diverse and exciting India market:

India is many countries in one

Differences are not just seen in the North, South, East and West, India is truly many countries in one and you need to be ready for cultural diversity. While Mumbai is the fast and flashy financial capital, it is also a tough place because everything is done on grand scale and at great speed. New Delhi is more formal, also more liveable, and is more than a political capital – it is a powerful business city. Chennai is one of my favourites, embracing that slower southern pace and the values that shine in southern businesses. Pune is sophisticated and a major player across many sectors. Bengaluru is technology but much more as well. Regions have varying strengths, so research is the key.

Market entry strategies should think longer term

India is looking for more than a quick sale – it looks to build relationships and create trust that can last a lifetime. India is what we call a “collective” culture – everything is done within the group and if you make it into the group, you will make it there. This means your first venture should probably not be to send the sales and business development team over there is search of deals. Rather, lead from the top to create relationships – deals will follow.

Find your local Indian team and culture

Companies that have tried to impose their Head office teams and cultures on India operations rarely succeed. A priority should be to identify Indians who can lead locally – with your support. Accepting that the corporate culture might not be an exact mirror of your HQ culture is also vital – with care and guidance over time, your Indian operations will reflect key elements of central culture but will bring added value too.

“Yes” can mean “maybe” or “no”

Indians are among the most courteous and generous hosts on the planet. On top of this, their culture demands that they never provide an outright rejection or “no” statement, even when this is clearly the only answer. The dumbest question for a business to ask in India is “can you help me with market entry for my products?” The answer will always be “yes” and you will sit idle for a long time back home until you realise this is not the right question. Within Indian culture built so solidly on relationship above all else, the word “no” is a real relationship breaker and is rarely or never used. “Yes” can in fact mean “maybe” or even “no” and you need to look for the signs. Like most of Asia, Indians are indirect communicators. If that is not complex enough, consider that India has 26 major languages.

Learn the art of flexibility and patience

Being patient and flexible is an asset, even if you come from a country that likes to be blunt, direct and structured. Most Indian communication is indirect, so it can take some time to work out what the real issues are. India is full of surprises and you cope best through being flexible. Dropping any “one rule for all” approach is a good start.

Indian consumers going online

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.

One thought on “5 essential tips for doing business with India in 2022”

  1. Stephen,

    Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Very nice article on doing business in India – very well put.

    Cheers,

    Ramesh

    Like

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