Do everything their way and let your Indian host lead
Yes, always let your Indian host lead the conversation. But no, they might not want to. And no, you might have a simple offer or point to make. So – how to converse? I always let Indians know (and remind them) that as an Australian I am informal and friendly and direct – so please I hope that is OK with you (of course it is) – then make your point.
Indian companies are family businesses
Yes, a lot of them are. No, many of them are not. And no, again, many are now a mixture as family businesses look for more innovation and more skills. And by the way, a high number of Australian and western companies are family businesses too – just find the way each company wants to do business.
Always wear formal business clothes
In my almost two decades of engagement with India, this has changed. There are times for formal (less of them) and times for informal (lots more of them). Yes, Delhi is more formal. Yes, Mumbai is more informal. Most of your business or smart casual clothing will be fine over there.
True, India is a culture where negotiating over price and service is a constant – like a way of life. But business can be different. Indian companies know an enormous amount about western business preferences. More important than negotiating for the deal, be prepared for changes as you go along the relationship – Indians are flexible and accepting of change, so you should be too.
Get to know your business partner first
This one has been my mantra for a long time – but I am also now seeing demand and hunger for products and services grow so fast in India that sometimes they are ready for business – now. Get to know them later. Be ready for anything – and where you can take time to build relationship.
Be clear and direct in communication
I have tried this one and it rarely works for me. Communication takes two, right? If the other side is ready for clear and direct, then do it. But if not, you will fail in communication. One thing more important – be patient, the deal can always be done later, let things settle, exchange some emails, chat a bit – you will find a way. Again – whenever I feel direct communication is helpful, I always preface it with “You know that we Australians like to be very direct – especially on the cricket field”.
Make the most of your time in India by filling the day with appointments
This has never worked for me. Indians are proud of their country, the culture, history, architecture and more – so it seems to me it makes good sense to go see and learn about this. When you can talk to your Indian host about something you have seen, it enlivens everything. It’s much the same for us in Australia isn’t it? So, have some “free” time for looking around.