7 myths about doing business with India

In India take time out to look and learn – like me at India Gate in Delhi.

Myth one

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.

Myth two

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.

Myth three

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.

Myth four

Always negotiate

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.

Myth five

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.

Myth six

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”.

Myth seven

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.

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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