Indians greet each other (and say good-bye) with the namaste, which is formed by pressing the palms together (fingers up) below the chin and nodding the head. When greeting superiors or to show respect, a slight bow is added. When meeting foreigners, Indian men will shake hands. Indian men do not generally shake hands with or otherwise touch women (as a gesture of respect for a woman's dignity and privacy). Indian women who are educated or familiar with international customs may offer their hands to foreigners as a courtesy. When meeting a woman, a man should wait for her to initiate a handshake. If she does not, smile and nod slightly. When in public, men should not initiate a conversation with an Indian woman who is alone. Indians value titles; if someone has a title, use it when greeting them. The suffix "ji" after a last name is a general term of respect. Indians generally ask permission before leaving other people. Showing respect for others (especially those who are older) is very important. In a group, greet the eldest person first.
Decisions are made slowly. Indians require time to discuss every aspect of a deal, and then usually take more time before giving a final answer. Be patient and plan other activities while waiting. Impatience is viewed as rude, and high-pressure attempts to get things done faster will be resisted and resented. Decisions are made at the top of the hierarchy, so whenever possible cultivate and maintain good relationships with the highest-ranking executives.
Topics Of Conversation
Talking about your friends and family is an important part of establishing a relationship with those involved in the negotiating process. Indians tend to be enthusiastic about discussing politics and religion. They enjoy opinionated conversations and don't necessarily want to hear only bland pleasantries from a foreign guest. Nevertheless, refrain from tackling these controversial subjects unless you are well-informed.
Topics of Interest: Indian traditions, foreign countries, families, cricket, politics (if you know what you're talking about).
India is a male-dominated society. Foreign businesswomen should experience few problems but, in general, women are not accorded the same level of respect as men. Indians who have had more exposure to international dealings will be more used to dealing with women; older men will usually be more traditional and less open. Behaving in a professional, confident, and poised manner will help overcome some of this resistance. Women should be particularly aware of any behavior that might be considered flirtatious. Women who wish to entertain a male associate should do so during the day (business lunches are more popular than dinners anyway). An Indian man will probably offer to pay the bill, but will not push the point if you politely insist on paying. Women should be prepared for personal questions about their age, marital status, and whether they have children. (These are common topics of conversation and are asked of both men and women.)
Indians value punctuality in others, but will often be late themselves. Also, traffic is extremely heavy in Indian cities and sometimes prevents people from getting to an appointment at all. This can require rescheduling, so if possible build a few extra days into your travel plans. Indian executives generally prefer to meet in the late morning or early afternoon. Schedule appointments well in advance (30 days ahead is suggested) and reconfirm appointments when you arrive in India. Most meetings will begin with pleasant small talk over a cup of tea and perhaps food. Do not refuse any food or drink offered. Always accept; if you do not like it, leave it in front of you. Indians usually entertain in private clubs.
Business clothing is casual but neat. Standard attire for men is pants and short-sleeved shirts; however, a jacket should be worn to initial meetings or when seeing government officials. For more formal meetings (and during the cooler season) a lightweight suit will suffice. Do not wear leather clothing or any accessories made from animals. If you are traveling to New Delhi in northern India during the winter months, bring warmer clothes. During the monsoon season, bring a few extra changes in clothing and an umbrella and large plastic bags if you intend on keeping your things somewhat dry. The damp weather does not allow things to dry properly. A handkerchief or cloth may prove helpful to dry off any wet spots where you must sit. Women should wear casual dresses or pants ensembles. It is acceptable for foreign women to wear the traditional sari (Indian women in particular admire foreigners who do so), but wear a sari only if you feel comfortable in one. Women should always dress conservatively. Do not wear skirts that rise above the knee, and never wear a sleeveless dress or blouse. Men should not wear Indian caps (they are generally worn by villagers and lower-class people).
Business Gifts are not normally expected at the first meeting. Gifts may be given once a relationship with your counterpart develops. Suggested gifts could be: Imported Whiskey (only if the recipient drinks), pens, ties, calculators, desk accessories, etc. Gifts made in the U.S. are especially valued. Never give alcohol to a Muslim. Sikhs are not likely to drink alcohol either. Large or very expensive gifts could cause embarrassment. One should give gifts with both hands. A gift should not normally be opened in the presence of the giver.