Business Travel in India

As of 2011 India was classed as a newly industrialized country, as businesses have flourished in India over the past few years as a result of economic liberalization. The knock on effect of this liberalisation is that foreign investments in Indian companies have rapidly grown, and therefore business travel in India has also increased, and is continuing to do so.

Temple etiquette

There are five main cities where a rise in business travel is most noticeable: Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata, the economic hubs of India. Given the demand for more business class accommodation, there are more and more hotels to cater for this new class, and it appears that many of them might have been to hotel management school.  As India is now being classed as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is necessary that the world knows about Indian etiquette and the do’s and don’ts when traveling to India for business, please see some of the main do’s and don’ts below:

Indians are well renowned for their hospitality and like to make their guests as comfortable as possible, therefore expect to be picked up in chauffeur driven cars from your hotel and dropped off at night. It is also very likely that the driver will wait for you wherever you go. Do not be sceptical when it comes to their level of hospitality it is very much genuine.

It is likely you will be welcomed with the greeting ‘namaste’, and individuals may put their hands together in prayer like position and tilt their head, you may return this greeting out of politeness. Men generally shake hands, but Indian women may prefer not to. Always try to remember people’s first names as it is likely that they will know yours and make sure they remember it. Being able to remember everyone’s name is considered important in business in India. It is also a good idea to ensure that you have enough business cards on you, one for each person in the meeting. It is likely that you will receive a business card from each person, and they will expect one from you in return.

In terms of business dress, both men and women dress in business attire, so a suit is expected. Outside of the office it is also important to note that in general women dress modestly, and men casual but smart. Even women who are not in the traditional Indian sari will often be wearing loose fitting / long sleeved clothes, loose T-shirts and baggy trousers or a long skirt will suffice. Similarly it is unusual to find men in shorts, whereby they will often wear trousers even in the summer heat.

When it comes to corporate entertainment, make sure you bear in mind the Indian culture and etiquette. Indians only eat with their right hand. The left hand is reserved for more unpleasant tasks. Similarly handshakes and accepting anything from an individual should be with the right hand. Always drink alcohol in moderation and carry credit cards instead of cash.

Should it come to the point that you are invited to a clients house for dinner, expect to eat very late, past 8-9pm. Always remember to take off your shoes straight away on entering the house, Indians take great pride in appearance both of the self and of their home. Make sure that you wash your hands both before and after a meal, as is the Indian custom. Lastly it will not be considered rude should you want to leave the house once you have finished eating, this will be expected of you.

It is important that you do not show public displays of affection with the opposite sex whilst in public; generally you do not find this in India. You will see women walking arm in arm, and men who walk arm in arm too, but it is very rare that you will find a man and woman come into contact in public. Remember this is a country where arranged marriages are the custom for some families.


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