Educating Americans on Indian Business Culture

by Brandi Moore on October 22, 2006

“After years of hardselling India on educating themselves about the cultural mores of foreign clients, the country’s IT and BPO companies have begun to sensitize these customers about business etiquette, behavioral patterns and cultural sensitivities of Indians.”  Economic Times

This article talks about something everyone should know and understand before entering India, especially in Negotiations:

“One issue that often crops up is that of personal space, and ways to deal with personal inquiries.”

Personal space in India is a foreign concept; forgive the pun. In line at a ticket counter at the airport I was suddenly accosted by three–that would be THREE men who jumped in front of me in line. Thing is–they didn’t think I was in line. The space I had allocated between myself and the person in front of me was so “large” in their minds that they assumed I was just standing there.

Time orientation is also mentioned in this article. The author explains “Clients are at times asked to confirm a meeting, even after it is fixed.” Great tip—cause the chances of it changing, happening on another day, or just plain being off the radar of the Indian group are very high. Time is not “wasted” in India as it is in the US. Instead, it is an ever-flowing phenomenon. Triple checking schedules and getting names attached to times are mission critical when doing business in country. I learned the hard way; after being left at my hotel, when no car arrived to escort me, by one BPO whose contact had completely forgotten that I was to train over 500 employees that evening.

“Companies are even known to tell customers that Indians are generally too polite to say an outright no, and hence body language can be read to gauge a negative attitude.” Great tip, but the author, who is Indian himself forgets to remind us that the body language for “yes” in India looks a LOT like NO in the US. Yes is a motion of shaking the head left and right with a slight twist around. When I talk to folks about this I like to ask them to try this move. Try to say Yes and shake your head NO. Its hard, a strong message to you that this physical action has formed a steel chain link in your brain to Yes/No.

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