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In the dynamic landscape of global businesses, understanding and embracing cultural diversity is necessary and a strategic advantage. Understanding the distinctive cultural quirks that define fruitful cooperation in this diverse country is essential as you successfully traverse the dynamic and diverse Indian market. "The India Way: 7 Cultural Insights for Successful Collaboration in the Land of Diversity" offers an invaluable guide to understanding these intricacies.

This article delves deep into the heart of India's rich cultural tapestry, unraveling the complexities that define business interactions and partnerships in this diverse nation. It's not just about adapting to different business practices; it's about appreciating the underlying values, traditions, and social norms that influence decision-making and relationship-building in the Indian context.

Integrating these cultural insights into your collaborative strategies allows you to foster stronger, more meaningful connections with Indian colleagues, partners, and clients. This strategy fosters respect and understanding between parties while opening doors for creative thinking and long-term company success in a market that is both demanding and lucrative. Accept these insights to help you move confidently and sensitively through the Indian business environment.
 
1. We prefer to build a relationship before doing business. 
 
India is a family-oriented and social country. Large families live together or frequently visit each other. Having guests over and hosting parties are our favorite pastimes.  

Even at work, we love collaborating on projects and tend to become too personal by sharing sensitive information such as payroll and bonuses. 

These same tendencies are applied to business communication with clients. It is the direct opposite of the distanced style of the West, which can come across as cold, insensitive, and disinterested. So, get to know your Indian colleagues before diving into the main point.  

2. We are expressive and animated. 
 
During a conversation, Indians tend to be quite expressive. You will often see them using gestures, such as nodding or moving their hands. For us, body language and facial expressions are important elements of communication. This comes naturally as we talk or bring up a point.  

3. We love small talk. 
 
Our relationship-building tendencies influence this. You can even say it is obligatory in our daily conversations. Various topics, such as family, hobbies, and travel, can be discussed. We love to hear that our cuisine and culture are appreciated. On the other hand, it’s best to refrain from sensitive topics like religion and politics as people tend to be quite opinionated and easily offended. 

4. We simply do not know how to say “NO”. 
 
We have the “yes” culture here. Giving someone a negative answer is considered rude. Due to that, Indians can accept a task for which they know there is not enough time. So, later you might receive a message that the task was not done due to a technical issue or something. And you might be left wondering why this was not communicated on day one.  

When “yes” is not even an option, Indian colleagues will try to be intentionally vague with phrases such as: “Let me think about it.” or “Let’s see.” So, you will need to read between the lines. But do not insist on hearing a direct answer, as it may be counterproductive.  

5. Similarly, we do not like to hear “NO”.  
 
In a way, we expect others to also apply the “yes” culture in communication from their side. You should never say “no” to Indians in a direct way. Try to frame it with something neutral or give a positive remark.  

This also applies to refusing to eat the food you were served or declining an invitation to go out on an evening cup of chai. Again, a lot of importance is placed on food and drink since it is part of the relationship-building strategy. A sense of unity is strengthened and even symbolized by sharing the same plate. 

6. Hospitality is of great importance.  
 
Indians love to provide a warm welcome to visitors. Even more so when it’s a client. We want to ensure that the client is comfortable in every aspect: food, accommodation, and general. Gifting is also an important aspect of business and a part of the hospitality package. Usually, traditional items representing India are given, such as scarves, silk, or incense. 

7. Meetings can take a long time. 
 
Do not be surprised if the meeting takes longer than scheduled. It can even be extended to a nice lunch or a cup of chai. Or we might suggest finishing the meeting and seeing each other in the evening for some wining and dining.  

A short five–to ten-minute interaction with a deal being made is impossible. This ties back to our desire to establish a relationship so that no meeting can be held without some nice small talk or personal banter.  
 
India’s reluctance to say no and our desire for relationship-building might cause issues during business interactions. On the one hand, you might wonder why your Indian colleagues have not finished their tasks by the deadline, while they are wondering why you are being so cold and ignoring them. But no worries, these issues can easily be mitigated by applying several simple steps. 

Five tips and tricks to help you establish productive working relations.   

1. Build a relationship. As mentioned, we immensely value friends and family and will go all out for them. So, try to establish good personal relationships.  

2. Communicate. To get over the “yes” culture issue, there needs to be strong two-way communication between PMs, DMs, and developers. Leaders need to listen carefully and give clear feedback.  

3. Have regular follow-ups. Do not micromanage, but make an effort to check on them from time to time to see how they are doing. It will show that you are involved and you care about them. 

4. Establish timelines. Make the process flow clear. And depending on the progress, do follow-ups.  

5. Set expectations. Left on their own, workers can lose direction and motivation. Ultimately, you will be informed on the last day that something is impossible. Therefore, as a PM, tell them you expect regular syncs and discussions of any upcoming issues. 

We hope that by following these steps, you can work more efficiently with your colleagues from India. But remember that everyone is different and that we should not generalize.

Sheetal Kale

By Sheetal Kale

Business Head | Marketing strategist | Sales and Business Development Enabler | Event Management specialist | Servant Leader with an attitude to listen, delegate and enable people to work together, towards focused goals | Corporate Operations Lead | Blogger | Soft Skills Trainer | Painter & Culinary hobbyist.

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