Some countries have one official language which is used by vast majority of their populations, for instance Poland and Germany. However, some countries have more than one official language and even hundreds of commonly used languages.
India is one of those countries where there are hundreds of languages being used. Linguists acknowledge over 400 different languages in India and the number is even higher if we add dialect variations to that list. The national language is Hindi, and English is very often used as an associate official language. However, on top of Hindi and English, there are 14 official languages in India; they are: Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kanada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
In India, religion plays a major role in the lives and the majority of Indians are Hindu. This is even reflected in the negotiation process. Whereas in Germany facts and data are of the most importance, as discussed in our last post, in India the use of objective facts does not have the same strong effect. The combination of feelings and faith has a more persuasive effect.
In addition, Indians have much less rushed approach to life and to negotiations compared to the UK, and don’t really follow the concept of ‘time is money’. Therefore, prepare for the negotiations to be much longer than you might be used to. Also, doing business in India is very personal, so it always helps to share about your life and family and create a deeper bond with your Indian business partners in order to secure a long term business relationship.
In building of the relationship you should expect and plan for many lunches and a lot of hospitality. Therefore, you should remember few very important points. First of all Hindus don’t eat beef and Muslims don’t eat pork and many Indians are vegetarians, so keep that in mind.
You should eat with your right hand only; left hand is associated with hygienic purposes and is therefore always considered as unclean. So if you’re left handed, you might have to put in a bit more effort and use your right hand whilst eating.
Another important aspect is the physical contact with opposite sex in public. All of ethnic Indian groups disapprove of any affectionate displays in public between men and women. Therefore, do not hug or attempt to kiss in greeting. Even handshaking can be problematic, so western women should not feel offended if Indian men don’t shake their hands. Also, western women should not try to initiate a handshake with Indian men as it could create an embarrassing situation. The same goes for western men; they shouldn’t initiate handshakes with Indian women.
Hopefully the above few pointers will help you out if you’re planning a business trip to India, and if you need any translation done into or from any of the Indian languages, do get in touch and we’ll be delighted to help.