Cultivating relationships is India’s mantra for success. You are always trying to expand your network through suitable contacts. Part of this matching up is also about looking for people from whom you can profit or whose network can help you. Memberships in various clubs (e.g. golf, cricket, tennis, Lions, and Rotary clubs) are a must for leaders in India. It is also a good idea to eat in first-class restaurants and meet people of the same class there. These are the circles in which business is initiated and brokered. So be prepared to attend many business lunches in India as well as a variety of after work acitivites.
Etiquette Rules For Business Lunches In India
Business lunches mainly take place in selected restaurants at midday. The host will assign you a seat, with the highest-ranking decision-maker next to their counterpart. This is done because it is dictated by India’s hierarchy and status orientation. Business lunches are not primarily intended to address business topics neglected in meetings but to meet in a relaxed atmosphere on a personal level.
In India, it is customary that the inviting person pays the entire bill and urges the guests repeatedly to order more. If you don’t know what to order at business lunches in India, ask your host to choose something for you. You can also ask specifically about the specialities of the house and whether your host recommends trying them. If you do not like or cannot eat something, it is advisable to give a health reason (preferably an allergy) as a pretext.
If you find the food too spicy, a natural yoghurt (Dahi) will soften the spiciness. If whole chillies together with onion and lemon are offered separately, you do not have to undergo the challenge. If you like hot food, by all means, take some. If not, leave it out. It’s a cliche that every meal in India is spicy.
If your host orders alcohol during business lunches in India, you can do the same. Beer or whisky is typical. If alcohol is not offered, you should also refrain from drinking. Your host probably doesn’t drink alcohol for religious reasons. Mineral water, fresh lime soda, soft drinks, but also lassi are all excellent choices.
Usually, a lot of food is ordered during business lunches in India, so that a wide selection is available. Whether vegetarian dishes or chicken, lamb, seafood and fish are served depends on the host’s eating preferences. Take this as an indication of what food you should order at a return invitation or when your Indian partners visit you in your home country.
It is good manners not to skimp on praise for the excellent food!
Indian businesswomen like to go to clubs or so-called kitty parties. Women of the same social class meet regularly in a restaurant to exchange ideas, eat and play bingo. Businesswomen uphold this tradition as much as the wives of managers who network in this way.
This basic model is an example of various social meetings. Social gatherings are likes business lunches in India all about informal exchange, cultivation of relationships and sometimes also business matters. Suitable locations are restaurants in five-star hotels or trendy bars in the city. Remember: meeting people from the same hierarchical class is essential in India. It serves to build networks and friendships.
You don’t need alcohol to celebrate in India. Visits to brothels are also frowned upon. Indian culture prioritizes spiritual goals and values moderation, discipline and asceticism.
“Atithi Devo Bhavah” – “The guest is God” This maxim aptly describes Indian hospitality. Of course, it’s an honour to invite someone to your house, and you should accept such an invitation. But there are a few rules that contribute to success.
Private invitations are scheduled in the evening, and it is advisable to arrive at least a quarter to half an hour later than officially scheduled. Punctuality would embarrass the hosts because they are still busy with the preparations.
It is still common to take off your shoes when you enter a house. This is a sign of reverence and has a practical reason; dirt from the street is not carried into the house.
Host presents are always welcome but are usually not opened in the presence of the giver.
Dinner is only served at around 10.30 pm. Soft drinks (possibly alcohol, mostly whisky) and snacks are offered first. It goes without saying that there is small talk. Private invitations are an opportunity to get to know the host’s family.
Do not drink alcoholic beverages in excessive quantities to get yourself into a party mood. This would annoy your host. Getting drunk is considered disgraceful behaviour and is an absolute no go!
Cultural And Entertainment Activities
Exhibitions, movies, theatrical, musical and dance performances provide a welcome change for Indian businesspeople. For those who are sporty, fitness studios, jogging paths and swimming pools, e.g. in five-star hotels, are also important venues.
Golf has become a sport for the upper class, who enjoy trips to Thailand or Malaysia to play on the courses there. A stroll through the numerous shopping malls, open on weekends, is a great way to relax.
Evening events include regular visits to trendy venues where couples of the same class congregate. While enjoying a good meal, they share the latest news about their family and their job. The point of these meetings is simply to socialize. For example, managers of the same company and their spouses want to get to know each other but are not interested in spending their free time with their employees.
Tips For Sightseeing Tours
After work activities with foreign guests include showing you places of interest such as temples, mosques, churches and bazaars. In addition, you should be prepared for the following:
When entering Indian shrines, you must take off your shoes. It is a sign of reverence not to walk on holy ground with dirty shoes.
Although Indians are very polite, there is a lot of jostling about in public places. With so many people around, it’s not unusual to be bumped into in places such as the bazaar. In addition, it is often very loud in public places, which can increase aggression levels.
Indians have predominantly grown up in large families and are strongly community-oriented. They do not like to be alone and always look for contact with others. Therefore, they only mean well when they reach out to someone who seems lonely.
Even tourist places are dirty. Plastic bags and garbage of all kinds line the streets. Cows, pigs and stray dogs often eat from the rubbish heap. You will also see people using the street or the grass strip as a toilet.
Extract from Business Culture India, Courtesy of CONBOOK Verlag