Doing business in India

Business communicaton in India usually remains subtle and indirect. Too great is the danger that someone loses face and the business contact has to be terminated as a direct consequence. ZHANG

When entering a company in India for the first time, you will probably immediately notice how many people there are. Often several people share a desk or a PC workstation in an open-plan office. 

This is not due to overpopulation, but to the finely differentiated hierarchical structures in Indian companies. 

For example, many employees in different hierarchical positions perform individual subtasks. Everyone sees themselves as a small cog in a big wheel – no more and no less. The responsibility for the smooth interaction is attributed solely to the manager.

Rule no. 1: A friendly approach

The tone is generally polite in Indian companies. Praise and compliments create a positive atmosphere. The ultimate goal of communication is always to maintain a good relationship. All rules of conduct  are geared to this.

In a subtle way

Although conversations between Indians often seem loud and gesture-rich, they rarely deal with conflictual topics. Discussing or directly addressing problems is not appreciated in India.


Communication usually remains subtle and indirect. Indians always make sure that they neither lose face themselves nor cause their conversation partner to lose face. Smouldering conflicts are skilfully orbited. The other person must therefore listen very carefully if he or she wants to identify any need for action.

Avoid any loss of face

Criticism can also very quickly lead to the termination of a business relationship. It is often difficult to make up for what has already been said, because the loss of face is too great for the person concerned. So always be careful when choosing your words.

In a country as culturally diverse as India, you will probably never fully understand the prevailing patterns of thought and action. You may just have to accept a lot of things and learn to deal with them. But with a high level of attention to cultural differences, well-trained indirect communication and due appreciation, you pay tribute to the great Indian openness and enthusiasm.

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