Meetings in India are used for strategic planning, setting goals and measures, exchanging information, agreeing on the next steps and much more. They are all about discussion and arguments.
However, emotional or highly competitive behaviour of individual members or teams cannot be ruled out. Indians are used to showing themselves in the best possible light and vying for attention due to their training and generally high numbers of applicants for university places or jobs. Thus, a meeting in India often serves as a stage for targeted ego-marketing. Indians tend to be enthusiastic and optimistic, while the reality of things is not quite as important. The main thing is that the right impression is being made. Some things are more illusions than reality. For this reason, all facts referred to must be critically questioned and reviewed.
Apart from that, networking, small talk, personal information and building trust in meetings have top priorities. In India, the relationship level always has comes before the factual level.
Participants At Meetings In India
In India, the actual decision-maker does not have to participate in preparatory talks. Instead, Indians will send a large number of experts into the race, whose interest is not only on the factual level but also on cultivating relationships. The general mood is then reported to the relevant manager, who will possibly report back to the next higher level and then give his opinion in preparation for the decision. The final decision-maker only attends a meeting once everything has been clarified.
Due to the hierarchical order of the decision-making process, it is essential to make it clear from the outset who has what decision-making authority in a meeting and who is authorized to give instructions to whom.
Depending on your home country, participants from your side may have more decision-making powers than their Indian counterparts, who are sometimes surprised that the boss of a foreign company delegates his authority to make decisions.
Indian businesspeople find it sometimes difficult to imagine that a relatively young person can already have the authority to make decisions. In India, only experienced managers with greying temples are to obtain the final decision-making power.
Indian Meeting Procedure
The best times for meetings in India are from 10.30 a.m. and then again from 3.30 p.m. onward.
As a rule, you wait until all participants have arrived, but you do not apologize for being late. Everyone assumes that the delayed participant was stuck in traffic. This is such an everyday problem that it is not worth mentioning. Waiting time is happily filled with a lot of personal conversation. In any event, small talk is part of every meeting in India’s relationship culture. As soon as everyone is there, the meeting can begin.
The schedule agreed upon in advance offers a rough guideline but can be departed from at any time if other aspects and topics arise during the discussion. The systematic processing of the schedule is not standard in India. The outcome of a meeting in India is more or less open, as attention is paid to new ideas that emerge during the discussion. It is therefore quite possible that some points will be postponed.
It is advisable to have minutes written and to make sure that the points that are important to you are recorded. Transcripts are a reminder and evidence in the event of a conflict scenario. Playing it safe and properly documenting all notes is not a bad idea when attending several meetings in India.
Even if it is part of international business etiquette to switch off your mobile phone in meetings and not to process e-mails on the side, people in India do not adhere to these rules. Due to their very flexible multitasking working style, Indians are not bothered by the ringing or vibrating of a mobile phone and don’t think there is anything wrong with quickly leaving the room to accept a call. After all, family or other business decisions are important as well.
Presentations In India
In presentations, Indians prefer a language of words and images that seems somewhat floral, poetic, colourful, and exaggerated compared to the factual and sober Western style of presentation.
Add many images to your presentation and use extensive storytelling as a rhetorical tool. It is a good idea to use symbols familiar to the Indian side (e.g. Indian flag, Lion Capital Ashoka Column) in addition to the company’s internal standards for slides. The presentation should also be provided as a handout.
Indians usually ask a lot of questions. Foreign businesspeople often have the feeling that Indians are not very good listeners and that everything has to be repeated several times. The amount of inquiries is often perceived as an inappropriate curiosity or interpreted as a strategy for accessing confidential information. Indians just want to understand everything before deciding on a business deal. However, Indians themselves are rather reserved when it comes to passing on knowledge and putting their service portfolio on the table.
For the Indian side, the unforeseen is that certain something extra. Indians love surprises, e.g. a presentation that is not mentioned in the schedule. This is not necessarily appreciated by all foreign business people who often feel unpleasantly taken by surprise. Their need for reliability, manageability and predictability clashes with the Indians’ penchant for risk and openness to the unforeseen. Too great a demand for safety would slow down the imagination, creativity and intuition of the Indians, who run at full speed, especially when things are unexpected.
Extract from Business Culture India, Courtesy of CONBOOK Verlag