Doing business in India requires some careful attention to customs, not to mention some social research to best understand a complex people and its nuanced business climate.
For any company, doing business in India will take a great deal of adjustment, particularly because of the vast number of cultural differences that must be dealt with. There are hundreds of languages to master and a great many nuances stemming from the cultural and religious traditions of Hinduism, which is but one among many common religions. In order to begin doing business though, there are a few very important things to remember, most of which will work toward the goal of simply getting by without offending any potential business contacts or clients. Learning about Indian culture, as with any other culture, would take many years and a great deal of effort.
In India there are a number of cultural differences to keep in mind, especially as they relate to the day to day interactions with Indian clients and employees. For example, while in the West, it may be perfectly appropriate for someone to encourage someone to come closer by beckoning with a finger, in India this is considered to be offensive. In addition, the common practice of standing with the hands on the hips is the same and is viewed as not only rude but aggressive. Furthermore, feet are never to point toward someone since Indians believe that the feet are not clean. With this in mind, one’s feet should never touch those of another. If gifts are given, they must never be opened in front of the person, they should be saved and opened when the person who gave it is gone. Aside from keeping in mind Hindu and Muslim diets, it should be remembered that Indians would much discuss business over lunch as opposed to an evening meal and after the meal it is important not to say “thank you” because this is insulting to the person who gave or prepared the meal.
In addition to these general rules, it is necessary to always use formal titles when addressing someone from India rather than trying to be casual and friendly and using the first name. A Hofstede analysis shows “a large power distance society and all other measures are relatively moderate. This would be indicative of the fact that India is in the midst of change. The traditional caste system has been outlawed, however the large power distance indicates that the attitudes still remain” (Hofstede 2006). With this in mind it will be necessary for the PM company to respect the fact that there are large divides in class. As a result, it will be important to make sure to adhere to formal titles and take great care to treat all with a great deal of respect, almost as though they were royalty. With such a degree of emphasis on class and hierarchy, overlooking this would be a fatal mistake. In short, for the PM company to do business in India, it would have to take into account the wide variety of differences that exist within the country, notwithstanding those differences that occur in the East/West relationship. By making certain that the utmost formality is observed in dress, speech, and general manners it can be safely assumed that this is the safest way to do business.
In Japan there are many things to keep in mind when doing business that range from more surface matters of perception to etiquette. For instance, although in the West it can be acceptable to dress casually, in Japan business always requires formal and conservative business dress. Women should dress very conservatively as well and take care to wear shoes that do not allow them to be taller than men. Furthermore, pointing and using other dramatic hand gestures, while for emphasis in the West, is considered rude and unnecessary.
Unlike in India, business is usually done over dinner as opposed to lunch and also unlike in India, gift giving is a very important part of business and gifts should always be opened in the presence of the giver. In addition to these aspects of doing business in Japan, it is also important to remember a number of things related to communicating effectively. For example, giving business cards is always done with both hands and it is necessary to offer one with the Japanese language version presented on top. A card that is given should be looked at carefully as a sign of respect and interest and should not be put in a wallet or other holder as it is a sign of defacing it. It is also important to learn to communicate in the language and understand nuances. For example, the word “no” is rarely used and a Japanese businessman will try to deny a request in a less overt way. A Hofstede analysis shows that “masculinity is the highest characteristic.
The lowest ranking factor is individualism, which coincides with their high ranking in Uncertainty Avoidance. Japan is the most collectivist culture that avoids risk and shows little value for personal freedom” (Hofstede 2006). With these aspects of Japanese culture in mind, it will be important to always be very formal and avoid any actions that might make you stand out of seem as though you do not view yourself as part of the whole. While in the west it is often common for business professionals to want to stand out, the way to do this in Japan is by being respectful and not encouraging risky ideas or behaving in ways that call too much attention to one’s self. In short, just as with India, it will be important to be as formal as possible at all times.
Just as in India and Japan, in Germany it is of the highest importance to dress appropriately in very conservative business attire; both for men and women. Germans notoriously are incredibly organized and will not appreciate sudden changes in schedules, plans, or other details that have been worked out ahead of time. It is important to respect this by always being on time and keeping to whatever agreements have been made. Also, it is not necessary to shower business relations with compliments as these are not common in German society and might not be expected or welcome. Furthermore, with this in mind, it is important to remember that business and business interactions are to be undertaken with the utmost seriousness.
There is not the same sense of “business casual” as some countries in the West have and as a result, anything that could be considered even slightly informal should be deferred. Aside from this more general guideline, there are a number of other matters to keep in mind. First of all, Germans value personal space and it is necessary to look for cues in the other person’s behavior before forging ahead—for instance, waiting to shake hands before the other does. In addition, it is never appropriate to call a German at home to discuss business and although it is important to make a follow-up call, this should be done during business hours.
Like in the other countries it is also important to use formal titles when addressing Germans, even if it seems superfluous or unnecessary. In a Hofstede analysis of Germany, it is shown that “their emphasis on individualism, masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance. Power distance and long-term orientation are both ranked considerably lower than the others. This illustrates Germany’s belief in equality and opportunity for each citizen, as well as its ability to adapt to change rapidly” (Hofstede 2006).
One of the main issues to keep in mind when doing business in any of these three countries is that formality should be the primary goal. Whether it is a brief letter, phone conversation, or face-to-face meeting over a meal, there are hundreds of nuances that might make or break a potential relationship. The PM company should work hard to understand the cultural, religious, linguistic, and other social factors that are at play in both business and personal relationships in the respective countries.
Harris, Philip R. et. al (2004). Managing Cultural Differences: Strategies for the 21st Century. New York, Butterworth-Heinemann.
Hofstede Analyses. http://spectrum.troy.edu/~vorism/hofstede.htm/ 2006.
Hofstede Analyses http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/india.htm