India
Cultural Awareness & Business
Communication
Contents
1. Demographics
2. People and culture
3. Indian English
4. Working with India
The Country
Area:
3,287,590 sq km
Language:
Hindi is the national language and spoken by 30% of
the people; there are 17 official languages + English
Regional States and administrations
28 states and 7 union territories
Population:
1.06 billion
Major cities & population
• Mumbai (Bombay)18,042,000
• Kolkata (Calcutta) 12,900,000
Religious Composition
• Delhi
11,680,000
• Hindu – 80%
• Hyderabad
6,833,000
• Muslims – 13.4%
• Chennai (Madras) 6,639,000
• Bangalore
5,544,000
• Christians – 2.33%
• Sikhs – 1.84%
• Buddhists – 0.76%
• Jains – 0.4 %
• Others – 1.27%
India Facts…
Democracy
India Firsts
• World’s largest
• First study of medicine - Ayurveda
• 100% Electronic Voting
• Sanskrit – Closest living language to
Economy
• 2nd Fastest Growing
“proto-Indo-European”,
the great-great-grandmother of English
• 4th Largest (in terms of PPP)
• First Martial Art form – 200 BC
Military
• concept of “Zero” – Aryabhatta, 499 AD
• 2nd Largest Army
• Chess – 500 AD
• 4th Largest Air Force
• First university – Takshila, 700 BC
Space
• Over 30 Satellites Launched
• Moon mission planned - 2007
People and Culture
National Pastimes
Cricket
• Came to India with the British..played in stadiums
as well as street corners..
• Cricket stars in India – Sachin
Tendulkar....compare to Babe Ruth
Politics
• Average Indian very aware of politics
• Everyone has an opinion and likes to
share…
Bollywood
• World’s largest film industry..over 1,000 films
produced annually
• Not a typical western movie…
Culture
• Land of Diversity..changes at every State border.. Food, dress varies by
region
• Rich heritage, especially in the arts (dance, music)
• Cultural differences celebrated and increasingly accepted across
regions / religions
• Strong western influence in the cities..Bombay, Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta
Family Structure
• Traditional joint family structure; changing to single families
• Elders accorded a great deal of respect; close knit families
• Women making increasing strides in business, politics and the arts. Education a key
driver for change
Marriage
• Diverse - different between states and regions
• 85-90% are arranged marriages
• typically same caste / region / social status
• Marriage is considered between families
• Marriage in bride’s town, reception in groom’s
• Eldest sibling marries first. Girls before boys
• Community affair
• 70-100 people considered small gathering
• Colleagues at work are always invited.
don’t be surprised if your whole
team goes for a reception or
wedding
Holidays & Festivals
Most Holidays have religious background
National Holidays
•New Year’s Day - Jan 1
•Republic Day - Jan 26
•Labor Day - May 1
•Independence Day - Aug 15
•Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday - Oct 2
Hindu
•Sankranthi - around Jan 14 - South
•Holi - in March - North
•Ganesh Chathurthi in Sep - South & West
•Dushera - in Oct / Nov - preDushera in East
•Diwali - 20 days after Dushera
Muslim
•Idu’l Fitr - in Oct / Nov
Sikh
•Guru Nanak’s Birthday - North
Christian
•Good Friday
•Christmas
Jain
•Mahavir Jayanti - West
Individual
Id
Dushera
Sankranti
Holi
Diwali
Guru Nanak’s Birthday
Ganesh Chaturthi
Onam
Mahavir Jayanti
significance varies by religion, region
Cultural pointer to consider…
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Be careful of your shoes
Left (bad) hand right (good) hand
Staring is okay…not common in the US
Getting personal..direct question such as age, salary, etc are common
Generally, Indian women prefer not to shake hands..wait for indication
Giving seats / preference to ladies is courteous
Gestures don't always translate…head nodding does not always mean
“No”
Respectful mistrust..contrary to the US..given that milkman will add water
Can openly discuss politics..keep religion out
Many Hindus are vegetarian and many, especially women, do not drink
alcohol or smoke
Taxis do not expect to be tipped, however, hotel/airport porters and
restaurant servers should be tipped
Indian English
Indian English or Hinglish
• Indian spellings follow British conventions to the point
at which American English variations are considered
untenable.
- colour, lessons learnt (vs. learned)
• Indian English took on a divergent evolution and many
phrases that the British may consider antiquated are still
popular in India. E.g: “Please do the needful” or “You will
be intimated shortly” - official language
•
”Grammar of Indian English" must be taken with a
grain of salt. Passive voice considered polite.
• Indian accents vary greatly leaning more towards
“vernacular' (Indian language)-tinted speech. Words such
as “Yaar” (Buddy), “Han Han” (Yes), “Achaa (OK)” are
used frequently
Words/phrases unique to Indian English
batchmate or batch-mate Not classmate, but of a schoolmate of the same
grade
cousin-brother - male first cousin
cousin-sister - female first cousin;
one's own brother/sister (of one's parent, as opposed to uncle or aunt)
co-brother – wife's sister's husband
would-be - fiancé/fiancée
prepone - the opposite of 'postpone'
upgradation
- commonly used in business communication instead of
'upgrade'
crore - ten million
lakh - one hundred thousand
damn used to mean "very". "damn good" means "very good".
terrific may be used to mean "awesome"
Idioms
“Your good name please?": "What is your name?", carryover
from Hindi expression (“aapka shubh naam?”).
"Hello, What do you want?": used by some when answering a
phone call, meant to be polite.
"pindrop silence" literally means that such a silence should be
maintained that even a pindrop can be heard.
"back" replacing "ago" when talking about elapsed time, as in "I
met him five years back" rather than "I met him five years ago."
"freak out" is meant to have fun, as in "lets go to the party and
freak out."
The word "dress" is used to refer to clothes for men, women, and
children alike: "She bought a new dress for her son."
"I will give you a Missed Call" – I will call you (on mobile) and
hang-up. You get the message…
Working with India
What To Expect When In India
Greeting
Use formal greeting, unless told otherwise
Attire
Generally formal for business; dress conservatively
Language
English is all you need to know!
Food
International cuisine available in most cities.
Many Indians are vegetarian don’t eat beef / pork and
don’t drink alcohol.
Weather
Varies greatly by region; check before you leave
People
Highly personal, warm culture … BUT, be wary of
swindlers. Request hotel staff / people you know for
in getting around, sightseeing, shopping etc.
help
Business Tips
• Traditional Indian organizations can be very hierarchical … limited
number of people who make decisions
• Subsidiaries of foreign companies adapt to the parent company’s culture
… very modern in outlook and operating style.
• Dealing with Government officials – can be a bureaucratic and slow
process; plan accordingly
• Negotiations … Indians aren’t direct about saying ‘no’; reluctance on an
issue could be an indirect way of saying no
• Meetings could start or end with personal questions (family, children etc)
… considered a sign of building relationships
• Punctuality … not a strong Indian trait in social settings
And … leave enough time to enjoy the Indian experience!!
When you have new visitors from India
AVOID
- dinner plans on first day of arrival – offer them shopping instead
- restaurants with limited vegetarian choices.
OFFER HELP
• one-on-one interaction
• invite them to any activities, places outside of work
• working lunch, ensure meal choices
• advice them on selections of phone company, internet choice, car
etc.
• introduce them to APAF members
Communication tips
AVOID
- understating negatives
- overstating positives – “Awesome!”
- speaker phones when possible
- jokes, especially in phone meetings
MAXIMIZE
• one-on-one phone interaction, even for short durations
• the “buddy” system
• global team building – Games (Chess, quizzes), “Your Perfect Day”
• customer interaction with remote teams
Recognize Mannerisms . .
.
• Head nodding generally means I’m listening
• Tend to speak fast – words rolling into one another
• Smiling a lot for no reason in a conversation – generally
means I appreciate what you are saying
• May come across with humility / subservience. . .
Particularly if supervisor present
Some suggestions
Build a
relationship –
“who you know”
is important
Recognize the
time
differences
and the
lifestyle
differences.
Avoid calls after 7
pm local time or
on Friday
evenings
Be inclusive
(ensure
India feels
part of
team)
Only invite if
participants
have a value
add
With visitors be
mindful of diet
restrictions
(vegetarian)
Use the dual
time zone
feature within
outlook
calendar
Set clear
expectations
with metrics
Be aware of
and
manage
tendency to
over
promise
Call on quieter
participants to
speak up.
Stress
urgency and
ensure it is
understood
Do’s and Don’ts:
Behavior:
• Don’t open gifts in presence of the giver.
• Don’t directly refuse an invitation, a vague "I’ll try" is an
acceptable refusal.
• Do remove shoes at the door when visiting a home.
• Don’t point your feet at a person. Feet are considered
unclean. Normal to apologize if your shoes or feet
touch another person.
• Standing with your hands on your hips may be
interpreted as an aggressive posture.
Do’s and Don’ts:
• Whistling is impolite and winking may be interpreted as
either an insult or a sexual proposition.
Communication:
• Be formal outside GE (e.g. visiting customers) use Mr. /
Mrs. / Ms.
• Don’t talk about poverty, human rights, or religious
conflict.
• Try not to use commanding / direct language.
• Do be curious.
• Do try to establish a personal connection.
Thank You
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Indians Abroad - Bellarmine University