Negotiations and business strategies with India

The key to tapping into this market, both its talent pool and its consumers,

is understanding the full richness of India”, Batra, Intel.

Handling diversity; intensity, complexity, and paradox are all essential requirements for working with India. “The business opportunity India represents is more complex than a cursory glance at its educated, English-speaking workforce would suggest” says Arjun Batra, Director of Intel Globalization to India, Intel Corporation. With this in mind, below are insights to building business in India.
Strategies for communicating

Indian introductions

Establishing one’s place is important in the highly-networked Indian business community. Weave your accomplishments and contacts into conversation with panache to earn respect and gain introductions. Pay attention to family members, especially newly-minted MBA sons, as family-owned businesses are the majority of organizational structures. (Reliance and Tata are prominent examples). “Absolutely critical is building a network and having personal relationships in India”, says Bryan Lawlis, President and CEO of Intero Biopharmaceuticals.

Indian style

Indians may be very direct when confident they are right; however, an indirect ambiguous style is used to show respect; politeness, disagreement, refusal, or avoid confrontation. Indians may overlap each other while speaking, increasing the volume and speed of dialogue – if this is the case, don’t wait for an invitation to speak: jump in and talk over someone to make your points.

Many Indians speak quite rapidly, with an accent unfamiliar to Russians. If you experience difficulty, the best approach is to ask them to please speak more slowly. Indians you’ll meet are multilingual, and may take offense if you imply their English is faulty. (OEM Exclusive: Request list of EMS/ODM providers anywhere in India)

Indian persuasion

Indians expect you have thoroughly researched your proposition, and can provide in-depth data analysis and detail. Indians appreciate a factual and personable delivery style that starts with the ‘big picture’ before getting to implementation specifics. Indians persuade through competitive data; repetition, insistence, and rigorous detail and may make vigorous, emotional appeals to underscore their proposition. A response in kind (avoiding an aloof, rational approach) is most effective.

Indian feedback
Generally, India’s culture promotes pleasing people; thus feedback that might be unpleasing (problems, criticism, confrontation) is generally avoided. Indians are usually conscious of status and feedback is offered from higher to lower rank (based on age or position).
  • Negative feedback – Indians do not want to convey bad news, and will often work hard to remedy a situation before letting you know of any delays or missed goals. Criticism is subtle, “That’s not quite what I was looking for.”
  • Positive feedback – Indians appreciate compliments on their performance, but may deflect direct praise and expect others to do so also, displaying good form and the trait of humility.

Indian agreement

Yes” often means “maybe” or “we’ll see what happens”, so its important to clarify whether or not you have a solid agreement. A blunt “No” is considered rude and rarely heard, and negative responses are cushioned by offering an alternative; being silent, or being non-committal.

Negotiating with Indian companies

Indian style

Indians are known as keen negotiators, experienced in bargaining and negotiating for themselves and their families as part of life in India. Through their networks, Indians are well prepared with data on competitive scenarios and prices. It is important to maintain an open, gracious style, never openly displaying anger or confrontation. Strong passionate positions or appeals are used strategically to emphasize a position, but one should never appear angry or hostile. If talks reach an impasse, better to resume patiently at a later time. Keep cool.
Building Indian trust

Begin building trust with proper introductions, and demonstrating respect and modesty (in dress and demeanor), and conveying appreciation to your host. You may be preceded by a stereotype of the foreign business person as ‘trader-invader’, coming to India to take advantage. Taking the time to cultivate personal relationships and establish a reputation for integrity is important.
Indian rationale

Indians take the time to understand the logic; competitive advantages, motivating factors, and in some instances, the spiritual timing or location of a business deal. With a population of graduates from India’s famed IIT’s (Indian Institute of Technology) and IIM’s (Indian Institute of Management), and many top universities in the West, Indians are able to draw upon strong business acumen. Indians think long-term while moving quickly to seize opportunities in today’s expanding economy. A bottom line approach or a quick fix may be perceived as simplistic and short-term thinking.

Indian cultural priorities

Indians have a deep sense of duty and obligation to their families and will tend to negotiate to bring the best deal for the family or group rather than for individual advantage.


Indians know what they want and are willing to compromise. ‘Give and take’ is a means to building relationships and keep harmony when all possibilities have been explored.

Renegotiating previous commitments

Indians view business decisions more as a process than as a contract, and may revisit items previously agreed upon, continuing to negotiate in case there were any items previously left on the table. If this happens, graciously enter into talks and be well prepared for what you can and cannot do. Prepare your organization there may be have to be changes. If you cannot make changes, apply firmness with grace.

It’s the subtleties that matter
Attitude matters. Your attitude will be ‘read’ in the high-context Indian culture. While Indians may complain, avoid criticizing India’s over-burdened infrastructure and bureaucracy and the delays and uncertainties that occur. Do not stare at people when in India. Do not be offended if they ask about your salary (topic openly discussed in India).
Know, and stick with, your company’s policy on ethics. Major Indian businesses are familiar with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Mild rule-bending has traditionally been a way of getting around hurdles and expediting business in India; be vigilant that serious infractions don’t occur on your watch.
The golden rule in India is ‘analyze before committing’. If you rush Indians, they may tell you what they think you want to hear. Give them time, then check back: “Now that you’ve had time to analyze the situation, can you deliver this?” is a reasonable reply to an earlier request.

India is a cricket-crazy nation. Learn a bit about the sport, and you will open the door to various conversations.
Company employee turnover is a major issue in India’s hot economy. Attrition can be as high as 40% in some companies. Candidates may accept your offer, but not show up on day one because they shopped around in the interim. Be prepared with current competitive incentives; skilled local recruiters, and business plans that take talent management into account.
Deal with decision-makers. Business authority is held closely by the owners and executives of Indian companies, with decisions (e.g. purchases of US$5,000) made only by them and not delegated to managers.
In your talks with Indian business counterparts, focus on building relationship for the long term and extending your network. “India is different than the West, and contains multiple subcultures within its borders. To succeed, companies can’t just put Indian faces on a U.S. business plan. The key to tapping into this market, both its talent pool and its consumers, is understanding the full richness of India”, adds Intel’s Batra.

Patience, personal warmth, and persistence will bring opportunities.

Remember, relationships first and results will follow.

Уроки нидерландских бизнесменов

By Marian Stetson-Rodriguez