The Republic of India (India) is Asia’s second-largest country, after China. Its capital city, New Delhi, is located in the north central part of the country. India is a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic. Its constitution, which came into effect January 26, 1950, provides for a parliamentary form of government, at the center and in the states. The constitution also contains an extensive set of directive principles akin to the U.S. Bill of Rights.
The president and vice president are elected for five-year terms by an electoral college made up of the members of both parliamentary houses and the legislative assemblies of the states. Legally, all executive authority, including supreme command of the armed forces, is vested in the president, as head of state, who, in turn, appoints a council of ministers headed by a prime minister. The prime minister serves as the head of government.
While India is the home of many languages, it has 22 recognized official languages with Hindi and English being the official languages used by the Central Government. State governments use respective official languages.
Winter snowfall is normal for the northern mountains and Kashmir Valley, but for most of India, scorching spring dust storms and severe hailstorms are more common. The monsoon is the predominant feature of India’s climate and helps to divide the year into four seasons:
- Rainy, the southwest monsoon, June–September;
- Moist, the retreating monsoon, October–November;
- Dry cool, the northeast monsoon, December–March;
- Hot, April–May.
Indian agriculture relies on the southwest monsoon, which brings moisture from the Indian Ocean.
Apart from holiday and festivals businesses in India usually start between 9 and 10 am and can frequently work until 6 pm or later, this can vary between companies and various businesses, especially as some might start earlier to avoid the congestion. Government offices are open between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
India has many holidays and celebrates many festivals. Holiday dates can change from year to year, so it is advisable to check prior to planning any business trips. Indians have a less hurried time than North Americans when it comes to doing business. It is worthwhile to do some preparation work prior to your meeting.
It is advisable to make appointments at least one month in advance and confirm them when arriving in India. While Indians appreciate you being punctual, be prepared to be patient as they may not reciprocate. Business cards are commonly used and there is usually no need to translate part of the business card if it is English, as English is spoken by many business men and officials in India.
Normal business dress for men is suit and tie, but due to the warm climate, a full-sleeved shirt with a tie is also acceptable. It’s recommended selecting neutral colors. For foreign women, pant-suits or long skirts that cover the knees are more acceptable to wear.
The traditional Indian form of greeting is the namaste, which literally means, “I bow to the divine in you”. Namaste is used for greeting, for taking leave, and also to seek forgiveness. To greet someone with a namaste, bring your hands together with palms touching in front of your chest in a graceful fashion. Greeting your Indian business colleagues with a namaste is considered a compliment. It sets the right tone for the rest of your meeting and shows that you’ve taken time to understand Indian exchanges. But offering a handshake isn’t looked down upon. In fact, many Indian businesspeople offer a handshake to show that they’re familiar and comfortable with greeting foreigners. However, if you’re greeted with a namaste and don’t reciprocate, Indian colleagues take that as the equivalent of a “cold fish” handshake!
Business in India in conducted at a much more leisurely pace than in North America. Tea and small talk are introductions to most business talk. While it is acceptable to decline the first offer of refreshment, to refuse the second or third is an insult. The sugary, milky Indian tea is known to be delicious.