It's freezing and we're dreaming of warmer climes! If any of you are lucky enough to be planning a trip to India, here's an excerpt from our title "The Lowdown: Business Etiquette - India," with a few tips for how to plan and what to wear...
Q: If I decide to go to India, what do I need to do to plan my trip?
A: Firstly, all American and UK nationals need a visa. This used to take weeks to get, but is now pretty straightforward. The rules are changed from time to time, but you’ll probably need to send in with your application a letter from your contact inviting you visit his facility, with an explanation of the business reason. This is a formality and only needs to be one or two paragraphs.
Secondly, you’ll need to check which vaccinations or boosters you need to get. You shouldn’t miss this step out and you must take anti-malaria drugs, as prescribed by your doctor. Plan ahead for this, because you need to start taking some of these drugs a week or more before you go.
Q: Presumably there are holidays I’ll need to work around.
A: There are. In fact, there are holidays of all shapes and sizes, some religious, some political, some national, some regional. There are too many to list now. Your best bet is to check with your contact. Not all holidays are celebrated in all parts of the country and not all of them involve time off work. It’s a good idea to get a list, so that you know when the offices and factories will shut down.
Q: What about dress code? What should I pack?
A: Most Indian cities are hot for most of the year, even when there are monsoons, but you can check this out on any Internet weather site. The old practice of western men wearing spotless white or cream tropical suits and sporting Panama hats has gone by the board.
Q: But presumably both men and women need to dress smartly.
A: Yes, it’s best, although business dress protocol in India does make concessions to the weather and nobody will expect you to be uncomfortable. Jackets are usually worn. but may be taken off in meetings or when walking outside in the heat. Short-sleeved shirts are fine - but in fact all serious business premises and all decent hotels are air-conditioned these days, so you can be comfortable in long-sleeved shirts. Indian businessmen mostly wear western suits, with or without ties depending on the type of company, but Indian businesswomen often wear the traditional sari. Because of that, and the bright colours that you’ll see in the workplace, there’s very little danger of a western woman looking over-dressed and it is certainly not necessary to dress in muted colours. Modesty is advisable, however, and although young Indian girls wear all types of western clothes, short skirts or low necklines are not appropriate in a business meeting. Trousers are fine for women, but jeans – even designer jeans – are only usually worn by women in the IT industry. There are no protocols for footwear, although you may have to remove shoes if you visit some religious buildings. Except among young people, women are expected to dress more formally than men.
Have you done business in India? How did you find the experience? - LK