Every day it seems we pick up the phone and speak to someone in
India, whether it is for IT support or just to be put through to the appropriate department of a large corporation.  Increasing numbers of companies are doing business with India (in JV’s, M&A’s, contact  centres and overseas operations) and this has implications for all of us. So, what advice can I impart about how to work best with Indian partners and colleagues? Here are ten key points that may give you a deeper insight…


  • This is the word Indians use to describe themselves.
  • Each ‘Metro’ has distinct culture – Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai.
  • Big difference between NORTH (Hindi speaking) and SOUTH (Tamil speaking) (and lots of other languages)• REMEMBER: French connection – Pondicherry


  • Indians are intelligent, enthusiastic, and motivated.•
  • They can be inhibited by the authority structure and by their lack of experience of Western companies.
  • Show interest in personal lives.• Praise good work.• Give direct clear instructions with firm deadlines.
  • Do what you can to make them feel part of the firm’s family. (photos, certificates, Intranet comms. Etc.)


  • India has over 300 national languages.
  • INDIAN ENGLISH is a distinct variety – like US English.
  • It has big differences in accent, stress, vocabulary (like US English).
  • It has small differences in grammar.
  • Indian English is very strongly influenced by local languages – e.g. speed of speech.


  • FAMILY is the most important motivator in India.
  • Indians abroad work for family and send money home (there is no social security).
  • Indians recognise a much wider variety of family members than we do in the West (the extended family).
  • Make Indian members feel part of your corporate family.


  • Education is very important in India.
  • Indians respect qualifications and education.
  • Graduates of IIT’s (Indian Institutes of Technology) are especially highly regarded.
  • They may be less respectful of experience unless it is supported by qualifications.
  • Show respect for education.


  • Respect is very important in Indian society.
  • Indians learn it at school.
  • They are very respectful of hierarchy, (young graduates much less so.)
  • Show respect for age and seniority.
  • Remember that foreigners are usually shown respect.
  • People will not contradict you out of respect.


  • This goes along with respect.
  • Many Indians will not feel they have the right to contradict you EVEN IF THEY KNOW YOU ARE WRONG.
  • Make sure you are dealing with someone who has worked with Westerners and who understands the importance of open feedback.
  • Find someone with experience who will be more prepared to take responsibility.


  • There is a danger that some Indians may give you wrong or inexact information out of a desire to please.
  • There is also a danger that they may overestimate their capacity or ability for the same reason.
  • Always ask ‘How’ something will be implemented in order to check viability.


  • Indians do not automatically prioritise requests unless urgency is stressed.
  • ‘One thing we have plenty of is time,’ is an Indian saying.
  • Give clear detailed instructions.
  • Say exactly when you need something. Stress importance.
  • Keep checking delivery status. (It shows interest.)


  • India like Latin countries in Europe is a ‘contact sport’.
  • Keep in regular friendly contact with team.
  • Be prepared to fly out to troubleshoot problems. (Face to face works best).
  • Good team leaders are often moved to other responsibilities.
  • Good team leaders often get overloaded with other work.

And remember: If you sometimes complain about how things work in India, they complain about how things work, or fail to work, in the West.


© Contributed by Barry Tomalin 2011 (http://www.culture-training.com/)

Tags: ,

This entry was posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2011 at 12:27 am and is filed under General, South Asia, working internationally . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.