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Business Culture in India

India should be considered a continent rather than a country – the geographical size and huge population make the culture diverse and complex and it is difficult to draw general conclusions about people’s behaviour in business. The business culture is to a large extent situational and dependent on individuals.

Language and communication

English is an official language and used extensively in the business life. Hindi is the first language for approximately 30 percent of the population. Besides English and Hindi there are 19 additional official languages and in total 325 languages that are recognised as existing in the country. The Indian way of communicating is more indirect than the Swedish. Negative statements are often mediated in a polite manner and disagreement or a deflected request is rather put as "I'll try", "we'll see" or “possibly" than - "no".

Address your counterpart with Mr./Mrs. followed by last name. Titles are important and should be listed in British English. Negotiations are often cumbersome and take time. Unless the owner or other senior decision makers are present at the negotiations, they can be assumed to be at an early stage and therefore you cannot expect a signed agreement in the meeting. Show patience and hold back any frustration with a lengthy process.


India has a distinctly collectivist culture which takes several forms. Relationships are central, even in business, and for Indians it is important to know and trust the partner they are doing business with. The relationships are created through regular meetings and to be successful with business in India persistence and visibility are vital; it is not enough to manage the business remotely without the required presence and repeated contact.


The Indian business culture is much more hierarchical than the Swedish, which is apparent in both social and business context. This has its origin in Hinduism and the caste systems that - even though it is not noticed to a great extent in modern India - still have impact on social structures, status, roles and tasks. Organisations are distinctly top-heavy, decisions are always taken at the highest level and communication goes often only one way where feedback bottom-up rarely occur. It is recommended to meet at the same hierarchical level as the Indian counterpart.


In India there are constant changes in plans and schedules and meetings does not always begin at the scheduled time. Time is a fluid concept, and the planning horizon is very short. When booking meetings, it is crucial to (double) confirm and be prepared for last-minute changes. Flexibility is a prerequisite for successful business in India.