If your company does international business and has a global travel strategy, you have likely had to spend some time adjusting to various countries’ business norms. Here are some tips for business travel in India – pass them along to employees to ensure they have successful and productive business trips.
Visa and passport requirements for entry into India
What vaccinations do I need for business travel to India?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all travelers have the following vaccines:
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- Polio vaccine
- Annual flu shot
Additional vaccines are recommended for some travelers, which can be found on the CDC website. This includes a possible regimen of prescription medication for malaria prevention, which is taken before, during and after the trip.
For even more information, see this article entitled “What vaccines and immunizations do you need for global travel?” from our partners at WorldAware:
Should you drink the water in India?
Yes, it’s very important to stay hydrated in a hot country such as India. Just be careful about the water you drink. This also includes ice! Only drink bottled water and check to be sure that the cap is sealed. Don’t forget the bottled water when brushing your teeth as well. If you’re not sure whether the drink you’ve received contains safe, filtered or bottled water, you may want to avoid it. Hot drinks like coffee and tea should be ok too.
Food safety in India
One of the biggest concerns people have while traveling in India is exposure to new bacteria that causes stomach cramping and other unpleasant symptoms. Here are a few quick tips to stay healthy while dining during your business travel:
- Do not eat fruit that you have not peeled yourself.
- Only eat foods that are served very hot and cooked all the way through.
- Eat at busy places that your Indian business partners recommend for your safest options.
Shaking hands isn’t traditionally a part of Indian culture, although businesspeople in Mumbai and other big cities might initiate hand-shaking to accommodate you. A standard greeting is a “Namaste,” during which you press your palms together just below your chin as if you’re praying, and bow slightly or nod. This is a safe greeting to use in any situation.
Make sure to first greet the most senior individual in the group, using his or her title. If you don’t know the title or the person doesn’t have one, use “Madam” or “Sir.” Always avoid calling people by their first names, unless asked to do so.
Gifts are often a part of first meetings, as many Indians believe they help one on their bath in the next life. Gifts don’t have to be expensive. Present them with both hands to the receiver. If you receive a gift, wait until later to open it. Additionally, present your business card upon first meeting.
Developing good, trustworthy relationships is paramount when doing business in India.
Unless you’re meeting with a very young start-up, engineering or tech crowd, it’s important to dress very formally and conservatively in meetings. Be patient and avoid high-pressure strategies when in negotiation meetings. Be mindful that sometimes “yes” actually means “I’ve heard and understood what you’re saying,” not “I agree with you.” Pay attention to phrases like “I will try” or “Possibly.”
Don’t plan for more than one meeting per day. Often, meetings end with the expectation of drinks and a meal together, rather than one party rushing off for more business.
Here are some tips surrounding culinary manners in India so you can successfully navigate the business dinner:
- Don’t seat yourself at dinner; rather, wait for someone to indicate where you should sit.
- Watch how others eat. In the city, you’ll likely be given a fork and spoon and use the fork to push food onto the spoon. In the country, you’re more likely to eat with your hands, using bread or rice to pick up the food.
- Leave a little food on your plate – this indicates that you are full. A clean plate means you are still hungry.