Understanding India’s Business Culture with Jagdish Handa

Please introduce yourself Jagdish…

I’m the founder of J.K.Handa & Co. We specialise in Company formation and business set-up, Audits, Taxation advisory, Corporate Law, Finance and Investment advisory, Law, Licensing, Liasoning , Opening of branch/liaison office of foreign companies in India and representing foreign companies in India. We’ve been in business for 40 years.

What culture norms do foreigners need to understand when venturing into India?

The culture in Metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai and other big cities is westernised. No particular precautions are advised in big cities. The hinterland is relatively orthodox and one should be reserved while dealing with ladies in hinterland.

What is the locals opinion of foreign entrepreneurs coming to India to set up a business?

The local opinion is positive towards foreign entrepreneurs coming to India. There are already many foreigners from Russia, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Afghanistan here for business purpose and doing business successfully.

What is the best way to become a part of the business community to meet people and make connections?

The best way is to join a business community club/association to interact with them. Federation of India Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) and Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industries are few such association rendering valuable service in this regard.

What books or websites do you recommend reading to better understand the business environment in India?

There are many websites one can visit e.g. Indiamart.com, Tradeindia.com are few. The chambers of commerce listed above have also websites which can be visited.

What’s the general business mindset in India?

The general business mindset is friendly, co-operative but competitive.

Are there any particular business dealings that foreigners should not get involved in?

One should take extra precaution while dealing in real estate transactions. Better do it under expert advice.

How important is hierarchy in business in India?

The traditional way of doing business in India is hierarchal particularly the small business segment where hierarchy is still the mantra. But the modern business houses are very professional and run on professional lines.

What are the primary signals of respect and disrespect with regards to doing business in India?

The primary signals of respect are if you greeted with a shake-hand or with folded hands (Namaste), the traditional indian way of greetings. You are offered a seat and offered a glass of water or tea or other pleasantries. Disrespect is evident from gestures.

What advantages do foreigners have (versus locals) when doing business in India?

The advantage of foreigners stem from the fact that they are foreigners if one knows how to drive home this advantage. Their world knowledge, technological skills are a plus to them.

What advantages do local people have (versus foreigners) when doing business in India?

The advantage of locals versus foreigners is the advantage of language, logistics, local contacts and home environment.

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