Guide to Doing Business in India

A Guide to Doing Business in India

Caitlin Nicholson

India is the second-most populous country in the world with over 1.2 billion people. Once a British colony, India has emerged as the world’s largest democracy and an emerging market. Whether you’re looking to partner with an existing business in India or simply looking to reach Indian customers using a website here are few important considerations for targeting an Indian Audience.

Languages The Indian subcontinent is home to great linguistic diversity. The People’s Linguistic Survey of India found over 780 languages spoken in India with about 122 of them spoken by over 10,000 people. The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lists and recognizes 22 languages. Hindi and English are the languages used by India’s Central Government. Hindi is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world and the most widely spoken in India. English in India uses English (UK) spelling due to their roots with colonization. It is mostly used by Indians as a second or third language. India is divided into twenty-nine states and seven union territories. Each state can choose which language they want for their official language. North-central India is known as the Hindi Belt. Hindi is the official language and the majority language in these states. Other prominent languages spoken in India include Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamli, Telugu, and Urdu. If you are looking to market to a particular region in India, make note of what language is spoken there and localize accordingly. The same applies for business meetings – use local interpreters and linguists to translate written content.   Currency India’s official currency is the Indian rupee (₹). In November 2016, India’s government launched a demonetization of about 86 percent of their currency to cut down on counterfeit currency and black market cash. Before this, India was largely a cash-based society with about 45 percent of online payments made in Cash on Delivery (COD) before November 2016. This has brought about a growth in digital payment apps and debit card usage.   Where are Consumers Spending their Money? India’s population is very young, with about 65 percent of the population born after 1980. In 2016, Goldman Sachs profiled India’s consumers. They identified seven key consumption patterns: looking better, eating better, better home, mobility/connectivity, having more fun, well-being (health/education), and luxury. The largest population group that will contribute to India’s growth will be the Urban Mass. This group is expected to expand in both population and income. The Urban Mass includes the educated Urban Mass (those with undergraduate degrees in white collar positions) along with blue collar workers living in urban centers. India has three of the world’s top ten megacities – Delhi, Mumbai, and Calcutta. In 2016, only about one-fifth of India’s population was online, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Digital India initiative. The goal is to connect India with high speed Internet, deliver government services digitally, and promote digital literacy. This presents an area of tremendous growth for mobile connectivity and eCommerce as India becomes more connected.   Business Culture Not only is India a linguistically diverse country, but a culturally diverse one as well. Religion plays a large role in Indian society. Hinduism is practiced by about 80 percent of the population. Hinduism plays an important role in Indian culture. During major holiday and festivals such as Holi in the spring and Diwali in the fall, business shuts down. Both Buddhism and Jainism also originated in India. Business culture in India stems from British colonial roots. Culture is very formal and dress is very conservative. Also, titles (Dr., Mr., Mrs., etc.) are very important. Address someone by their title and surname unless they tell you otherwise. Hierarchy is important as well. Always greet senior people first, and greet each person individually. Handshakes are typically a standard greeting for business meetings, however men and women shaking hands is not always the norm. If you’re looking to do more business in India, the first step is to present your content in their language with respect to their values and needs. For more help in connecting with the Indian market, get in touch with Lingualinx.

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