Global Business Cultural Analysis of India
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With the global financial crisis everyone is fast realizing the wisdom of the proverb not placing all your eggs in one basket. It is wise for anyone who thinks of investment to diversify the options and invest in a variety of markets. Americans have realized this and the trend has been to try and invest in some of the developing countries. As much as these countries provide an opportunity for investment there are challenges that the investor has to battle with. The most significant is the culture of the Indians and their manner of conducting business that is different from that of America. Despite the fact that the Indians are quickly becoming westernized some of their traditions are hard to die. These traditions are firmly imbedded in their religion (Hindu) and are revered by the people. It is however the openness and respect for other peoples religions that will spur the business cooperation between the Indians and the Americans. On the other hand the Americans with a passion for competition, the high risk appetite, persistence and consistency are virtues that will make them feel welcomed to do business in India.
There are many similarities between the Indian businesspeople and the Americans. They both share the same language hence there is little or no communication barrier. The dress code is suitable for both and so are some of the business ethics. Already there are some American firms doing business in Asia and India in particular. These companies such as the coca-cola group of company face but little competition in the market. This should encourage other companies more so those in the telecommunications and Information Technology to venture into the Asian markets and explore the opportunities.
The Indian business acumen has been noted and acknowledged worldwide. Wherever the Indians are in all corners of the world they indulge in business and with a convincing degree of success, sometimes far much better than that of the indigenous people (Basham 1975). In doing the businesses in foreign countries, the Indians avoid all manner of confrontations with the people and the government. To a greater extent they distance themselves from the politics and any other issue that does not concern their business. In this way, the Indians are able to trade with almost anyone on the globe and for a long period of time without any disagreement arising between them.
Since the character is specific and applicable to almost all Indians no matter the location, it is safe to say that it is borrowed from their culture. Indians have a civilization that has lasted for many centuries. There culture too has withstood the test of time. In the twentieth century the culture was under threat from foreign nations but Mahatma Gandhi was able to make the Indians reinstate back their culture.
Elements and Dimensions of the Indian Culture
India has been known worldwide for its caste system that has been long outlawed by the government. The system is one of the black spots in the Indian culture that their prominent leaders such as Gandhi helped to fight. The Indians however still hold the same attitudes that their ancestors held some time back. This is quite apparent when one is to consider the huge gap separating the rich and powerful with the poor and the less powerful. Ironically the Indians perceive this disparity as a cultural norm.
According to the caste system businessmen, the merchants and the farm owner fall into the prestigious class of the (Vaishyas and Gesler 2000). Second only to the Brahmins who are in the upper class. This is significant as the businessmen are awarded a middle class position which guarantees some respect and recognition in the society. The system had its bad aspect, for instance once somebody has been born in a particular caste he remain in it and only the belief in reincarnation will give him the hope of ever rising to a higher caste.
The culture of the Indians is more permissive to new and less structured situations and ideas (Caudle 1996). The population is less inclined to control and determine the outcome of the future. This is mostly due to the absence of a proper system and mechanism to try and manage the uncertainties. The majority of the population 81% are practicing Indians, followed by a 12% Muslim population, 2% Christians and the remaining religions comprise 5% of the population (Magazine of All World Gayatri Pariwar 2003). This is an interesting phenomenon as the majority of the population observes the same culture and religion.
The appearance of men and women of the Indians are distinct hence one can easily recognize them from the dressing. Men wear formal clothing i.e. suit and tie for business purpose and casually they wear short-sleeved shirts with long pants (Sapp and Bird 2004). On the other hand the women wear pantsuits or simply the conservative dresses for business and must at all times ensure that their back, chest, lower arms remain covered.
The behavior of the Indians is sometimes quiet disturbing to many people. If someone does not understand them then there are possibilities of a clash. The most overlooked practice is the high regard that the Indians hold for the head. According to the Indians the head is revered so much that to touch someone’s head is totally unacceptable. This applies to both grown up persons and also children. This practice emerges from the ancient believe that the heads is the sit of the soul. They also consider it an insult to beckon with the palm and posing with the hands placed on the hips. This latter posture is considered aggressive and angry. Similarly whistling is considered impolite, just like to wink at someone may be considered as either a proposition for sex or an insult.
Hindi and English are the official languages of India. This has helped unify more than three hundred languages in the country (LaDousa 2005). These official languages are put to use in education, politics and business (Sivaramakrishnan and Gidwani 2003). The languages have enabled the Indians to interact more easily more so with foreigners from English speaking countries. This willingness to adopt and use the language of another community has enabled the Indians in the Diasporas to effective trade with a great number of nations.
The Indians rarely use the word “no”. The implication gotten from the use of the word is that the speaker is impolite. It is therefore common for one to try and avoid direct refusals through circumlocutions. Similarly Indians do not thank their hosts after a meal. It is considered as an insult. However titles more so professional ones are deemed important.
One cannot talk of the Indian culture without mentioning its divine component. This has been in existence from the ancient times. This divinity of their culture is closely linked to spirituality and psychology of the human person. The contribution of the Indian culture to evolution of man especially the mental faculties cannot be overstated. Since the ancient times the Indian philosophy and spirituality has been so much preoccupied with the human self in relation to his environment (Chakravorty 2000).
It is from this philosophy that the Indian conceives the idea of a universal mind. The world is seen as a family and each and every human as a member of the family. This implies that the idea the Indian is free to associate with all people regardless of the race. The Indian has the duty to continuously refine the self from the animal instincts and to keep as much as possible from evil.
These disciplines not only revolve around the individual person but are a component part in the social life. In order to achieve this, ordinary citizens tries as much as possible to imitate the behavior of the great personalities, saints and the intellectuals. These one are perceived as the role models. These personalities are very instrumental in offering guidance in the spiritual journey which is not only difficult but quite evasive.
In the daily life of the Indian he or she must endeavor to live in harmony with the environment (Magazine of All World Gayatri Pariwar 2003). This environment does not solely center on the close relationship with the individual and fellow human beings but incorporates the good care of the ecosystem. In all the human endeavors there must be mutual trust and cooperation, honesty, integrity and a sincere response to various responsibilities either in the basic family unit, the nation or the world as a whole.
The individual must not be passive but make an effort to fight the social evils that threaten the harmonious existence of the larger society of human beings. These include immoral behavior, injustice, superstition and the exploitation of fellow human beings (Ali 2002). Through practice and constant association with righteous persons the mind of an ordinary Indian is conditioned to live to this purpose. As it is the determiner of the character of the individual, the Indians guard against the ideas, deeds and attitude that originate from the mind. The constant cultivation of righteousness and virtuous living has enabled the Indian to always have the longing to improve deeds and actions on a daily basis. One is never satisfied with the good of that is past but he or she aspires for a continued dispensation of the good deeds.
The universality of the Indian culture comes on the basis that it is able to incorporate the varied dimensions of human life. It provides a sound knowledge in theosophy and the human psychology. This aspects stretch far beyond what is natural and personal to the human person to materialistic world and at a global level. Some of the traditions that are perceived idiosyncratic such as the worship of idols and multiple gods have some social and educational implications. Apart from creating the sense of society these practices are accompanied by celebrations and rituals which define the Indians as a people. There is much confidence and assurance on the part of the individual to know that a particular practice or ritual had been performed by ones ancestors many years back and in the same way.
Lots of criticisms of the Indian culture come out of the modern interpretations of the aashram and Varna systems by intellectuals. The critics are of the opinion that the systems encourage the cultivation of social discrimination, evading responsibilities and encouraging castes. This has however met the objection from various quarters that have rallied their support for the systems. There has been a clarification on this interpretation in effect that the varnas have nothing to do with the background of the individual person but for the general character of a person such that true Brahmanism is not a reserve of a chosen few (Magazine of All World Gayatri Pariwar2003). The Indians in being true to their culture do not take flight from the world or responsibilities. In fact one is able to expand his interests and avoid selfish attachments. This implies that the systems can undergo modification such that they not only have relevance in the modern life but be able to enhance the creativity, knowledge and skills of the individual.
There is also emphasis on the on the maintenance of the health of the body, mind and spirit. The Indian personality is enabled to grow and develop when one observes Brahmacharya aashrama. There is also a provision for the Indian to be able to live happily in a married life. This comes through the practice of the self-restraint, hard work and endurance. The partners in a marriage relationship enjoy the unconditional love and the unfailing cooperation with each other. This ensures the stability of the family that will in turn lead to a stable society which will eventually translate to a better nation and world. The Indian who observes the tradition and culture is therefore privileged to uplift his spirit and personality; at the same time have the exceptional opportunity to love and fulfill his or her duties in the world.
Business in India
The society of the Indians is closely connected to the culture of the people. This also applies to some of the cultural practices that have been outlawed by the government. The Indian society still works under the framework of individuals’ roles and status even as the caste system was long banished by the State. This manifestation is quite apparent in the in the manner in which major decisions are made in business. In no case will the decision be made with the junior officer. The final decision is always the reserve of the boss. Similarly the subordinates always observe much respect for the boss. This is done practically by standing up when the boss shows up in the room. As much as the locals see this practice as normal, a foreigners might find the custom quite out of place. It is however appropriate for one to rise just to be on the safe side.
There has been a new development in India whereby women are venturing into business and taking on the top executive positions. The women are respected by the colleagues but most people are courteous and less comfortable making business deals with women. India just like many other developing countries is still battling with the gender issue. This means that for a woman to gain the confidence to work and carryout business deals with the locals then she has to make extra effort to win the trust and confidence of the men.
In the meetings the locals use namaste as a greeting. The namaste is a greeting whereby one bows the head slightly with palms held together at the chest. Foreigners that do business in the country are however expected to use handshakes in exchanging greetings. In addressing someone one has to be cautious and ensure the use of titles. The Indians are so sensitive to formal titles such that one must always be addressed with the appropriate title. Names on the other hand have a connection with the background of the Indians. It is therefore easy to determine the caste of a person by simply getting to know their names.
Relationships and trust are vital for anyone interested to do business in India. The locals are quite aware of this and maintain a high level of professionalism. This seems to be the primary way to gain the trust of a client. The persons are also sure to portray high integrity and respect. Without these qualities it becomes difficult to establish rapport and to effectively do business with the Indians.
On attending the meetings one has to observe punctuality. Ironically majority of the Indians are most complacent about time considering it as secondary to the main business to be discussed. The senior most people in the room are greeted first before any other person. The meeting normally do not commence but after the participants have observed short conversations on a number of topics which are normally to do with sports, films or politics. In sports most Indians prefer to a discussion on cricket which has a fanatical following in India such that it is synonymous to a religion. The cricketers are revered by the nation and accorded celebrity status. Apart from sports one can discuss the latest films. India boasts of over 13,000 movie theatres. With the advent of Bolyhood, Indians want to keep abreast with the latest movies.
There are topics to be avoided in conversations. Even as the Indians are known to exhibit tolerance with the various religious beliefs, there are sentiments that have emerged lately. This makes discussion on religious beliefs a contentious issue. However an honest inquiry on a particular religious practice is always met with a willing response from the locals. This is especially so considering that one is a foreigner. Another topic to avoid is the discussion of the economic status of the country. There should be no mention of the poverty of the people. This criticism is not always taken in good light.
In India business negotiations normally take a long time to materialize. In most cases the time is spend to build the trust between the persons intending to do business together. In the government departments the process is even more stressful. There are lots of difficulties in dealing with the government officials due to bureaucracy. The officials have a tendency to get appointment rescheduled or one would encounter delays before finally meeting with the person. This means that one has to exercise a high degree of patience if he will have anything done.
As much as one may intend to be punctual in meeting a person there are inconveniencies likely to be encountered on the roads. This means that in order to reach at the meeting place on time then one has to leave earlier enough. The roads are crowded with people and traffic hence more time than expected is likely to be consumed on the way. Similarly the cities have the buildings numbered in a quite confusing way. It is therefore quite difficult to get the address of a specific place.
Majority of the Indians go for the vacations between the months of April and June. These months, in addition to December and January, are the summer seasons hence the most favorite. These vacations are normally taken during the many holidays that are in the country’s calendar. Some of the holidays are in alignment with the western calendar. These include Independence Day and Christmas day. The other holidays which are religious in nature observe lunar calendar. Nevertheless there are many more celebrations and festivals that are characteristic of the different regions of the country.
The majority of the businesses are privately owned by individuals and some prominent families. These private businesses are managed more effectively by the members of the family in comparison with the government owned corporations that are characterized by inefficiency and bureaucracy. In dealing with the private companies one should expect better service compared to the government. But this seems to be worldwide trend, even in the United States. Though it is rated as one of the best in the world the service delivery is poor.
United States Culture and Business
The working populations of the United States are increasingly being concentrated in the information technology sector. There is a tendency by the majority of Americans to work extra hard in order to realize the elusive American dream. This dream is fashioned around the idea that hard work brings success and prosperity to the individual. It is courtesy of the American dream that people continue to migrate from various corners of the world to the US. However the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen as some people become successful as the others languish in poverty.
The employee in the United States is offered ample protection by the government. The employers are forced to squander lots of resources to ensure there is compliance with the laws safeguarding the rights of the employee. The most notables are the affirmative action and the various discriminatory policies at the work place. These laws are to ensure that no one is discriminated in the work place because of religion, race, gender or age.
In making appointments in the United States there must be prior arrangements to be made. In a week people work from Monday to Friday as from 8.30 or 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 or 6.00 p.m. There is a tendency by most people to work for more hours. It is common for business partner to invite each other for a meal or cocktail party. In case of the former one has to be on time. This is however different in the case of a cocktail party. In parties are quiet permissive hence one can arrive several minutes late without the pressure to offer an apology.
It is acceptable in the first meeting for one to be conservative in dressing. Suits are preferred for the initial meetings. The person will however get the cue from the counterparts or if absolutely unsure how to dress he might as well make an inquiry from the relevant authorities. The dress code is however not homogeneous across the country. Business suits are favored in the east whereas most workplaces in the west are in favor of a more casual dressing.
Women on the other hand wear dresses or business suits. It is important, as some people have argued, for women to dress formally so that they are taken more seriously by the men. Nevertheless there is no hostility for those women who prefer pantsuits. Casual outfit for both men and women is preferred when not working. These include items such as jeans, shorts, t-shirts etc.
English is used in almost all the business conversations. There is however the use of Spanish by a small percentage of the Americans. As most of Americans speak only one language it becomes quiet difficult to empathize with the foreigners that are trying to learn the language. This means that the foreigners have to put much effort in the learning of the language to avoid embarrassment.
Starting conversations normally begin with the show of interest in what the person does for a living. Alternatively, one can give a compliment on the item worn by another. A sense of humor is welcome by almost all Americans. However as much as the jokes are entertained by almost all Americans it should not extend to religious or ethnic backgrounds as this is likely to offend most people. The conversation with a stranger can also centre on sports most notably football and baseball. Soccer is becoming a favorite to the people and so it is a welcome topic. Another sport that is common with business people is golf. This sport has the advantage of giving the players a chance to play and discuss business at the same time.
There are some topics to be avoided at all times especially when conversing with someone whom one is not well known to. Controversial topics and subjects such as racism, politics or abortion should be avoided. It is also offensive for one to inquire on the marital status of a woman. Unless the woman volunteers to give the information themselves; such questions should be avoided completely. Titles are important and one should be sure he knows the right manner of address to people. There seem to be no problem with the friends that one is familiar with. But other persons should be addressed with their last names not unless they prefer otherwise. Most Americans use first names which emphasizes the casual style of business. This is very much opposed to a show of intimacy.
The titles of persons are used when addressing them while in the office. These include “Dr.”, “Mr.” or “Mrs.” together with the last name (Berardo 2009). Outside the office most American will not mind being addressed with the first name. There are times when nicknames are tolerated by those in authority. The persons that are close to you should be made aware of the preferred name and pronunciation. This means one ought to be careful of the pronunciations of the names of other people and feel free to ask in case a particular name sounds difficult to pronounce.
The Americans have a tendency to compete in almost all activities including leisure. Time, especially in business is valued by the business people. It is common for businesspeople to make decisions swiftly and in a straight forward manner. Fundamentally money is the driving force of almost all issues including arguments. Factors such as honor play a very minor role in the in trying to gain influence among the people. The communication between the businesspeople is therefore direct and to the point. One will not hesitate to say “no” whenever the situation calls for it.
The risk appetite of the American people is huge such that they are always seen to take chances. There are therefore impatient of stalled negotiations or interludes of silence in negotiations. In such situations there is always the temptation to get something done. This behavior has been found to be unpopular with some foreign businessmen that the Americans deal with.
The life of Americans is centered on work. The Americans are consistent and persistent such that they are able to achieve the best results not only in the present moment but also in the future (Masselos 1990). This obsession with the future has made them non conformist always open minded and ready to embrace innovations. Professionalism is highly valued in all spheres of life. There are experts in almost anything that the mind can conceive. These experts are respected for the particular kind of work that they are doing. Ironically the Americans are less open to information from the Diaspora.
There is much emphasis on equality among the various ethnic groups and persons. Even as this is provided in the law the minorities still experience biases in the day to day life. There has been some progress in ensuring that all people are given equal opportunity to serve in various capacities in the work place. It is therefore common to meet men and women from different races and ethnic background working in harmony.
United States Businesses in India
Before an American ventures to do business in India, there must be an understanding of the culture of the people of India which is different from that of Americans (Vedwan 2007). One of the major differences that the American will find hard to cope with is the little regard that the Indians have for time. The American firms might find it quite a challenge to be patient with the slow moving pace of the negotiations. Similarly the tendency of the Indians to avoid direct talk for whatever reason will obviously clash with the American straight forward manner of dealing with issues. This means that the two parties have to be well oriented on the culture of each other such that disagreements do not arise.
The similarities have to be noted too. In view of the discussion, most of the American businesses are likely to flourish in India since the conditions are quite favorable (Sivaramakrishnan and Gidwani 2003). There are a few adjustments relating to the code of conduct but since the world is fast becoming a global village and the Indians are more than willing to embrace the western culture; there seem to be no major obstacle to any business intending to invest in India. The caste system that is outlawed in India is no different from the discrimination that is characteristic of the US. Even as the two countries struggle to eliminate these ugly features in the society, there still persist the manifestations.
In addition with the global economic and financial crisis one can never know where the winds of fortune are blowing. It is apparent to the economists that the Asian tigers are determined to take on the control of the economy. If it is not for military strength then the countries are certain to emerge as the major economies in the world.
At the moment despite the global financial crisis the two economies i.e. China and India have continued to record growth in there GDP. These countries are not so rich more so India hence there is more than enough opportunity for foreigners to invest in their market (Chakravorty 2000). The government of India is already trying to encourage foreign investors in the domestic market. These kinds of investment will not only benefit the investors but also the people of India most of whom suffer from abject poverty.
The old proverb that if you cannot beat them you join them can serve as a good reminder to the western countries and the United States government in particular. No effort should be spared to meet the end.
There are minor differences between the way of life in the cities of India and those of the United States. These differences are brought about due to the different cultural backgrounds of the two nations. The differences continue to be eroded as people come together, interact and do business.
The culture of a people however cannot be eroded in total; a reason for the Americans to endeavor to learn some of the ways and culture of the Indian people. There should also be an effort to preserve the cultures of the people as the businesses are carried out in that particular country.
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