India is one of the most heterogeneous countries on the planet. If you can fit in India you can fit in any other parts of the world.  India is a large country with a huge intra-national diversity among the basic building blocks of its culture e.g., language, religion, history and geographical distribution. Because of these diversities it is somehow difficult for an outsider to comprehend the Indian culture in the beginning. However, this understanding is of great importance for Westerners since the buzz around Indian economy is increasing and India is hoped to be the next engine of the world economy.  Dr. Shaidul Kazi is enhancing this intriguing complexity in this week’s guest post.

It is religion which influences everything in India; from daily life to politics. The current prime minister of India is a strict practitioner of Hinduism and his ruling party BJP has an inseparable link to the religion Hinduism. In addition, the religion of Hinduism and its caste system influences every spheres of daily life in India. Although the Indian constitution does not acknowledge the segregation of anyone based on the caste system, in reality the segregation is easily visible. One may change the text easily, but may not change the deep-rooted norms and values of the society as easily.  

In India, due to the caste system, occupational mobility is difficult, but not impossible. The German sociologist Max Weber has described Hinduism as opposed to capitalist development, as Hinduism does not permit individuals to choose their occupation freely. This might be one reason why post-independence India chose a socialist economic model, which ended with the economic reforms of 1991. However, India is still many ways lenient to its past socialist model.

The past socialist model has given birth of a corrupt bureaucracy and a dishonest political regime in India which are obstructing economic development severely. According to some reports, by curbing its corruption India may increase its economic growth by at least 2% per cent per year. Corruption does not only impede economic growth, it also obstructs general people from receiving government services; rich can bribe and get service but poor people do not have the ability to bribe. Thereby, poor people deprive from receiving government services. In doing business in India, bribe may be instrumental for getting things done easily and on time.

Income-, opportunity- and wealth distribution are highly unequal in India which creates a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The monthly salary of unskilled and semi-skilled workers is very low which ranges from 100€-200€ a month. This low salary gives a comparative advantage to European and the North American companies to transfer their labor intensive production activities to India in the form of FDI. According to many economists, these foreign investments may lead the Indian economy to become the third largest world economies by the year 2030.

The society is very conservative, and for example men and women do not mingle in the public places and women are advised not to walk around alone in night while in India. However, there are a lot of female business executives, politicians and human right activists in India. For a European female business executive, doing business in India should not be any challenge. In addition, Indians are very expert in hospitality and they are welcoming people. English is widely used and Westerners are highly regarded.

Remember that in India business success strongly depends upon your relationship with the Indian counterpart. Consequently, one needs to make a friend before one can make a deal. Moreover, one needs to know the local do’s and don’ts of relationship building. Because of this relationship building, doing business may be time-consuming matter in India. However, once the relationship has been built, things may go very smoothly and the relationship can become a life-long friendship.

India is one of the most heterogeneous countries on the planet. People differ in India based on religion, caste, color, organizational position and wealth accumulation – these all create a status system. Each person has his/her own status; some belong to upper status and others are at the lower status – there are also people having no status at all. This underlines the importance of understanding the ”million truths about India”. 

Dr. Shaidul Kazi,

Lead Consultancy International

(Photo: Toni Vikstedt)