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About India

by: Hofstede Insights
Currency:  Indian Rupee                                       
Capital: New Delhi                                               
Time Zone:  Indian Time Zone UTC+05:30

In this profile our experts have compiled the most important information for you to start doing business in India. The country profiles are meant as a general introduction and are linked to other documents from the platform that go much more into the details of each culture.


India scores high on Power Distance 77, indicating an appreciation for hierarchy and a top-down structure in society and organizations (see more on: implication of high power distance for businesses).
India, with a rather intermediate score of 48 on IDV, is a society with both collectivistic and individualistic traits.
India scores 56 on the MAS dimension and is thus considered a Masculine society.
India scores 40 on UAI and thus has a medium low preference for avoiding uncertainty. In India, there is acceptance of imperfection.
With an intermediate score of 51 on LTO, a dominant preference in Indian culture cannot be determined
India scores low of 26 on IVR, meaning that it is a culture of restraint
Need a refresher on what each of the dimensions mean?

Some cornerstones of Indian culture

Indian culture is pragmatic yet spiritual, religious rituals are commonly observed. The main religion in India is Hinduism (81% of the population). Business is not conducted on the numerous religious holidays.  India’s innumerable festivals and traditions are perfect occasions for the mutual exchange of gifts: an established custom since ancient times.
The most famous festivals and events are  Pongal (January), Sankranthi (January), Holi (March),  Onam (August), Rakhi (August), Ganesh Chaturthi (August),  Dussera (September), Diwali (October), Eid (November). It is important to be familiar with these events and to anticipate them. Dates for the holidays change from year to year. Verify this information with the Indian Tourist Office or Embassy before scheduling your visit.
Here are guidelines to assist you in deciding how to behave in a fairly wide range of situations when among Indian acquaintances:

When in India

  • Maintain a calm composure.
  • Formal but hospitable welcome.
  • Show respect.
  • Use professional titles such as «Professor» and «Doctor» or courtesy titles like «Mr.», «Mrs.», or «Miss.»
  • Starting a discussion with small talk on unrelated issues is seen as a way of building trust.
  • Always present your business card.
  • Do not touch items with your mouth (e.g. a pen), it will be considered impure.
  • Do not misinterpret: when an Indian wobbles his head from side to side, it is to show agreement or acknowledgment of what you are saying - but this does not always means he is saying "yes". 

Good to know

  • Request appointments by letter about two months before arriving in India, remember to always reconfirm the appointment a week ahead.
  • The best time of the year to visit India is between October and March.
  • Aim for those in the highest position of authority when establishing business contact.
  • Status is determined by a person’s age, university degree(s), caste, profession and symbols of wealth.
  • Interpersonal skills such as the ability to form friendships are also considered very important.
  • Business in rural India is often family oriented, so you may negotiate with the siblings.

Body Language

  • The Indian headshake is a head wobble from side to side and means that the person acknowledges that you are talking to them. The facial expressions accompanying the head wobble are usually indicative of the true meaning of the gesture - a smile and head wobble means agreement, a frown and head wobble means uncertainty. The faster the wobble, the greater the enthusiasm of the person to what you are saying. When in doubt, reconfirm with the person that he has agreed to the proposition by asking open ended questions.
  • Greet your male counterpart with a handshake.
  • Let female counterparts make the first move.
  • Greet with a “Namaste” in rural India and a “Namaste” or handshake in urban India.
  • Accept EVERYTHING with the right hand since the left hand is considered impure.
  • Do not wink or whistle (as it could be understand as sexual advances).

Dress code

  • Men are not required to wear a suit and tie always. Smart casuals are acceptable in urban India whereas in rural India, Indian formal attire (kurta) would be appreciated.
  • Business Women should wear conservative dresses or pantsuits.
  • Dresses should not reveal too much of the legs.
  • Pants for women are also acceptable.
Keywords to describe Indian culture:
Fast Changing/ Tolerance/ Diversity/ Status/ Prosperity/ Relationships/ Improvisation


Doing business in India can be challenging, here you can find practical advice on what one should or should not do.

The expert recommends

  • If you are the boss, your presence is important so that the negotiations can take place at the top level. A subordinate will only be able to meet with a subordinate.
  • With access to the senior contact, you may need only to exchange pleasantries while your assistants concern themselves with the details. Allow your Indian counterpart to do the talking at this stage.
  • Deal with multiple businesses from different castes. You will get more realistic prices.
  • Bring a small gift of chocolate when invited to an Indian’s home for dinner.
  • Do not wrap gifts in black and white, use green, red, and yellow.
  • Do obtain good legal and tax advice before proceeding with negotiations.
  • Do not appear too “legalistic” but try to remain flexible.
  • Even the slightest physical altercation is unacceptable, and it will be in your best interest to mask any hostile feelings with a smile.
  • Do not say “no”. It is more acceptable to give a vague and noncommittal answer such as «I will try» or «We will see» rather than «No, I cannot».
  • Do not publicly display affection towards someone of the opposite sex.
  • Do not greet people with hugs or kisses.
  • Aim for punctuality. Indians appreciate it even if they do not always practice it themselves.
  • Keep your schedule flexible enough for last-minute rescheduling of meetings.
  • Whenever you are convinced that you are right, insist that whoever objects accepts in writing the full responsibility for the consequences of not following your instructions.



Power Distance

India scores high on this dimension, 77, indicating an appreciation for hierarchy and a top-down structure in society and organizations. If one were to encapsulate the Indian attitude, one could use the following words and phrases: dependent on the boss or the power holder for direction, acceptance of unequal rights between the power-privileged and those who are lower down in the pecking order, immediate superiors accessible but one layer above less so, paternalistic leader, management directs, gives reason/meaning to one’s work life and rewards in exchange for loyalty from employees.


India, with a rather intermediate score of 48, is a society with both collectivistic and Individualistic traits. The collectivist side means that there is a high preference for belonging to a larger social framework in which individuals are expected to act in accordance with the greater good of one’s defined in-group(s).
The individualist aspect of Indian society is seen as a result of its dominant religion/philosophy - Hinduism. The Hindus believe in a cycle of death and rebirth, with the manner of each rebirth being dependent upon how the individual lived the preceding life. People are, therefore, individually responsible for the way they lead their lives and the impact it will have upon their rebirth.


India scores 56 on this dimension and is thus considered a Masculine society. India is actually very masculine in terms of visual display of success and power. However, India is also a very spiritual country. This often reigns in people from indulging in masculine displays to the extent that they might be naturally inclined to.

Uncertainty Avoidance

India scores 40 on this dimension and thus has a medium low preference for avoiding uncertainty. In India, there is acceptance of imperfection; nothing has to be perfect nor has to go exactly as planned. India is traditionally a patient country where tolerance for the unexpected is high, even welcomed as a break from monotony.

Long Term Orientation

With an intermediate score of 51 in this dimension, a dominant preference in Indian culture cannot be determined. In India the concept of “karma” dominates religious and philosophical thought. Time is not linear, and thus is not as important as to Western societies which typically score low on this dimension.


India receives a low score of 26 in this dimension, meaning that it is a culture of restraint. Restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires.
For a more detailed analysis on the Cultural Dimensions, and how India compares to other countries, please visit Hofstede Insights’ Country Comparison tool.


Watch the adventures of
Theo Paphitis follows the fortunes of brave and bold British companies trying to expand in three of the world's most dynamic emerging markets - India, Brazil and Vietnam. Most of what happened to them could have been avoided with careful planning and cultural advising.
It is worth watching because they failed and have made mistakes that you can learn from. They have learned valuable lessons that are valuable for any company wishing to go to India.