Indians appreciate punctuality and keeping one’s commitments. However, many visitors to India find it very disconcerting that often Indians themselves are quite casual in keeping their time commitments. One of the reasons for this is that in the Indian mind, time is generally not considered as the objective yardstick for planning and scheduling one’s activities. Rather, for most Indians, the plans and schedules are contingent on other people and events, and therefore can–and do–get changed.
It is advisable to schedule your appointment at least a couple of months in advance. If you are making your appointments before coming to India, do emphasize that you will be in India for a short period of time, if this is the case. It is also useful to reconfirm your meeting a few days before the agreed upon date.
Though not essential, it often helps in getting an appointment if you have an Indian contact.
There is a distinct difference in the cultures of the government departments and business organisations. Compared to a business organisation, it is normally more difficult to get an appointment with officials in a government department. Also, in the government departments, there is a greater likelihood that your appointment may be rescheduled or that you may be kept waiting for as many as several hours before you actually meet the person.
Do be prepared for last minute changes in the time and place of your meeting. It is useful to leave your contact details with the secretary of the person, so that, in case there are changes, you can be informed.
It is advisable to make the effort to be early in order to keep your appointment. In most Indian cities, the roads are quite crowded, and during high-traffic hours, it can take you a long time to reach your destination.
Indian addresses can be confusing. This is so because the pattern of numbering the buildings varies across different places, even in the same city. This is further complicated by the fact that during the last few years, in many cities, the streets have been renamed. To avoid getting lost, it is useful to check ‘how to reach there’ from your contact.
Normal office hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. However, in some large cities [e.g., Mumbai], some places of business start working earlier to avoid congested traffic while commuting. Increasingly, among the business organisations, there is also a trend towards a longer working day, which can start as early as 7:30 a.m. and last till 8:00 p.m.
Normally, lunch is for one hour, between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.
In recent years, there is a trend towards luncheon meetings and ‘power breakfasts’, which are often the times when business is discussed.
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