India: Gift Giving


Selecting and presenting an appropriate business gift

Gift giving is customary in India, and is seen as a sign of friendship. However, it is generally not expected at the first meeting.

It is advisable not to give expensive gifts, unless you are very close to the person. Normally, large and expensive gifts are given only by family friends and close relatives–and for specific family occasions, such as a wedding. Since Indians try to reciprocate a gift, if it is too expensive, it can cause embarrassment for the recipient.

Use red, yellow, green or blue coloured wrapping paper. White and black colors are considered inauspicious.

Normally, gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver. However, sometimes your Indian host may insist on your opening the gift, and would expect appreciation for his/her choice.

If you are invited to an Indian’s home for dinner, you must take some kind of gift, such as a box of chocolates or flowers. If your host has children, carrying a gift for the child [a toy or a book] is also appreciated.

If you are visiting an Indian during a festival, it is customary to carry a box of sweets.

If you are giving money as a gift, do remember that 11, 51, 101, 501, etc. are considered auspicious numbers. Your gift would be more appreciated if it is in these denominations.

Before the opening up of the Indian economy, many foreign products were not available in India, and would have made a good gift. However, now most foreign-made products are accessible to Indians, and have, consequently, lost their value as a gift. However, Indians do appreciate a gift which is representative of your, or a specific, culture [e.g., Dutch wooden shoes/clogs, a Swiss knife, French perfume, etc.].

If you have worked or lived with Indians, a framed photograph with them as a gift would be viewed as a warm and friendly gesture.

Different flowers have different connotations across India. If you are planning to give flowers, do check with the florist as to what would be appropriate. A bouquet of roses, however, is the safest choice across the country.

Drinking alcohol is culturally not accepted in most parts of India. Many Indians do not drink at home. However, if your host drinks and keeps drinks at home, a bottle of scotch whisky or wine will be appreciated.

Be cautious in giving a leather item as a gift. Since many Hindus are vegetarians, they may not appreciate items made of leather.

A jewelry item is considered an intimate gift, and would be viewed as inappropriate if given by a man to an Indian woman. It is acceptable if the jewelry is given as a gift by a woman; however, gold jewelry is normally exchanged/given only among family and relatives.

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