India: Let’s Make a Deal! – Part 3

2015-06-12

The negotiating process, cont’d

Similarly, showing hospitality is part of the negotiation process. Often meetings start by offering tea/coffee and snacks. It is courteous to accept the offer.

Compared to many other cultures, relationships and feelings play a larger role in decisions in India. In general, Indians tend to take larger risks with a person whose intentions they trust. Thus, one’s credibility and trustworthiness are critical in negotiating a deal.

Indians are ‘polychronic’ people, i.e., they tend to deal with more than one task at the same time. So be prepared for some distractions/ disturbances during the meeting, e.g., a secretary walking in to get some papers signed, or the conversation sometimes digressing into unrelated topics. One must appreciate that such behaviour/occurrences do not show a lack of interest or attention.

Indians are inductive in their approach to understanding things. In the Indian psyche, reality can be understood only in its overall context. Knowing the personal, social and historical contexts [of people, events, ideas, etc.] are a precondition to comprehending them accurately. Therefore, one should be prepared for questions and enquiries, which may not seem to be directly related to the subject. To people coming from more deductive cultures, this behaviour often appears to indicate a lack of focus and digression.

PowerPoint presentations are generally accepted to start the discussion. It is necessary, however, to send a more detailed proposal in advance. Often, the details of the proposal are vetted by some middle-level executive, who will then brief the superior about them.

In general, Indians are cautious in accepting a new idea or proposal. Openness to a new idea depends not only on its quality, but also on its source and endorsement. That is, information about who else has implemented it or who has proposed it has a major influence on the decision about a new idea. In making a proposal, you must include such details accordingly.

Indians usually do not express their disagreements openly and directly; doing so would be considered discourteous. Instead, when differences arise, they may circumvent them by statements such as ‘we will discuss this later’ or ‘I will have to check with others about this.’

Bargaining for the price or additional concessions is normal in India. Indian negotiators expect and value flexibility in negotiation. Therefore, sometimes a straightforward offer may be perceived as a rigid stand. It is always advisable to build some buffers in one’s initial offer, which allow for bargaining later.

Do not insist on commitment in the first meeting. Making a decision, in Indian organizations, is often a long-drawn out process. This is not only because of the bureaucratic nature of many Indian organizations, but also because a decision may have to be ratified by people who may not be present at the negotiating table.

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