Working in India

India’s fast-growing economy means there’s a high demand for skilled expats in its cities. There are particularly good opportunities if you have experience in areas such as IT, financial services, pharmaceutical research, manufacturing, aviation and telecommunications.

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Doing business

Many multinationals flock to India in search of growth in its burgeoning market. As with any emerging market, doing business here comes with its share of risks and challenges.

Government bureaucracy and poor infrastructure are major obstacles, along with enforcing contracts and paying taxes.

While economic expansion has slowed over the past few years, the future remains bright and businesses continue to invest in the country. Industries that are flourishing include outsourcing, telecommunications, construction, education and retail.

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Business culture

Indian businesspeople are tolerant of expats, and you’ll gain favour if you make an effort to understand their business culture.

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Work ethic

Indians appreciate a hard-working attitude. You don’t have to work more than 48 hours a week, but you’ll earn respect if you show commitment by not objecting to long hours.


Business dealings and decisions are based on trust, so building good personal relationships with business partners is important. Ask colleagues about their families and interests and spend time with them outside work. You can be relaxed with your peers, but you should behave more formally around senior managers. Avoid expressing anger as this will damage a relationship.


Although many meetings start late, punctuality is still important. Exchange business cards at the start and greet your colleagues with a handshake, beginning with the most senior person.

Management style

Most Indian organisations are run from the top down and stick to a rigid hierarchy. A legacy of the caste system, status is highly valued, so be deferential and courteous to your boss and don’t expect them to engage in small talk.

Communication style

Indians prefer to give bad news in an indirect way, and you may have to read between the lines to understand what they’re trying to say.


In India, objectives are achieved by adapting and improvising rather than by implementing carefully constructed plans. While you may prefer to factor in known variables and have contingencies for every scenario, Indians place greater emphasis on flexibility.

Fast facts

Business hours

Usually between 9am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday, although most Indians don’t leave before their supervisor. A five-day working week is becoming more common, and hours are often adjusted to suit international business partners.


You can greet business associates by shaking hands, but only use your right hand because the left hand is considered unclean. This also applies to exchanging money and gifts. Men must wait for women to initiate a greeting – give a slight nod of the head if you’re unsure.


Suits are the norm for male executives, while smart casual is fine for mid-managers. Junior workers can be more casual. Men should avoid wearing short-sleeved shirts to work. Women usually choose trouser suits or knee-length skirts.


Gifts shouldn’t be expensive. Accept them with both hands, and wait to open them in private.

Gender equality

While women in senior positions are respected and treated as equals, they remain under-represented in the workplace.

Expat salaries

India is home to the second largest percentage of high-earning expats in the world. In general, salaries go further, and expats enjoy a higher standard of living than they did back home.

I've experienced a very enjoyable life experience that has also enhanced my career prospects and personal wealth.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in October 2020. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

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