Business Card Culture & Etiquette in India

Posted on Sep 24, 2012 | 1 comment

India, officially the Republicof India, is the seventh-largest country in the world by area, and the second most populous. When in India, keep in mind that you are not dealing with a single, monolithic culture. India is a country with numerous religions, ethnic backgrounds, social castes, education levels, and regional cultural differences. As a result, the business culture varies, depending on the type of business, and is additionally impacted by the local government, geographical region as well as religion.

India’s largest and most multicultural city, Mumbai is a fairly liberal place and its business culture tends to be informal and friendly. However, traditions still persist in many areas of behavior, and it is wise to be prepared.

Bring plenty of business cards since you will be handing them out frequently, and not having enough is considered rude. The business card ritual is not as formal as in some other Asian countries, but you should always carry professional and quality cards with you. Cards can be printed locally and are inexpensive.

Greetings and business cards

In India, business cards are exchanged even in non-business situations, generally after the initial handshake and greeting. Keep in mind that religion, education, and social class all influence greetings in India. It is a hierarchical culture, so greet the eldest or most senior person first. Titles such as Mr., Mrs., or Professor and their last name are used unless the other person asks you to address them on a first-name basis. When greeting a person, mention their higher academic or other titles. Get accustomed to people calling you Sir or Madam.

Shaking hands is common, especially in the large cities among the more educated who are accustomed to dealing with westerners. Men may shake hands with other men and women may shake hands with other women; however, there are seldom handshakes between men and women, often due to religious beliefs. The important rule is that shaking a woman’s hand is at the woman’s initiative—only when an Indian woman offers her hand is it acceptable to shake it. In the absence of a handshake, the custom all over India is the greeting of peace known as Namaste. When making this greeting, hold the palms of both hands together under the chin, smile, bow slightly, and say Namaste. 

Presenting your business card 

Always present the card face-up with the text facing the recipient so they can read the text as the card is being handed to them. It is advisable to add any university degrees or honors to your card. Always present and receive cards with your right hand, since the left hand is generally considered unclean. There is no need to have your card translated into Hindi, as English is widely spoken in the Indian business community.

Format & content for the business card

The general format for business cards in India is standard and includes your complete name (first name first), professional title/specialty, phone and fax numbers, address, and e-mail. Additionally, if you are employed, include the company website address, logos and company affiliations. Your business card should include your professional and academic qualifications and titles.

Compiled by Lucia Kolaja Bordean, Program Specialist
Source: Passport Career password-protected content collected by in-country experts. Copyright 2012 by Passport Career, LLC. 


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One Comment

  1. I like the article. I would add something about the handshake… it often lingers and you should not pull away.

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