A Guide to Business Negotiation in India   


Indians develop their negotiating and bargaining chops early on. They negotiate for themselves and their families while shopping for everything from groceries, to clothes to vegetables. Inventor of Hotmail, Indian entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia made history by securing the sale of his company to Microsoft to $400 million in 1997, an unheard-of sum in those days. The single negotiator on the sale, Sabeer Bhatia had to have nerves of steel in not giving in to the temptation to sell for a lower, still enormously lucrative price. In an interview to Wired Magazine, Sabeer Bhatia credits his success to the lessons he gained while watching family members negotiate with vegetable vendors and shopkeepers in India, where bargaining for the best price was the ultimate win.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind while entering business negotiations with an Indian player.

Be Patient

Just as anywhere else, convincing the other party will involve using competition analysis, offering attractive rates or discounts and building persuasive arguments to ensure that the deal is favourable to all stakeholders. However, Indians, in general, may not be receptive to overt displays of aggression while closing a deal. A purely rational approach that focuses on short term gains or on the bottom line may also not be appreciated. Do not rush to arrive at the final terms and conditions of an offer, and do not feel frustrated if you perceive that talks are proceeding at a glacial pace. Keeping the big picture in mind and working to create a long-term relationship is ideal to success. It is also important to ensure that you are speaking with the key decision maker so that you know that the person at the other end is empowered, willing and able to take the final call on proceedings.

Read between the Lines

Indians tend to be circumspect when offering an opinion. So, it is important to read between the lines, and gauge whether the other party is backing off from the deal, buying more time, or politely turning down your offer without saying an explicit ‘no’.

Being patient and observant, is therefore, always a good strategy. However tempting it may be to seek clarity, it is not a good idea to pressure individuals to commit. This may prompt Indians at the negotiating table to tell you what they think you want to hear, without any real intention of following through. A classic example is if a candidate accepts your offer for a job, but later emails to decline or does not show up at work the first day, it maybe because they found it too uncomfortable to say no in person, or that they shopped around in the interim and found a better offer. It is far better therefore make an offer or suggest a particular scenario and check back in a day or two, so they have had time to analyse and think over your proposition before the sign on the dotted line.

Contact Arsha Consulting for more such advice on navigating work culture or business communication in India.

Related article: Lessons from the field: Building Trust is Key to Negotiating in India

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