How to start a business in India?

Taj Mahal – India

Are you one of many Canadian graduates who wants to start a new business in India? If the answer is YES, you are in the right place. 

First, India is a really good destination because this country represents many good opportunities in terms of business. It is one of highest growing rate economies in the world and it is open to international investment. Indeed, the growth rate in India is up to 7% in 2018, which is even bigger than China.

Moreover, if you are a Canadian the language barrier will not be a problem. This is because most people speak English fluently thanks to its British heritage (such as Canada). 

Differences between Canada and India 

Unlike Canada, which is one of the developed countries, India is still developing its infrastructure and economy. In 2018 for example, Canada was ranked at 0.926 (population of 37 million) on the Human Development Index and India only 0.64 (polulation of 1,4 billion).

Additionally, people in India focus on the needs of the group rather than those of the individual. These are some of the differences between Canada and India. This means that business tasks tend to be done in a group instead of individually. The welcoming nature of group behaviour helps with the integration of foreign people into the country. 

What is really important to start a business in India? 

First you will quickly notice that one of the keys to succeed in your business depends on your relationships with local partners. Indeed, long-distance relationships in India are not easy to maintain. It is therefore essential for you to have one or more partners in India who will accompany you during each step of your business project.

In addition, you should be prepared to the working hours which around 60 hours a week, instead of 40 hours a week in Canada. Indeed, in India people start to work around 9 am until 8 pm. In most companies, people work also the first and the third Saturday of the month. 

For women, it can be a bit complicated at the beginning. Women in India are not allowed to work by night (except if they work in information technology or medical services). 

Another important point you should know before starting a meeting: Indians consider as an offense to say “no”. When you are not understood, your Indian interlocutors will systematically say “yes” to you with a horizontal nod. It will be necessary to repeat and reformulate to make you understand. Also keep up to date on the progression of tasks.

An important place dedicated to private life and religion 

At work, Indian people give a big importance of sharing their own personal details. In fact, when you will meet your first Indian partners, don’t be afraid if they ask about yourself. They mainly talk about personal situation such being married, having children, … but also about religion.  

In India, marriage and religion are at the heart of discussions, particularly to create a climate of trust in business. However, in Canada, the marriage rate decreases each year (around 60%). Canadian people tend to focus only on business aspects at their place of work. 

Be aware that some business meetings will be postponed or even cancelled due to religious events. Indians are deeply religious : their religion comes before work. Please be understanding about unavailability during major religious holidays. The main religions in India are Hinduism (80%), Islam (14%) and Christianity (2%), followed by Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

If you need more information about India, and also about the market, see more here :