Doing Business In India

  1. India is ranked 132nd out of 185 economies in Doing Business 2013, with no change in overall ranking from last year.
  2. According to the latest Enterprise Surveys (2006), Electricity, Tax Rates and Corruption represent the top 3 obstacles to running a business in India.
  3. India’s restrictions on foreign equity ownership are greater than the average of the countries covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators in the South Asia region and of the BRIC (Brazil, Russian Federation, India, and China) countries. India imposes restrictions on foreign equity ownership in many sectors, and in particular in the service industries. Sectors such as railway freight transportation and forestry are dominated by public monopolies and are closed to foreign equity participation. With the exception of certain activities specified by law, foreign ownership in the agriculture sector is also not allowed.
  4. India’s economic freedom score is 54.6, making its economy the 123rd freest in the 2012 Index. Its score is unchanged from last year, with an improvement in labor freedom offset by declining scores in five other areas including business freedom, freedom from corruption, government spending, and monetary freedom. India is ranked 25th out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is below the world average.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Visas Citizens of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Indonesia are currently granted a 30-day single-entry visa on arrival at Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi airports. All other nationals – except Nepali and Bhutanese – must get a visa before arriving in India. These are available at Indian missions worldwide. Note that your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages. Entry Requirements
In 2009 a large number of foreigners were found to be working in India on tourist visas, so regulations surrounding who can get a visa and for how long have been tightened. Most people travel on the standard six-month tourist visa. Student and business visas have strict conditions (consult the Indian embassy for details). Tourist visas are valid from the date of issue, not the date you arrive in India. You can spend a total of 180 days in the country. Five- and 10-year tourist visas are available to US citizens only under a bilateral arrangement; however, you can still only stay in the country for up to 180 days continuously. Currently you are required to submit two passport photographs with your visa application; these must be in colour and must be 5.08cm by 5.08 cm (2in by 2in). An onward travel ticket is a requirement for most visas, but this isn’t always enforced (check in advance). Additional restrictions apply to travellers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain eastern European, African and central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country. Visas are priced in the local currency and may have an added service fee (contact your country’s Indian embassy for current prices). Extended visas are possible for people of Indian origin (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) who hold a non-Indian passport and live abroad. For visas lasting more than six months, you’re supposed to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO; 011-26711443;; Level 2, East Block 8, Sector 1, Rama Krishna (RK) Puram, Delhi; 9.30am-3pm Mon-Fri) in Delhi within 14 days of arriving in India; enquire about these special conditions when you apply for your visa. Re-Entry Requirements
A law barring re-entry of foreigners into India within two months of the date of their previous exit was scrapped in late 2012, allowing tourists on subcontinental or South Asian itineraries to transit freely between India and its neighbouring countries. However, the 60-day-gap law still applies to citizens of China, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sudan. Visa Extensions
India has traditionally been very stringent with visa extensions. At the time of writing, the government was granting extensions only in circumstances such as medical emergencies or theft of passport just before the applicant planned to leave the country (at the end of their visa). If you do need to extend your visa due to any such exigency, you should contact the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in Delhi. This is also the place to come for a replacement visa, and if you need your lost/stolen passport replaced (required before you can leave the country). Regional FRROs are even less likely to grant an extension. Assuming you meet the stringent criteria, the FRRO is permitted to issue an extension of 14 days (free for nationals of most countries; enquire on application). You must bring your confirmed air ticket, one passport photo (take two, just in case) and a photocopy of your passport identity and visa pages. Note that this system is designed to get you out of the country promptly with the correct official stamps, not to give you two extra weeks of travel and leisure.
Travel permits
Access to certain parts of India – particularly disputed border areas – is controlled by a complicated permit system. A permit known as an Inner-Line Permit (ILP) is required to visit northern parts of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim that lie close to the disputed border with China/Tibet. Obtaining the ILP is basically a formality, but travel agents must apply on your behalf for certain areas, including many trekking routes passing close to the border. ILPs are issued by regional magistrates and district commissioners, either directly to travellers (for free) or through travel agents (for a fee).
Entering the northeast states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram is much harder – tourists require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which must be arranged through Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) offices. Ultimate permission comes from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, which is reluctant to issue permits to foreigners – without exception, your best chance of gaining a permit is to join an organised tour and let the travel agent make all the arrangements.
Most permits officially require you to travel in a group of four (married couples are also permitted in certain areas). This is enforced in some places, not in others – travel agents may have suggestions to help solo travellers get around these restrictions. Note that you can only travel to the places listed on the permit, often by set routes, and this is hard to change after the permit is issued.
It’s not a bad idea to double-check with tourism officials to see if permit requirements have undergone any recent changes before you head out to these areas.

Business Etiquette

Relationships & Communication

Indians prefer to do business with those they know.

Relationships are built upon mutual trust and respect.

In general, Indians prefer to have long-standing personal relationships prior to doing business.

It may be a good idea to go through a third party introduction. This gives you immediate credibility.


Business Meeting Etiquette

If you will be travelling to India from abroad, it is advisable to make appointments by letter, at least one month and preferably two months in advance.

It is a good idea to confirm your appointment as they do get cancelled at short notice.

The best time for a meeting is late morning or early afternoon. Reconfirm your meeting the week before and call again that morning, since it is common for meetings to be cancelled at the last minute.

Keep your schedule flexible so that it can be adjusted for last minute rescheduling of meetings.

You should arrive at meetings on time since Indians are impressed with punctuality.

Meetings will start with a great deal of getting-to- know-you talk. In fact, it is quite possible that no business will be discussed at the first meeting.

Always send a detailed agenda in advance. Send back-up materials and charts and other data as well. This allows everyone to review and become comfortable with the material prior to the meeting.

Follow up a meeting with an overview of what was discussed and the next steps.

Business Negotiating

Indians are non-confrontational. It is rare for them to overtly disagree, although this is beginning to change in the managerial ranks.

Decisions are reached by the person with the most authority.

Decision making is a slow process.

If you lose your temper you lose face and prove you are unworthy of respect and trust.

Delays are to be expected, especially when dealing with the government.

Most Indians expect concessions in both price and terms. It is acceptable to expect concessions in return for those you grant.

Never appear overly legalistic during negotiations. In general, Indians do not trust the legal system and someone's word is sufficient to reach an agreement.

Do not disagree publicly with members of your negotiating team.

Successful negotiations are often celebrated by a meal.

Dress Etiquette

Business attire is conservative.

Men should wear dark coloured conservative business suits.

Women should dress conservatively in suits or dresses.

The weather often determines clothing. In the hotter parts of the country, dress is less formal, although dressing as suggested above for the first meeting will indicate respect.


Indians revere titles such as Professor, Doctor and Engineer.

Status is determined by age, university degree, caste and profession.

If someone does not have a professional title, use the honorific title "Sir" or "Madam".

Titles are used with the person's name or the surname, depending upon the person's name. (See Social Etiquette for more information on Indian naming conventions.)

Wait to be invited before using someone's first name without the title.

Business Cards

Business cards are exchanged after the initial handshake and greeting.

If you have a university degree or any honour, put it on your business card.

Use the right hand to give and receive business cards.

Business cards need not be translated into Hindi.

Always present your business card so the recipient may read the card as it is handed to them.

General Business Hours

Official business hours are from 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, but many offices open later and close earlier. Government offices may also open on certain Saturdays (usually the first, second and fourth of the month). Most offices have an official lunch hour from around 1pm. Shops generally open around 10am and stay open until 6pm or later; some close on Sunday. Note that curfews apply in some areas, notably Kashmir and the northeast. Airline offices generally keep to standard business hours Monday to Saturday.
Banks are open from 10am to 2pm on weekdays (till 4pm in some areas), and from 10am to noon (or 1pm) on Saturday. Exact branch hours vary from town to town so check locally. Foreign-exchange offices open longer seven days per week.
Main post offices are open from 10am to 5pm on weekdays, and till noon on Saturday. Some larger post offices have a full day on Saturday and a half-day on Sunday.
Restaurant opening hours vary regionally – you can rely on most places to be open from around 8am to 10pm. Exceptions are noted in the regional chapters.