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The 411 on International Business Technology Etiquette

The first text message I received was in India. It came from a young executive from one of India’s largest privately held companies. It read, “Gr8!”.

Initially, I thought he sat on his phone. Five minutes later, I realized he was responding positively to an e-mail I had sent earlier in the day. This was in 2005, and having worked previously in the conservative legal field – I was new to business texting. On that trip to India, I also received my first text advertisement on a cell phone, and had the first opportunity to check cricket scores on my phone, too.

My colleagues in the U.S. were not using their phones nearly as creatively back then. Now I routinely do all of those things – but it was commonplace in India before it was commonplace in my circles in the U.S.

There are over 903 million cell phones in India, by 2015 that number is expected to reach 1 billion. Which is great if you’re trying to transact business in India. In a time before cell phones, LAN line communication was horrible. Back then I wasn’t concerned about what I communicated; it was more whether I could communicate.

Nowadays, with India’s growing economy and 1.2 billion population, lots of businesses are interested in communicating and selling in the Indian marketplace. And many business folks are keen to understand India’s foreign culture, customs and manners. Which is important when doing business in India because the business environment in India is relationship-oriented. And knowing the etiquette in India is a sign of respect, and respect is a key component to creating trust that can foster a strong business relationship – in India as well as many countries and cultures around the world.

I see a high level of sensitivity in America to adapting to India’s culture; recently I taught someone how to eat with his hands (one hand – the right hand – to be precise). But with the rapid use of technology globally, people aren’t as sensitized to cultural etiquette applied to its use.

For example, it’s not considered rude to answer a cell phone in the middle of a business meeting. The use of voice mail is not widespread in India, so it has become acceptable to answer the phone, identify the caller and let them know you will return the call later. I knew a businessman who became visibly upset at having this done to him multiple times during a series of presentations. He felt that after traveling over 24 hours and spending over $10,000 to make a sales pitch to a prospective client, this was offensive treatment.

Had he been sensitized to the custom before he arrived in India, when he wasn’t struggling with a 10.5 hour time difference, it may not have been such a big deal.

Just as different cultures greet, eat and talk differently – they also leverage technology differently. If you’re doing business abroad, it’s a good idea to know the etiquette of technology.

By Sheila Khatri, Esq.
President, Moti International


April 10, 2012 - Posted by | Audience Communication

1 Comment »

  1. […] The 411 on International Business Technology Etiquette … […]

    Pingback by Technology ettiquette | Abidallo | May 2, 2012 | Reply

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