Working in Mumbai?
Working in Mumbai
At a Glance:
Mumbai is India’s financial and entertainment center, and offices of big global names can be found here.
Be prepared for a more laid-back approach to work — especially with what counts as “on time” in an Indian office.
Check if your country has a double taxation agreement with India to make sure you’re paying fair amounts of tax.
India’s social security schemes aim to cover as much of the country as possible, though expats usually organize private health insurance through their work.
The urban economy of Mumbai generates about 6% of India’s GDP and 40% of the country’s foreign trade. Commonly referred to as the commercial and entertainment capital of India, it is the seat of some important financial institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, and the Bombay as well as National Stock Exchange. Several multinational corporations are also based there. Mumbai is the richest city in India and has the largest number of billionaires. The GDP per capita of Mumbai is around three and a half times as high as the national average.
Employment Opportunities — Can You Handle the Competition?
Competition for jobs is fierce among employees working in Mumbai, resulting in longer working hours and a more westernized style of business than in other parts of the country. Government workers and public-sector employees make up a big share of Mumbai’s active population, but so do semi-skilled or even unskilled self-employed workers. Apart from taxi and auto rickshaw drivers, the notorious dabbawallas working in Mumbai — delivering lunch boxes to office workers with incredible efficiency — are some of Mumbai’s unskilled workforce.
Aside from commercial trade, logistics, healthcare, and IT, the media is a big employer in Mumbai — home of the “Bollywood” film industry, producing over 1,000 films per year. Plenty of advertising agencies and numerous television production companies are also located in the city, providing jobs to thousands of Mumbaikars and expats alike.
Business Cards at the Ready
The style of doing business in Mumbai has been slightly westernized. The increased presence of foreign companies means large numbers of expats working in Mumbai, bringing their own style and pace of business to India. However, there are major differences between business cultures, so expats should be aware of some general practices before they start working abroad.
With its structure still rooted in the traditional Hindi caste system, Indian society is more hierarchical than what many Westerners working in Mumbai may be used to. This influences how people interact with their co-workers, and how bosses and employees deal with each other.
In an office environment, for example, menial tasks such as moving tables and chairs are rarely done by the regular office staff. Indian companies employ “runners” for this kind of work.
Expatriates from countries with a very casual workplace culture should note that the correct way of addressing business associates is by their title and surname rather than first name. Before you begin to use somebody’s first name, always wait for them to offer first.
You should always carry plenty of business cards with you. Failing to hand out your business card at a meeting in Mumbai might be considered impolite.
Creating and Maintaining Professional Relationships
Business gifts may be exchanged, but not necessarily at the first meeting. They should not be expensive and are rarely unwrapped in the presence of the giver. Avoid causing embarrassment by ensuring your gifts don’t contain alcohol, meat, or leather products if you are unsure about your associates’ religious beliefs. Establishing good professional and personal relationships with your contacts is essential to successfully work in Mumbai.
Don’t cause affront by being too straightforward. The word “no” is rarely used, even in a private context — “I’ll see what I can do” or “I have to double-check this” are often used instead. You’ll get the most positive responses by being more friendly than firm.
Patience and good will are more likely to win you respect in Mumbai than openly confrontational behavior — most importantly, never show anger, even if you feel it. Indian businesspeople often don’t commit to anything at the first meeting. Bargaining negotiations are acceptable, so expect to meet a few times before any agreement is made.
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