Estimated at 1.2 billion, India’s population alone is enough to boggle your mind. And that’s not the only really big aspect of this Asian country. It’s big on languages, with more than 1,000 different languages spoken throughout the country. It’s big on mega-cities, with three of the world’s top 10 mega-cities within its borders: Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta.
India can also be a big destination for doing business, big or small, provided you apply for an India business visa well in advance of any scheduled meetings or plans.
The time it takes to obtain an India business visa is set at the sole discretion of the Indian Consulate. The Consulate uses the third-party office of Cox & Kings Global Services to process all visa paperwork, and processing times can change drastically and without notice. It’s not uncommon for processing to take up to 25 business days. It’s advised you secure your India business visa prior to confirming or paying for any travel arrangements.
You can, however, obtain an India business visa that’s valid for multiple entries over a one-year, five-year or 10-year period, making it easier to travel regularly to the country for business. Other business visa options include a one-time entry valid for 30 days after arrival.
You must submit a number of documents when requesting an India business visa. These include:
Valid passport with at least two blank facing visa pages: The last two pages of your passport can’t be used for visas; they are amendment pages. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your estimated date of entry into India.
India visa application: Applicants must fill out the application online, making sure you choose the appropriate Indian Consulate (known as a Mission) based on your state of residence. The application is the same for all jurisdictions, although you need to indicate your specific jurisdiction. The following Indian Missions cover the following states:
Copy of valid ID: Submit a copy of both sides of a valid state ID or driver’s license, making sure your face is clearly visible.
Passport photo: Passport photos must have you facing forward on a white background. Pictures should measure 2-inches square and be taken within the last six months. Several locations, such as drug stores, offer passport photo services that align with regulations.
Business letter of invitation from Host Company in India: The Company with which you are conducting business in India needs to provide a letter on company letterhead that includes the company address. It must be signed by management and include your Indian contact’s job position and description; description of assignment and end-purpose of visit; dates and locations of meetings; details of your requested visa and overview of any future trips. It also must outline the company’s financial and moral responsibility for the trip.
Host company documentation: A new requirement is the submission of your host company’s articles of incorporation or business license.
Business letter of intent from company in U.S.: An original letter with an original signature is required from the U.S.-based company you’re representing. It must include details surrounding your requested visa, nature and timeline of business in India, and your full name and title. Make it easier by using a company letter of intent outline online and then printing it on company letterhead.
Additional particulars form: An additional particulars form needs to be filled out online, printed, signed and submitted with your application. The form is the same for all jurisdictions, although you may need to indicate your specific jurisdiction.
Additional letter of authorization: If you’re using Swift or another third party to submit your India visa application, you need to submit a letter of authorization allowing the party to submit materials on your behalf.
Other visa processing forms: A number of other forms are often requested from the Indian Consulate on an as-needed basis. Completing and signing the online miscellaneous visa processing form allows a third party to submit additional forms with your application if requested.
India business visa checklist: Signing, dating and submitting the India business visa checklist helps ensure all required materials have been included with your application.
Swift outlines a number of helpful tips for filling out the visa application to reduce the chances of your application being rejected.
India has swooped into action over the past two decades, becoming the seventh-largest economy in the world based on gross domestic product (GDP) and third-largest based on purchasing power parity (PPP). Its growth rate has increased by about 7 percent over the past 20 years, topping China as the fastest-growing major economy since the last quarter of 2014.
The country is expected to continue its economic climb. Contributing factors include its healthy investment and savings rates, its youthful population with a low dependency ratio, and ongoing integration into the global marketplace.
The wealthiest economies in India are the states of:
Doing business in India could involve any number of different industries, from textiles to tourism, food to pharmaceuticals, steel to education and training. The service sector is huge, as are the software and technology markets.
Many American businesses employ Indian programmers, both for low-cost labor and the 24-hour business benefits. Since offices in the U.S. and India have about a 12-hour time difference, projects can be worked on around the clock, resulting in a rapid 24-hour turnaround when required or desired.
Even if your Indian host speaks perfect English and makes you feel at home, don’t expect doing business in India is the same as doing business in America. The workday generally starts later, ends later, and things tend to take a lot longer to get done. As Business Insider notes, something you think will be done in a week will likely take more like a month.
Indian business people prefer doing business with those they know, making long-term relationship building an essential business element. The first meeting is often a meet and greet, without any business being discussed. Schedule meetings far in advance, preferably by letter, and confirm before you go. Last-minute changes or cancellations are not uncommon. Respect religious holidays and map them out to avoid business during those times.
Being punctual is a must, as is dressing the part. Conservative dress is the way to go, with men wearing dark-colored suits and women wearing conservative suits or dresses.
Titles and last names are used for addressing others, only use a first name after you’ve been invited to. Indian businesses often expect concessions to be made to meet their needs; you can expect the same. Status is based on age, university degree, profession and caste, with decisions made by the person with the highest authority.
Shaking hands is done between men, but not typically expected with women. The firm handshake prized by Americans is not as important, with Indians much more relaxed about the gesture. Do exchange business cards with the introductory handshake, using your right hand to give and receive them.
Indians typically don’t disagree overtly, as they’re rather non-confrontational. Openly disagreeing with your own team is a quick way to lose face and respect. Reaching an agreement is often celebrated with a meal.
Even if you’re not invited to a meal to celebrate, indulging in the wide and wonderful selection of Indian cuisine is a must while you’re there. The vast regional differences in climate, soil types, ethnic groups and locally available spices, herbs, and vegetables result in vast differences in regional fare.
From North India’s Punjabi and Kashmiri cuisines to South India’s Mangalorean and Telugu, you have more than three dozen different regional cuisines from which to choose. India as a whole has long been hailed for its spices. Some even credit spice trading between India and Europe as prompting Europe’s Age of Discovery.
A trip to India would also be remiss without a trek to the Taj Mahal. This massive white marble mausoleum was originally built in between 1631 and 1648 in honor of the favorite wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Located in the city of Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Taj Mahal is hailed as a masterpiece of symmetry, art, architecture and cultural heritage.
One last note is the variety of people, places and things you may encounter on your trip. Traveling to India for business often involves traveling all over India for business. Overseas business travelers have a base where their airport is, but they’re usually heading from city to city to best capture the market. Your trip to India may involve the same, giving you a chance to fully absorb and enjoy a variety of what the country has to offer.
Swift Passport Services is a non-government, third party service that acts as a professional emissary between the user, the U.S. Department of State and various foreign consulates to secure Expedited U.S. Passports and Expedited Visa Service in as little as 1 business day. If you do not wish to use a third party service to obtain your passport or visa, please consult the U.S. Department of State website for further instruction.