Indian companies are fast becoming innovators, investing in research and development, but they are also globalizing-making foreign acquisitions to open new markets and buying research and design capacity. At the same time, European, American, and Asian corporations are becoming ever more interested in buying a stake in India's firms and future-which may be an important gateway to all the emerging countries in the east. In 2006-2008, mergers and acquisitions between Indian organizations and international firms were a constant news story. In 2007 alone, the Indian corporate sector was involved in deals worth US$60 billion. The trend was led by Tata's takeover of the Anglo-Dutch company Corus, and Vodafone's buy-out of Hutch, India's leading mobile phone operator. Cisco, which opened up its Eastern headquarters in Bangalore in 2007, was motivated to do so because of India's talent pool and its domestic market, but also because of its global position-both geographical and political. At the opening of the firm's new offices, CEO John Chambers acknowledged India's unique position as an entry point to Asian markets, saying: "We came to India for growth in all the emerging countries and the talent that's here. We're focused on this engine for growth. This country understands how to partner."
Organizations from some countries have taken the decision to insure against the prospect of a world dominated by a hi-tech India, by creating "partnership" agreements to develop new innovations and products with partners in India. For example, in 2008, academics from Indian and British universities joined forces with leading engineering and IT firms to develop new wireless networks and laptops, with the aim of bringing affordable technology to India's rural poor. Projects include a US$50 laptop that runs on negligible electricity: this has the potential to transform the use of technology by organizations as diverse as village councils and national stock exchanges. Similar agreements have been made between the Indian government and overseas administrations to cooperate in certain areas of science and technology, such as developing applications for research in nanotechnology and nanomedicine. When Indians meet business contacts they try to establish exactly where their companions stand in the hierarchy of power and status. This "sizing-up" process is not unique to Indians, but it is performed with an unashamed ruthlessness that may be unfamiliar to you. Your partner's religious background will determine your opening gambit: for a Muslim, say "Salaam Aleikum" and offer a handshake; but for Hindus and others, use the ritual greeting of "Namaste" (hold your hands together upward at chest height as if in prayer, while saying "Namaste"), followed by a handshake. If your business partner is a woman, this greeting is friendly without overstepping any boundaries. Don't read too much into a weak handshake; it is the most common in India.
Don't be offended either if your Indian partner offers you a wrist to shake instead of a hand-some people will do this as a mark of respect if for some reason they don't feel their hands are clean enough or worthy to shake yours. After your initial greeting, offer your business card with your right hand-the left is considered unclean- and receive your Indian partner's with courtesy. Read it and then put it carefully in a wallet to show that it is important to you. Address your partner by the correct title; if it is Professor, Doctor, or Colonel (retired), he or she will be very proud of it. No business can be done before the power relation is established and an etiquette of appropriate deference is established: who is the superior, and who the subordinate? This is generally decided through a series of questions that can be direct and even brutal-especially for a newcomer to India-but it is an essential ritual that betrays the country's obsession with status and hierarchy.
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