Relationship Building is Key to Working Across Cultures

“Just like Americans would not want to be judged by the last movie that came out of the U.S., Indians do not want to be judged by Slumdog Millionaire”, stated Mr. Ed Fuller, President & Managing Director Marriott International at the June 26th India Trade Conference in California.

Believing that India has tremendous potential, Marriot is continuing to invest heavily in the country and there are currently 25 properties under construction with plans to develop more. Marriot is hoping to capture the domestic Indian market, foreign travelers, and Indians traveling outside the country as loyal customers.

The biggest takeaway from Mr. Fuller’s talk? “If you don’t take the time to invest in the country, you will not be successful”. He stated that developing relationships is key…but relationships have to be developed Indian style. This means that they take “time, patience, and a demonstration of how you work”. In addition, “understanding the history is very important. Colonial and cold war feelings are lasting and you should not expect immediate relationships. You have to earn the respect of the Indians you work with.”

“One of the major strengths is the education of the people. Their inherent desire to grow results in their ability to move up much faster in India.” They have strong skills and “you should make sure that education is part of your budget.” Mr. Fuller said that they “are using less expats than in any other market because of the quality and caliber of the Indian people”.

Beyond this, he said that there were several main points to understand:
– Understand the business. Understand the taxes and how they apply locally and in the U.S.
– Don’t look at India as one country. You have to take the regional variations into consideration
– Work with local individuals in the market. Even Indian Americans will have an adjustment period
before they can develop the relationships necessary to do business in India.
– Be aware of the Foreign Corrupt Practices law. This is an American law and must be adhered to.

Business is part of the Indian culture. While the infrastructure needs some work, “things move slowly because it is a democracy. This can be a challenge”. However, “India is one of our major growth countries”.

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