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Imagine India: A Global HR’s Guide to Successfully Opening an Office in the Land of Spirituality

August 17, 2017

Global HR's guide to opening an office in India

As the second-most populous country and the seventh-largest economy in the world, India represents a diverse and complex country full of business opportunities. However, these opportunities do not come without difficulties – according to Brookfield’s 2016 Global Mobility Trends Survey, India is the third most challenging country for assignees and the fourth most challenging country for mobility teams. The challenge stems from several factors, including cultural obstacles and immigration considerations. Even so, India continues to rank as a top and emerging assignment destination for multinational companies.

Representing the “I” in the BRICS grouping of nations, India is a growing economic superpower and a natural business destination for companies looking to expand their APAC and global footprint. However, opening a new company location in any country can be both exciting and overwhelming for Global HR professionals. As Pro-Link GLOBAL’s New Delhi office celebrates its one-year anniversary, we asked our Executive Director of HR, Samantha Hernandezto share her experience being part of the team tasked with opening the office. Her “tales of the trade” will prepare you and your talent mobility program to flourish in India.

3 Critical Soft Skills for Opening an Office in India

What does a Global HR professional need to open an office in India? Three things: patience, patience, and more patience.

  1. Due to the large population of educated English speakers and the attraction of working in multinational companies, the job applicant pool in India can be larger and more diverse than what HR professional might customarily find in the U.S. A strong applicant tracking system will go a long way in helping you to identify the most qualified candidates. Expect to spend considerable time, effort, and patience reviewing qualifications and understanding the unique way English is used in India.
  2. A heavy dose of patience is needed if your interview process involves video conferencing. Internet connection strength can vary widely in India and video calls dropping or lagging is common. Instead, consider a traditional phone call interview or asking applicants to answer a few of your “knock out” questions via email.
  3. Different cultures view time differently. Patience is required for Westerners working in India as time is viewed much more subjectively in Indian culture than the strict Western clock-based definition.

Need cultural tips for your assignees? Read this blog post to set your team up for success: “Sending Employees to India? 10 Cultural Differences You Need to Know Now.”

For example, when you have internet installed in your new office, you might receive an ETA quote of “tomorrow”. However, each day you call after no technician arrives you may get the same quote of “tomorrow.” Meaning… it will happen sometime in the future. For Westerners with rigid deadlines, including redundancies or contingencies in your planning can help alleviate some of the stress associated with unplanned-for delays.

Remain flexible. In this example, what activities can be done offline? What steps can be performed that are not dependent on the internet being installed first? Approaching opening an office in India (or any other country) with the right mentality helps ensure that the correct expectations are set and makes the process easier for everyone involved.

Legal Aspects of Employing Foreign Nationals

Having reviewed the some of the cultural challenges you may experience, let’s examine some of the legal aspects of employing foreign nationals in India. We asked our Manager of Knowledge Management, Soo Gurtcheff-Smit, to share some of the immigration complexities for your assignees.

  • Although immigration into India is often complicated by various local nuances, it is generally a relatively simple system: one that does not involve quotas, local labor market testing, medical examinations, or proof of business relationship between sending and host companies.
  • India is one of the few countries in the world that combines the work authorization and visa applications into a single filing through the Indian consulates abroad. Foreign employees obtain an Employment (E) Visa from the Indian consulate general with jurisdiction over their place of residence, and they can enter and begin work in India. Within 14 calendar days of arriving in India, the foreign employee registers with the local Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office / Foreigner’s Registration Office (FRRO/ FRO), and the employee’s Residence Permit is issued usually that same day. However, it’s important to note that this registration process can be complicated if the employee will live and work in different cities, and care should be taken to register in the appropriate FRRO/FRO for the city where the employee is living.

Ideal India - Fun Facts

Lastly, we asked our HR Manager in New Delhi, Ankush Pathania, to share some fun facts about India. 

  • India is the second-most populous country in the world with over 1.2 billion people and is expected to overtake China for the top spot by 2022.
  • By 2050, the three largest economies in the world are predicted to be: #1 China, #2 India, and #3 the United States.
  • Top Industries: Agriculture, information technology, and textiles.
  • Immigration Compliance Tip: There are no separate visa categories for intracompany transfers, locally employed foreign workers, or temporary or seasonal employees. They are all covered under Employment (E) Visas.
  • India does not have any national language; rather it has 22 official languages among which English is one of them.
  • India has the largest young population in the world - 65% is under 35 years of age.
  • India produces the largest number of engineers in the world.
  • Takshila was the first university in the world, established in 700 B.C. at Nalanda in Bihar.

India business travelers