6 Tips to Dress for Success in India

If you’re doing business in India, then it’s important to dress for success. This guide will teach all you need to know about dress etiquette for men and women, ensuring that your business meetings don’t fail before you even said ‘hello’!

1. Full suits are rarely seen on men

Temperatures often soar above 35º C in Delhi, so wearing a Western style suit for a business meeting will be restrictive and highly uncomfortable. As a result, it is more common for men to wear a shirt and tie with comfortable cotton or chino trousers. On a first meeting a light jacket is recommended as it is usually a more formal affair, but once introductions have been made it is not required.

Photo by Richter Frank-Jurgen

2. Women can go smart casual

Pant suits can be worn if you’re a woman attending a meeting. Neutral colours are recommended as these can offset the heat, and are less likely to offend. Brightly coloured clothing is usually reserved for formal occasions and events such as weddings, etc. Additionally, if you’d prefer, you can wear a knee-length or longer skirt and a blouse or top instead of a pant-suit, although the neckline needs to be high.

3. Informal and casual wear can be acceptable at times for both sexes

If you’ve been invited to a party or social gathering, the dress code is likely to be more casual to accommodate the expected heat. Indian costume is recommended as it demonstrates respect and an attempt to embrace local cultures, whilst it is generally the most comfortable style of clothing for the environment. Go to a local tailor when you arrive and order something suitable. They will be able to advise you on the best style for your event, and will usually have it made up to fit in less than a few days, and at a fraction of the cost that you’d pay at home.

Photo by David Sanabria

4. Modesty is expected from women

Conservative clothing is expected when conducting business – women are allowed to bare their midriff if they decide to adopt the local style of wearing saris, but most other styles that bare the midriff are seen as indecent. Likewise, when wearing a top or blouse, as previously mentioned, the neckline needs to be high, and the material must not be transparent. Long sleeves are highly recommended also, but try choosing something in a loose fitting material as this will billow and catch cooling drafts, serving to keep you cool, whilst remaining modestly attired.

5. Avoid animal-based material clothing

The cow is a sacred animal in India, so it is worth avoiding animal based clothing items such as leather jackets or shoes. Although many will overlook this easy-to-make mistake, if you plan in advance, you avoid offending anyone of either Hindu or Muslim faith.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson

6. Pack several changes of clothes during the monsoon

With upwards of 200mm of rain per day during the monsoon season, it is best to bring lots of changes of clothes to ensure you are never caught without. The best option is to choose a selection of lightweight, muted colours, made from quick drying materials such as nylon or polyester – avoid cotton at all costs.

However hard you work on getting your wardrobe right, nothing will beat being able to address your business partners in their own language. Take a free Hindi test to check how you measure up, or inquire to find out how we can help get you up to speed.