When foreigners complain to her that Indians are liars, Ranjini Manian often tells them what’s actually upsetting them is a simple clash of cultures.


The accusation is common among expatriates stumped by the Indian way of doing business and one that Manian tries to counter with the help of Global Adjustments, one of a few firms offering cross-cultural services in the world’s third biggest economy.


“Foreigners can’t understand why Indians don’t say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ clearly,” Manian, the firm’s CEO, told Reuters.


“We tell them Indians have a hard time using the word ‘no.’ There is this tendency to want to save face, (but) a polite ‘I’ll try my best’ is not good enough.”


Manian, 47, founded Global Adjustments in 1995, soon after helping the wife of a U.S. diplomat adjust to life with a baby in India. Now her Chennai-based firm mostly caters to clients from multinational firms such as Nokia.

For newcomers, the contrasts of India can be unnerving.

“They are likely to find a BMW next to a bullock cart,” says Manian. “And they have been given a scary picture of all the diseases in India.”