Doing Business in Pakistan

Expats working in Pakistan will find that the business world is governed by hierarchy. Respect is very important and those who are older, more experienced and in a higher position should be greeted and addressed first. 

Pakistan was ranked 139th out of 190 countries rated in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2019. The country did well in the categories of protecting minority investors (26th) and resolving insolvency (53rd) but fell short when it came to ease of paying taxes (173rd), getting electricity (167th), and dealing with construction permits (166th).


Fast facts

Business hours

8am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Business language

English is the language of business. Urdu is also commonly spoken.

Dress

The dress code is conservative. Smart suits are appropriate

Gifts

If invited to a Pakistani household, flowers or chocolates are acceptable, and should be given with two hands.

Gender equality

Gender disparity exists in the workplace, and women are seldom in senior positions.


Business culture in Pakistan

Greetings

Men shake hands with each other and often hug when a relationship is formed. Men should not attempt to shake a woman’s hand unless she extends hers first. In Pakistani business culture, people are rarely addressed by their first names. Instead, refer to an associate by their title and surname.

Communication

Trust is important in the Pakistani business world, and non-business related conversations usually precede a meeting. Avoid any controversial topics about politics, religion or terrorism. It is common for colleagues to ask about an expat’s family and other personal matters.

Meetings

Meetings are best planned for the late morning or early afternoon. Deadlines are seen as flexible and business may take longer than usual, so expats should be patient and work around this. Ramadan is an important part of the year for Pakistanis, and expats should not schedule any meetings over this period.


Dos and don’ts of business in Pakistan

  • Don’t feel uncomfortable if colleagues stand very close as this is common

  • Do accept business cards with the right hand or both hands

  • Do be punctual for meetings, but don’t be surprised if meetings are cancelled at the last minute

  • Don’t maintain constant eye contact. This can seem threatening, especially for seniors.

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