India as a key growth market – here’s what you need to know!
There is little doubt that India will be one of the most exciting growth markets for the next twenty years or more but turning potential into a sustainable business takes know-how and planning. Here are my top issues to consider when contemplating entering the India market:
Understand the cultures – it is really important to stress the fact that there are many different cultures in a country of the size and complexity of India. The country is vast and the cultures vary significantly from State to State. One thing is common though – things tend to move slowly. India is an enormously relationship-driven culture and this means that things can take time to come to fruition. You need to build this into your planning as it may have a significant impact on cash requirements and the time needed to get to break-even
Do some quality research – do not see this phase as an unnecessary expense. Good quality research on the market, competitors, the regulatory environment etc. will pay dividends in the long-run. Many companies skip this part of the process only to regret it further down the line
Be very careful who you chose as a partner – people in India will often promise the earth but produce very little after the initial conversations. You cannot afford to make the wrong decision about which partners to use in India. Do some very serious, on-the-ground due diligence on anybody you are looking at entering into a significant long-term relationship with.
Get to know the country – commit to spending time in the country so you can really get a feel for how it works. Get out into the second and third tier cities and discover the enormous energy and vibrancy of the place. These visits will give you the best feel for how your products and services will work in-country, what adaptations you may need to think about and what the challenges will be.
Hire wisely – the key to your success will be quality of the people you hire. There are great employees in India just waiting for an opportunity to work for a company like yours but finding them and knowing which people are best fit for you and India is complicated. You need to work with recruitment people who understand both India market needs and western parent company needs. In addition you need the cultural knowledge and sensitivity to hire people who are right for India – too many western businesses hire people who are like them and would fit in well back at base.
Don’t listen to the ‘bad press’ – lots of western businesses are put of entering the India market because of horror stories they have heard about red tape, bribery and IP theft. Let’s not shy away from the issue, these things exist but at no greater levels than in other emerging markets such as China, Brazil or Indonesia.
Engage with experts on the ground – you will benefit enormously from engaging the services of people in India who really understand how things work and who have a track record of helping western business succeed in market. This will cost but it will prove a great investment.
Commit to the long haul – India is not a ‘quick win’. The size, complexity, culture and, above all, the need to build strong relationships all point to the need to take a long-term perspective. If you stick it out, the rewards will come and India could become your key overseas market but only if you get things right from the get-go and commit to being there for the long-term