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During February, I was lucky enough to travel to India on a trade mission with NZ Trade and Enterprise and a bunch of cool technology companies to participate in the Nasscom Leadership Forum, which is a major technology conference with a couple thousand executives.
The companies on the Mission included:
Below are some reflections and bussines tips from the visit, but first what our objectives were.
By going on the Trade Mission, we were interested in
Market Understanding - I personally had never been before, and we have a 5 year strategy of growing our knowledge and networks in Asia including India
Networks - develop networks to assist Icehouse and Kiwi companies that are looking to enter the Indian market
Angel Investors – continue forging connections with angel investors in India building on relationships with the Indian Angel Network and Mumbai Angels
Partners – continue developing a growing relationship with CMC which is a global systems integration and IT services firm, and a subsidiary of Tata, the multinational Indian company.
- Company Specific: I was also looking for specific market opportunities for some companies including eBus , Down to Earth Systems , Live Links and FaceMe
So yes, it was not about ‘deals’ from the get-go, more about building a case to succeed over the longer term, just like we are currently doing with initiatives in Singapore, Japan and China.
So how did the Mission go? It was fantastic, here are some thoughts on the experience and then further below what I have taken from this for doing business in India:
Travel in India can be challenging for the inexperienced, 2-3 meetings per day max. Having said that, getting things like drivers (mandatory, unless you are mad) is easily done.
You get sick, most of us did, but it aint that bad really. Apart from when I got to Singapore, story for another day!
The market is so huge, so competitive and so complex that you have to realise it is completely different to the world of NZ. This means naturally that we have to adapt to the conditions there before they really take us seriously.
NZTE were fantastic, not only in NZ but also on the ground in India and also out of Singapore. Why? Well they know what works in India and they know how to leverage. They got us huge profile at Nasscom and other events. They used Sir Richard Hadlee as a high profile key note speaker, Indians generally love cricket, and they had on tap their in region sales and marketing professionals to assist the companies with connections, profile and mentoring. I really do like the way the NZTE model is morphing, particularly with this ‘in-region’ sales and marketing resource, which I understand is across 5 regions now.
We had a great reception from the angel groups and investors in India – they are open, ready to learn from others who might be more experienced (read New Zealand), and interested in syndicated deals. This is natural because I predict there will be a wall of money (yes even more than now) trying to get into India, just because of the market size.
- I was very lucky to be accepted by the other companies on the Mission – people like Manoj Doli from Xlerate and Chris de Boer and Tarun Kanji of Pingar – these guys are experienced in India, doing business already and always willing to lend a hand. I also thought Candace Kinser of NZICT was a rock-star for brand NZ. She was tireless in her interviews and cheer-leading for the country and technology companies.
The following business implications are focused on technology companies:
- A well respected local strategic partner is essential to doing business in India; particularly so when dealing with Government entities or large enterprises.
Sometimes you might have to go through the pain of ‘direct on your own’ first, to get the credibility to get a partner. One of our companies had to do this, and it was not an ideal way to go.
- All discussions/negotiations should be in Rupees or alternatively, US$
- Free trial or proof of concept is the excepted norm, in fact is required
Taking a ‘NZ-pricing’ model to India does not work, because of scale pricing could be as high as 1/100th
3. Market Penetration
- Focus is typically to go for ‘scale first’ and ‘profit last’, claim the market and then build the margin (this is very difficult for Kiwi companies to get their head around)
- India is a market of markets, major business happens in Mumbai however
There are many different routes to market, which can also tend to be very ‘relationship driven’
- It is critical to spend time ‘in the market’ and be present to build relationships which are critical in India
- Sales cycles are long and involve serious commitment in terms of time, money and resources
- Customers expect products/services sold to them to be around for a while, not disappear overnight.