Economies have had boom and bust times throughout history. It is a fact of life. Instead of dwelling on the hardships, focus on what you can do to make your business excel. There are still services and products that will be purchased by someone, somewhere. The question you need to ask yourself is Who is in a position to buy, and where are they located? Why not take a look at India?
While not large as a percentage of its population, India’s middle class is enormous as is its demand for consumer products and services. This provides an excellent opportunity for companies to begin to tap into a growing market versus the mature economy back in the States. In addition, distributing cash flows across diverse markets offers a terrific opportunity to diversify into new markets, and the ability to further hedge against future downturns in North America and Europe.
India’s population of a billion plus people also opens another opportunity infrastructure. Companies offering products and services that support infrastructure projects (think water purification, sanitation, and public works) will find huge opportunities. Engineering and consulting companies are especially well positioned to take advantage of this market.
Dealing with Bureaucracy
Bureaucracy and Red tape, though better then it was in the past, is still a major hurdle to overcome. Bureaucracy in India is perceived to be slow, corrupt, and full of red tape. Though the Government has relaxed regulations and has made it easier for investors to enter the market, bureaucratic delays are still rampant. Today, most fortune 500 companies have a presence in India. If you asked most of them, they will say that the biggest challenge in doing business in India is bureaucracy. For a smaller sized company with limited resources, the challenge is even greater. So with that said, it is critical for a business looking to enter India to find the right partners to work with who are well-connected in the political and bureaucratic sphere. Having connections at the top level will allow things to move much faster without having to deal with grievances and delays caused by government bureaucracy. Most Indian business top management you talk to will also tell you, the most important part of their jobs is keeping and maintaining relationships in high government posts.
India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and over the centuries has created a unique culture. Today, India is at a crossroads. On one hand it is holding on to traditions, and on the other hand is being transformed into a modern society through globalization. There is a strong middle class of 300 million people growing annually, which is the backbone of the Indian economy. Even though India is vastly different in culture than the U.S., there is one common ground – the English Language. English is not only an official language throughout the country, but is the most commonly spoken language in India and definitely the most read and written language. It is also used widely in the workplace. Further, Indians are very hospitable, and family comes before anything else.
Doing Business in India
When doing business in India, there are many things of which to be aware to ensure a smooth process. Most importantly, doing business in India involves building relationships. Indians deal favorably with people they know and trust. If business deals involve negotiations, keep in mind that it can be a slow process, as it is important that trust be established. Aggressiveness in the workplace is looked down on as it’s considered a sign of disrespect. In the Indian workplace, there is a formal hierarchical system in place. Senior colleagues are respected and generally not called by name, but instead addressed as Sir or Madame. With regard to work flow, Indians often have a hard time saying No, and they may sometimes take on more work than they can handle, but will never say they cannot do it. So it is important to keep that in mind when setting goals and targets. Always carry business cards with you because the first time you have a business meeting with someone, they will ask you for a business card before they carry on. If your business process requires thorough documentation, maintaining proper records is something that will have to be discussed or taught before proceeding.
As long as you’re aware of some of these cultural norms, you will find that the Indian workplace is not much different than the U.S. workplace. Could your company do business in India? Does the country have the opportunities you need and the demand for your product or service?