I attended the UK – India Business Council Inaugural Summit in London last week and need to record my praise for their team, and in particular for Sharon Bamford and Karan Bilimoria, CEO and Chairman, respectively, for pulling off an event with such style. Whilst I could not attend the star spangled dinner that evening, I am informed that, once again, they pulled out all the stops for their guests. To mark the international expansion of Kingfisher Airlines, Vijay Mallya trumped his competition by giving each guest a free (economy) round trip ticket to India! I can’t really complain, I won the Jet raffle prize of two free tickets to India earlier that day 🙂
The audience at the conference seemed genuinely interested in India and what surprised me was that the vast majority of those I spoke with already had made inroads into the sub-continent. It didn’t matter if you were a one man band, a SME or a large multinational. They were all at it.
However, the one thing, I did pick up was that India was not a simple place to do business. In response to this, I offer the following five tips to make your lives easier:
1. Treat India like you treat Europe. It’s just as big in size, and has more people. If you treat India in regions, it may make your lives easier.
2. Take some intercultural training before you go. Indian’s may be familiar with English, but the softer aspects of doing business in India are often the most crucial. You need to know what signs to look out for. There’s some great books and some equally good training programmes out there.
3. Appreciate that India is not a command economy / dictatorship. By this I mean, please don’t compare India to China. Both have their advantages and weaknesses. In India, democracy runs deep. Naturally, this extends to every aspect of life and can slow decision making. But be assured, once a decision is made, it’ll probably stand the test of time.
4. India isn’t cheap. Your notions of picking up bargains (business or pleasure) belong to an era long forgotten. From the simple things such as hotel rates, internal flights, even entertainment, be prepared to pay – sure not London or New York rates, but nevertheless rates that aren’t what you may have been lead to believe.
5. Finally, in my view, India is THE land of contradictions. So much wealth, yet, so much poverty. So many educated people… so few quality educational institutions etc etc. Bear this in mind when visiting India.
The UKIBC summit reminded me of the reasons why we formed our business – India is the place to be, it still makes my pulse race faster. Well done, UKIBC.