Australia’s ‘An India Economic Strategy to 2035’ No. 3 – why creating forums can be a waste of time

I am not a big fan of “CEO Forums” as an instrument of diplomacy or trade. Most of them are a formality, many attendees are pressured to be there and there is no natural energy. Good business arises when there is natural energy.

But the report “An India Economic Strategy to 2035” clearly loves them, and it called for a new CEO Forum and several other top level meetings to be created.

I could not see anywhere in the report where it actually asked if India wants these forums.

Nor could I see much in the track record of the Business Council of Australia (which the report nominates as the organiser of the forum) to suggest they have a deep interest in India at all.

What is the alternative?

Some of my best networking and business experiences in India have happened when I have attended a local Indian event – run by CII, FICCI, various universities and some city chambers of commerce.

In a collective culture such as India, going to a locally run event is your invitation into the collective, you can see first hand how it operates and find your own place. Indians love you turning up and appreciate the respect it shows. Networking becomes dynamic and business doors open to you.

Much better than a formal, imposed Australian CEO Forum idea.

This cultural point is central to my views – an Australian-created CEO Forum occurs “outside of the Indian collective” and although they will turn up, you are missing a key opportunity to be accepted into that collective – which of course is when you really do business.

Where a forum is a natural consequence of a growing trade relationship, then I am all for it – but creating one when there is no natural base for it could be a waste of time.

Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

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