For Indian friends – what makes Australians so different?

My Indian friends and colleagues often talk about our Aussie cricketers – skills so good but sledging so bad, very blunt yet charming as well. Some go on to talk about how casual we Aussies are, even when meeting the elite.

I think we Australians remain something of a mystery to most Indians.

So, here is my take on what is in our hearts (or what are our values) – yes, we have time to reflect in this era of Covid-19.

I like to outline four characteristics of Australians:

  1. Give everyone a “fair go”
  2. All should be treated equally, and have equal opportunity
  3. Be casual and friendly and say “G’day mate” to complete strangers
  4. Be confident that “we’ll be right” – we have always found a way to bounce back

These four – the casual friendliness, the fair go, egalitarianism and resilience – have defined what it is to become Australians, and in these concepts is the heart of what has attracted so many to our shores.

Of course, we do not always stick by these values.

Look how the arrival of a few desperate families in leaking boats led many to abandon the fair go, as if it never existed.

In the face of wars, bushfires, floods, droughts, financial depressions and more, we have unpacked our casual bravado (she’ll be right mate) and found a way through.

You might not know Australia was founded by the British to house their convicts. Not a great start – but out of this has come a free and open society with sophisticated cities, world leading agribusinesses and services the envy of many.

Out of the humble beginning of convicts came a society that strives to be all inclusive – whether you are thousands of miles from anyone, you should still have a phone, an education and so on.

As the convicts would have understood, freedom is more than the right to vote. These values have made Australia a genuinely free society – for they underpin that greatest of freedoms, to be whoever you are and whoever you want to be.

Now, if only we could bring ourselves to truly understand the minds of Indians.

Will Australia’s vision swing to the Indian Ocean rim after Covid-19?

Australia is torn between two worlds – it has an unchanging alliance with the USA, but it is placed in the middle of a massively changing region, the Indian Ocean. The two can make life uncomfortable.

We are all expecting life to be somehow different after Covid-19. Perhaps one of the differences will be Australia looking more to the west – to the Indian Ocean.

If so, there will be a lot of diplomatic wriggling to be done, with China and the USA looking on.

Why does the Indian Ocean matter so much?

One third of the world’s population (2.5 billion) live around the Indian ocean rim. Their average age is below 30, making it the youngest region on earth.

This ocean is critical to global trade and food and energy security.

There are a dizzying array of global strategic and regional military and security interests.

It is at the crossroads of how the world works. Global trade and economic growth flow in and through it.

But it is also a region where instability and conflict can quickly arise – badly drawn borders create disputes, internal conflicts are rife and competing national interests make for a volatile region.

Why is the Indian Ocean so important for Australia?

First, it’s our neighbourhood.

Second, we are starting from way behind for we have long ignored this region and only recently have been building solid bridges.

Third, one-third of Australia’s coastline borders the Indian Ocean.

Fourth, our future depends on security of lines of trade and the development of both on-shore and off-shore assets – these hold the key to our economy and development.

Fifth, when you look at this Wikipedia map of the “western world” you might wonder why we have not looked to the Indian Ocean before.


Best of both worlds?

Looking west to the Indian Ocean does not mean we have to ignore our powerful friends – China to the north and USA to the east.

Changing our view while keeping our old friends will take diplomatic skill.

And probably it also takes time.


4 tips from India for business and entrepreneurs during the Covid-19 crisis

Pranshu Sikka, CEO, Strategic Planner and Founder of The Pivotals (which styles itself as India’s first “Business Worries Outsourcing” firm) mentions how important it is to do four right things keeping everyone in mind.

  1. Empathize & Strategize- It is important to keep our relationship with existing clients alive. Empathize- they are as badly hit as we are. Consider creating a pipeline of business through digital outreach. Look at the older leads that were on the backburner due to one reason or another.
  2. Offers: Check, if there is merit in diversifying your offering to keep yourself relevant in a post corona world. Think about your stakeholders, yourself, consumer and employees.
  3. No Knee-Jerk Reactions– Businesses are getting affected but don’t get lured into completely diversifying to a new, unrelated stream of business. It is only a matter of time until the situation settles and allows business houses to take more informed calls. Knee-jerk reactions won’t do any business any good.
  4. Morality & Law- As a business don’t cut corners. Don’t do the mistake of doing something not in consonance with morality or law. It is imperative to be on the right side of the law as well as ethics- something which will hold the key to tiding over these difficult times and creating a sustainable value propositions.

India’s pharmaceutical industry shows how we are all connected today

India plans to set up a US$ 1.3 billion fund to boost the manufacture of pharmaceutical ingredients domestically.

How so, since India is already a big pharma player? For example, India supplies about 20% of the world’s generic drugs and is the world’s largest exporter.


Well, in pharma as in everything else in life, all things are connected.

You see, India’s supply chain was disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic – exposing the country’s dependence on China.

Here’s where “we are all connected” comes in – India is indeed a global leader in pharma but it imports almost 70 per cent of its active pharmaceutical ingredients, the chemicals that make a finished drug work, from China.

Which part of China provides the ingredients? Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak has been major source of these ingredients.

The new program consists of spending on infrastructure for drug manufacturing centers and financial incentives of up to 20 per cent of incremental sales value over the next eight years, according to a government statement.


Gandhi lay drastically ill with the Spanish Flu almost 100 years ago

As India fights to contain the Corona Virus (pictured are temperature checks on visitors to the Bombay Stock Exchange) it has been announced that the historic Sabarmati Ashram (a former home of Mahatma Gandhi) will remain closed for visitors from March 19 till March 29 in view of the coronavirus threat, the trust managing the complex said on Wednesday. The ashram receives a large number of visitors everyday.

The closure comes almost 100 years after the great Mahatma Gandhi lay ill in this ashram – with the Spanish Flu (1918).

Sabarmati Ashram is located in the Sabarmati suburb of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, adjoining the Ashram Road, on the banks of the River Sabarmati.

I was there one year ago – a quiet, beautiful and emotional experience coming closer to the great Mahatma.


“All interest in living has ceased”, Mahatma Gandhi, battling a vile flu in 1918, told a confidante.

The highly infectious Spanish flu had swept through the ashram in Gujarat where 48-year-old Gandhi was living, four years after he had returned from South Africa. He rested, stuck to a liquid diet during “this protracted and first long illness” of his life. When news of his illness spread, a local newspaper wrote: “Gandhi’s life does not belong to him – it belongs to India”.

Fortunately for India and the world, Gandhi recovered. However, tragically the Spanish Flu killed between 17 and 18 million Indians.

Our thoughts are with India as it now battles to limit the Corona Virus – so far, all indications are that measures are succeeding.


India’s airlines are really hurting during this Coronavirus pandemic

SpiceJet’s chairman Ajay Singh is spending a lot of time in Delhi in front of civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola.

The coronavirus has rattled India’s airlines, a big change from their New Year optimism. Many of them do not have deep pockets so are vulnerable.

In January, the industry was happy with fare discipline, controlled capacity addition, the absence of rival Jet Airways, and a slow but gradual demand recovery.

On Wednesday, IndiGo told the stock market that its earnings would be materially impacted because of the disruption, and domestic bookings had fallen 15%-20%.

The airlines’ anxiety comes from their weak balance sheets.

Those in the know say Singh is lobbying with the government to bring jet fuel under GST – such a reform could bring a windfall in reduced taxation of jet fuel.

Perhaps also on the cards is flexibility in payments to oil companies.

IndiGo has a fleet of 255 planes and money in the bank. The Tata Group backs Vistara and AirAsia India, while the Wadia Group owns Britannia and Bombay Dyeing, runs GoAir.

Government help or not, Indian airline execs are preparing for the worst – and some without money in the bank or big owners. Changes ahead?

India – how Australia’s trade will change and how we should communicate

In the 1990’s, Australia sold India coal and LNG. We also sent over copper, lead and gold, along with unprocessed foods such as chickpeas, lentils, almonds and oils.

According to India veteran Michael Moignard (pictured) of East West Advisers, it was the beginning of our trade relationship with India – so that makes it very recent.


In the 2000’s our trade has shifted – uranium is in there but taking the prize has been education in the form of fee-paying students in Australia. Along with this has been IT and processed foods, with wine and packaged goods finding a market. Finally, Indians discovered Australia as a tourist destination.

So, what will the 2020’s look like?

Michael Moignard was our Senior Trade Commissioner in Delhi for 7 years, so it was good that he gazed into the crystal ball at a recent India seminar at BDO. This is what he saw:

“Sustainability” will become a big theme, covering services and products around water, waste, renewables and smart cities. That’s a big shift.

Education will continue to dominate but with a move to skilling India’s workforce – in India. And IT will blossom into IoT, Ai and more.

Continuing strong will be wine, packaged goods and tourism.

In short – it’s a good picture for Australia. Hope you are ready to participate!

Mike’s advice on how to approach India:

  • Don’t just think about selling your product and services to India (just sales and profits should not be the only motive)
  • Work together to create relationships, trust and mutual value (Indians value trust and personal relationships)
  • Ensure Indian counterparts understand you are there for the long haul…and not just for short-term profits
  • Don’t give the impression that your India strategy is just a diversification from China (and India is definitely not the next China)

Oh, and his final tip, use the phone much more and the emails much less.