Here’s a big generalisation – almost every product and service can find an eager market in India – the Indian economic growth story means demand for everything cannot be met – so that means opportunity for you.
But how to approach India?
First – think longer term than you normally do, but keep in mind modern India can be either fast or slow and there is no way of predicting.
Second – leave your ego behind. Pretty much every western company that has succeeded in India has done so on the support of a strong local Indian team across all levels. To do this, they have effectively left their ego behind.
Third – India wants your business, NOT your culture. You will struggle if you want to transfer your “culture” to India – putting your expat team in long-term charge of the local team is a risky approach.
Fourth – use your expat team wisely. Expats can come and go as needed – but your business needs longevity in India and that is what an Indian management team can provide.
Fifth – smart companies that go into India also ensure they hire Indians into the Head Office team, at the right level in HO guiding and advising the HO team.
A selfie at the Raisina Dialogue for Tharoor and Jaishankar – endorsing “multi-alignment”
From the west we often hear business leaders say “India wants to be more western” – but does it? Or is there a different world view in India?
Three points stand out for me:
FIRST, PM Narendra Modi recently stated that, while many countries have strayed from spirituality and towards consumerism, India should not do so.
SECOND, laying the foundation for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat, PM Modi stated that countries all over the world are focusing on traditional herbal systems to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Yoga has helped people all around the world establish mental balance by reducing stress.
THIRD, in an increasingly divided world with an “us vs them” view, India is an exception. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday thanked External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for publicly giving him credit for the term “multi-alignment” and posted a selfie of them together at the ongoing Raisina Dialogue. There is a very conscious policy of engaging all the major powers simultaneously in a world. Who else is doing this?
Some of the best “corporate storytelling” is coming out of India
The most valuable companies in India include Tata Sons, Aditya Birla and Godrej. The most valuable in the world are Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft (with the order changing every now and then). These companies cover a wide range of sectors but there is one common element. A consistent and strategic content narrative.
That’s an area well understood by Mumbai-based The Information Company (TIC) which is positioned as a “content, creative and digital agency preferred by India’s leading corporates”.
Corporate Storytellers. That’s how they like to be known.
The Information Company – Storytellers to India Inc
TIC started in 1999 and I have known them since 2004, when I connected with Founder Kiron Kasbekar, formerly Editor of The Economic Times (Bombay), Business Editor of The Times of India, and Managing Editor of Business India.
TIC has been ‘living and breathing’ content for more than 20 years, with its foundations built by top-notch journalists who brought their expertise in impactful storytelling to the game. Since then, TIC has added technologists, graphic designers, writers, videographers, and SEO specialists to the mix to execute great communication projects.
Their storytelling services are being used by the some of India’s largest, most influential, and best brands – Tata Sons, Aditya Birla Group, Godrej, Mahindra Group, Ambuja Cement, Hindalco, Fino, Cipla, Arcelor Mittal Nippon Steel, Capgemini, Weber Shandwick, and many more.
Storytelling for a purpose
TIC doesn’t just tell stories – the focus on storytelling towards a purpose, whether that is building digital brand identity, promoting business interests, creating perceptions, or reaching out to stakeholders.
One of the most unleveraged areas of communication is ‘thought leadership’, with much of it being overt promotion or semi-advertising. Here, TIC has been able to carve out a niche – crafting the voices of corporate brand and corporate leaders, and delivering good thought leadership content that is credible, engaging, accurate and consistent.
One of their unique skills is to write authored articles on behalf clients across industries such as automotive, aviation, chemical, consumer products, energy, engineering, IT, insurance, oil & gas, pharma, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure.
Blogs for Interaction
Blogs is another area where, for many organisations, things go wrong. The most common mistake is to come across as self-promoting. Or the organisation starts a blog but tires of it – so their latest blog is two or three years ago. Not a good look.
But the blog can be immensely valuable – it is the one platform for any company to connect with all its stakeholders, interact with them, connect like-minded enthusiasts and so on – through focused storytelling. No wonder then that TIC creates over 30 blogs every month.
Websites that just don’t sit there
Owned communication assets such as websites should not be static – they need to be information rich, and continually updated. They are the first stop for information that is used by investors, clients, media, prospective customers, prospective employees, regulatory bodies. The website is a critical and strategic asset to broadcast the corporate narrative.
Tata Chemicals, Tata Trusts, Rallis, Lupin, Hindalco, Ambuja Cement Foundation, and Suzlon are just some of TIC’s website clients. And this does not include the list of intranet clients!
Sometimes, a visual story tells more than a thousand words. Infographics are mostly data driven – the magic lies in crafting a coherent story around data.
By writing compelling text and presenting it in an efficient and visually pleasing manner, TIC ensures that an engaging story emerges from each Infographic. This form of content is its way, both art and science.
Campaigns – traction and reaction
Engaging with employees – especially in an age of WFH – has taken on a new significance. Companies often rely on emailer campaigns to connect. But how do we gain traction and reaction?
Whether the campaign is to showcase business achievements, announce a product launch or an event, highlight business achievement, connect with employees or other stakeholders, TIC partners several big corporates to put in the right words to their thoughts.
Social media campaigns take the need for creativity to another level. Here too TIC builds award-winning strategic campaigns for clients such as Godrej and Hindalco.
Video now “most effective”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth 1.8 million – that is the view of TIC, and they see video as “the most effective way to narrate a story”. Be it explainer, animated, VFX, event, HR videos or corporate films, TIC creates videos for Aditya Birla Group, Sterling & Wilson, Asian Paints, and Hindalco.
Beware of stepping into ‘content overload’, a sign of our times. How do you ensure ‘thumb-stopping’, shareworthy content for your brand? One easy hack is to make sure the content is dynamic, visually rich and – most important – interactive! Adding a layer of interactivity to your content – blogs, posts, videos, graphics, podcasts, whatever – will add to brand recall and engagement. Even a simple quiz, for instance, becomes interactive content and can be a game changer for your brand. And that is what TIC delivers.
Awards tell the story
Recognition is the best sequel to creativity. TIC has won a slew of awards for its work – here is just a tiny fraction of the recent accolades won:
Double Platinum at the ‘AVA Digital Awards 2022’ for Tata Sons e-magazine and a video for Sterling & Wilson Renewable Energy Ltd
‘Mint Marketing Award 2021’ for Hindalco’s #WomenAtHindalco social media campaign
Gold for Hindalco’s internal newsletter at the ‘Afaqs! Digies 2021’
Bronze for Aditya Birla Group’s #HaathUthanaZarooriHai video at the ‘Velocity Awards’
Best Content agency at ‘The Great Indian Content Marketing Awards 2021’
For more on how TIC can support your communication objectives, just drop a message on email@example.com. Or better still, call at +91 842 581 4016 / 17.
Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has announced that India had passed the US$ 400 billion mark in goods exports for the first time, calling it a “key milestone” for his government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat (Made in India) initiative for manufacturing self-sufficiency.
He made the statement as India’s services and industrial activities remained stable in February, despite the fact that the crisis in Ukraine has clouded the outlook for prices and growth in the consumer-driven economy.
“India set an ambitious target of US$ 400 billion of goods exports & achieves this target for the first time ever. I congratulate our farmers, weavers, MSMEs, manufacturers, exporters for this success,” he said posting a graphic showing the target being met nine days ahead of the deadline.
Follow the lead of successful businesses who have advanced by integrating Indian culture and values into their offering.
Abandon the “quick sale” old mindset and adopt patience and a long-term view.
Model your business on Macquarie Bank – this works whether you are a large or small enterprise. Their central plank for India was partnering is the key to success.
Abhishek Poddar, Managing Director, Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) “India is one market where you need deep experience if you’re going to be successful. You have to take the time to appreciate and understand its unique culture and ways of working.”
Be clear about what India wants. Macquarie saw infrastructure and clean energy opportunities and focused just on them.
Most successful businesses in India have some philanthropic activity – this is highly worthwhile and well regarded in India.
Establish good relations with Government at Central and State levels – this is vital to being accepted in India.
Consider options such as acquisitions and partnerships which can speed up your market acceptance.
Be there for the long haul – Deakin University continues to make gains in India and has been present there for over 25 years.
Develop a local Indian team and allow them to apply their own culture – within your larger business culture.
Australian PM Scott Morrison at the virtual talks yesterday with Indian PM Modi.
In a meeting yesterday with Indian PM Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, cemented ties with India in a series of deals worth almost A$190 million. He gets (understands) India.
PM Modi is an “investment magnet”, but is also strongly wary of “multilateral” groupings and has a preference to do deals country by country.
So, PM Morrison did a country by country deal. He used some of the western rhetoric over Russia, Ukraine and China, but then got stuck into business.
What is there to “get” about India that matters in our region?
First, it wants investment.
Second, it stays away from promoting democracy as the ONLY future, instead seeing all countries as different and many having different forms of government – all accepted by India.
Third, it now buys most of its defence hardware from Russia and has a long standing close relationship with them.
Fourth, it wants to be in the QUAD (Australia, Japan, USA and India) but will only play on its own terms – that is, not condemning others and not championing democracy as the only solution.
Fifth, Modi is riding high, and he has numbers to back it up – India is the world’s fastest growing economy in 2020. You have to “get” his confidence levels, which are high.
Sixth, India is keen for more Indians to have access to Australia and to work here – PM Morrison “gets” this, and it was significant that the Monday night talks also included a taskforce to see if both countries could recognise the same education qualifications.
Seventh, India has a proud culture and history, feels rightly that much has been plundered by the west – so it was highly important that the National Gallery of Australia formalised the return of artefacts to India.
There are plenty. The CECA (free trade deal) will soon announce “early harvest” deals and then plans to complete a full CECA some time this year. Good luck with that – especially as our own Aussie negotiators have always been averse to cherry picking. I think PM Morrison gets the need for flexibility and hope he is challenging his bureaucrats to do the same.
Relying more on our High Commission staff in Delhi would be a good step as we have outstanding people there.
But by and large, finally, it seems Australia is “getting” India.
Engaging with India means building relationships – and although this is a bit quick, you can build relationships after 3 flights and 3 visits. Anything less places you at risk of misunderstanding both the opportunity and the pathway.
Here are 4 ways to make your 3 flights X 3 meetings introduction work well:
Adopt a patient long term view
One way to improve our cultural dexterity would be to take a long term view and apply lots of patience. Businesses should not start out on market entry unless they are prepared to commit at least five years to making it work.
Focus on relationships
India is not a short term transaction opportunity – to succeed there needs a longer term focus on building relationships. The first trade meeting in India can be exciting and positive, but from the India side this is just seen as an introduction and they will wait to see if the relationship grows.
Remember in Indian culture “no” is rarely said
Indians are among the most courteous and generous hosts on the planet. On top of this, their culture demands that they never provide an outright rejection or “no” statement, even when this is clearly the only answer. To succeed, our businesses and governments need to dig deeper and find the reality beyond the politeness.
Adapt to indirect communications
Like most of Asia, Indians are indirect communicators. Problems are rarely addressed directly and unless you have an ear for indirectness, you will miss the warning signs. You can learn how indirect communication works.
INTO INDIA recommends you go to India asap – it could be the time of your life! (business and personal)
Could the nations of the Indian Ocean region combine to put their focus on OPTIMISM as a replacement for rampant negativity, fear politics and division?
What a contrast this would be to the so-called “Indo-Pacific Region” which seems to have one negative driver – containment of China.
Debate has started in Australia which “needs a new narrative and new thinking from the top,” according to the Centre for Optimism which has released a six-point plan for government and industry to adopt to boost their capabilities with a positive, uplifting mindset and optimistic leadership focused on collaboration, participation, and transparency.
What is wrong with the current narrative?
The Centre’s founder Victor Perton said the current national narrative is framed in old behaviours – state-federal squabbling over policy and service responsibility, hand-outs addressing market failures, institutional inertia, and short-run responses to crises.
I would add that our politicians are disconnected, use fear and manipulate the electorate through division and hostility.
The World Economic Forum recently warned its members, including Australia, that the contemporary “lack of optimism could create a vicious cycle of disillusionment and social unrest.”
Mr. Perton said that with Australia coming out of COVID lockdowns, people’s lives have changed, and people expect their governments to learn the lessons too. “They want positivity, not an aggressive fear-driven narrative,” he said.
Victor Perton was a Victorian MP for 18 years, a former Victorian Government’s Commissioner to the Americas, and the Federal Government’s Senior Engagement Adviser for the Brisbane G20 Leaders’ Summit of Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors.
The six (6) point-plan proposed to government and political leaders is:
Collaboration – as a primary goal – Federal Cabinet should create a National Collaboration Commission to exist alongside the ACCC and National Competition Council.
Vision focus – Government Agencies should establish teams in each Department whose core purpose is to develop a vision, a long-run view of the future.
Active community engagement – through the establishment of citizen juries, in which citizens can assess policies, or plans that are either prospective, or already in place.
Reframe measurement (evaluation) – Replace the preoccupation with GDP and introduce a new Optimism indicator…increasing attention on (a) volunteerism, (b) community engagement, (c) non-market work, (d) care for disadvantaged segments, (e) satisfaction with life, and (f) confident and optimistic outlooks.
Reframe economic development – Move from a focus on size of Government to broader based policies. This to include policies on care and health sectors, innovation, education, green capabilities, and supporting them through “needs clusters”. This would involve the establishment of more public-private partnerships and socially responsible funds, including social impact funding.
Broader institutional change – The inclusion of Opposition party members in the National Cabinet to promote bipartisanship and a collective long-term view on national issues which have been clearly delineated, such as those covering climate change and immigration. The Cabinet would have pre-determined flexibility to add issues or remove them from the agenda.
Is this the optimism lens we need?
I think so, and am keen to hear your views and ideas.