My state of Victoria hits record export levels and is open for business

Forgive me for being parochial in this blog, but I just have to talk about my home city of Melbourne and our state of Victoria – so well known to tourists for the Great Ocean Road (pictured below).


Victoria’s exports have hit record levels and are still growing as the Victorian Government helps more Victorian companies break into global markets and create local jobs. Exports from Victoria grew 6.45 per cent to reach a record $51.6 billion in 2017-18.

Victoria’s services export performance has been particularly strong. Valued at $22.5 billion in 2017, it now represents more than 40 per cent of total Victorian exports.

This has been driven by sectors like international education, which has grown 98 per cent since 2012 to $9.8 billion, and tourism which is up 62 per cent to $4.8 billion over the same period.


Medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, a key sector identified for support through the government’s $200 million Future Industries Fund, has seen substantial growth, with exports of pharmaceutical products surging 72 per cent in the past two years to $1.56 billion.

Victoria is Australia’s biggest exporter of food and fibre, another key sector the Victorian Government is supporting, with exports reaching a record $12.8 billion in 2016-17. Victoria now accounts for 79 per cent of Australia’s dairy exports, 52 per cent of animal fibre, 45 per cent of horticulture and 38 per cent of prepared foods exports.

Victoria’s export growth is even more impressive given it has come over a period when the state’s single biggest exporter, Toyota, ceased production, highlighting the diversity and strength of our export sector.


The Victorian Government offers a range of services to help local businesses get export ready, prepare market strategies and understand regulatory requirements so they can start taking their products and services to the world.

Since December 2014, more than 4600 Victorian companies have participated in 130 government-supported inbound and outbound trade missions, resulting in more than $267 million of actual export sales.

The government has also grown Victoria’s network of international trade and investment offices (VGTIs) to 22, which is more than any other state, and put in place strategies to grow trade and investment with key markets including ChinaIndiaLatin America, and Southeast Asia.

So – looking for a dynamic, quality partner or location for business and education? Try Victoria!


Above pic – just one hour drive from Melbourne CBD is the beautiful wine and food area the Yarra Valley and one of the great forest drives, the Black Spur.

More on why you should be careful when you hear “yes” in India

I have written before around my question – Is India the world’s most polite country?

Everybody says “yes” in India. Nobody ever says “no”. It’s amazing. You arrive on your first trade mission, seeking new markets, and every meeting is a wild success – great friendship, much laughter, the response of “yes” to everything you ask. After day one you are exhilarated – how lucky am I to meet the right people? Day two is the same – “yes”. Days three, four and five provide more “yeses”.


Then you go home, report on your extraordinary success and close relations with Indians and wait for things to happen. You might wait a long time.

What is happening here? Indian culture values relationship above all else. By contrast, western culture puts truth and fact above relationship – willingly risking relationship in these instances. This is perhaps the biggest difference between India and the west.

In India, everyone you meet instantly has a “relationship” with you and it is their duty to help. Indians cannot say “no” without giving deep offense. The nearest they come to a “no” is “I will try”. So, “yes” they can import your product, “yes”, they would be a good agent, “yes”, they know how to take you to market.


Is this “yes” just telling lies? Have you been deliberately deceived? If someone did this in the west, with our cultural background, their response of “yes” would indeed be an offensive lie.

But consider my experience of being lost in Colaba in southern Mumbai – I love to wander around this fabulous part of the city. Getting lost is a regular experience for me. The first time, I asked a young man if he knew the way to my hotel. He immediately instructed me – “Go straight ahead, turn right then left and you will surely find it”. How wonderful, I am saved. But 100 metres later it does not feel right. I ask another, who sends me back and he actually knows the way to my hotel. The first person simply did the very best he could in the relationship at that time.

So next time someone in India says “yes”, just remember you are in the world’s most polite country. Otherwise, like me, you might get lost.


The Himalayas can show us a key difference between India and the west

Do Indians have a different world view and culture to the west? Of course, each country or region of the world has their own culture and differences exist – understanding and adapting to difference is one key to succeeding across cultures.

This simple statement about the Himalayas might help you see the difference.

If the Himalayas were located in the west, people would flock there for bungy jumping, extreme ski sessions, jumping out of planes and other extreme sports. For India, the Himalayas have been a location of contemplation, monasteries, thought and mindfulness.


I saw a similar point made using the example of Alexander the Great. The west admires Alexander as a person of action, conquest, growth and acquisition – while a hero in India could be a guru sitting in contemplation under a tree.himalayaMy point is simple – when we understand cultural differences we can then adapt our behavior and communication while remaining true to our own culture.


Cultural generalisations can be helpful but remember they are just generalisations – there will be exceptions and culture is riddled with paradox. Many westerners are great contemplatives, while Indian history has many action heroes.

7 tips – how Indians can communicate better with Americans and Aussies

Communicating across cultures is the key to future success as the world gets smaller. The trouble is – people from different countries who speak English imagine that they all think the same. They do not. Americans speak English but think American. Australians speak English but think Australian.

Here is how to prepare for better communication with Americans (and many Aussies):


What’s the point— In America time is money and everyone is in a hurry. India’s “indirect” style of communication does not work well, it is too slow for them. You have to be good at PITCHING, using around 75 words which really grab their attention (or as Americans would say, “cut to the chase”).

Sports speak is the way to go— Americans and Aussies love sport (different ones). This shows up in their language and you should follow too – observe how they use “home run”, “slam dunk”. “stepping up to the plate” and many more – then use these yourself to make better connections.


Be much more informal— Americans and Aussies tend to be informal, and everyone can have a say regardless of status. This is generally not the case in India. Just because Americans and Aussies might dress casually or sound informal and relaxed, don’t think they are not deadly serious about doing business. It is not easy for most Indians but using first names soon after meeting is the norm (and not adding “Sir”).

You will be interrupted— Americans and Aussies love fast paced rapid fire conversations, with everyone jumping in to have a say – both are egalitarian cultures and even very junior people are encouraged to speak up. Interruptions are not seen as rude, rather they can see this as signs that things are going well. Silence on the other hand is never a good sign.


Present actively and immediately— Start with the finish – presentations that build slowly to a conclusion drive Americans mad.  Americans and Aussies want to be engaged and entertained. Dry powerpoint presentations about your company will not make connection. An active presentation that shows how you can solve a problem, add value or team up will attract and keep attention.


Make your presentations even faster— you can quickly bore Americans and Aussies – especially in America business is done at great speed. People feel time poor, stretched and become impatient. So – cut your message to the absolute essence, and you will succeed.

Silence is a warning sign— America does everything loud, and the Aussies are following. There is sound everywhere, TV’s are on, radio, computers, music all happening at once. Americans feel uncomfortable in silences and long pauses.

We’ve helped many Indian organisations communicate better with the west – and in every case it has been turn the presentation around, start with the problem and how you can add value. Any presentation beginning with “Let me outline the history of our company” is a recipe for failure in the west.



5 essentials to building business with India

There are 5 steps we should take to grow our trade ties with India.

Adopt a patient long term view

Focus on relationships

See beyond the politeness

Adapt to indirect communications

Realise that language and thinking are different

If we can adopt a caring, humble and inquisitive approach – learning cultural dexterity – we will build the relationships which are the key to success.


10 things to know about modern India

  1. Successful and confident

Economic success has restored Indian confidence. Indian entrepreneurs are now recognized around the world and there is a national expectation that the next Bill Gates will be an Indian. This entrepreneurial spirit permeates the nation (most dream of becoming entrepreneurs) which is now confident.


  1. Never forget rural people

Indian business and political leaders may live the urban lifestyles, but they do not forget the small towns and villages at the centre of rural life – and it’s not just the politicians with an eye for votes, with major corporates such as Infosys pouring resources and funding into village developments.


  1. Avoid pointing the finger

India is a land of great cultural diversity, many languages and countless opinions, but two things unite the nation – cricket and the World Trade Organisation. Indians become instantly passionate when challenged on their high tariffs, especially if the challenge comes from the west. The message is, point the finger at India and you can expect a robust response.

  1. Oceans of patience

Indians have oceans of patience which can drive westerners crazy, but it gives them a special strength in negotiations. This patience is derived from deeply held spiritual views such as impermanence – Indians are constantly reminded of the impermanence of this life, everything changes, and they can wait when often we cannot. Who has the advantage in this negotiation?

  1. Not just an IT miracle

Do not be fooled with the view that the Indian economic miracle is just driven by call centres and IT. Important as these are, look also at insurance, energy, retail, clean technology, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and even agriculture as areas where efficiency is producing startling results.


  1. Dragon and elephant can dance

The dragon (China) and the elephant (India) have discovered that they can dance, and now China is India’s major trading partner. Competitors are becoming collaborators and western business leaders need to be aware that the Indians coming to negotiating tables will be leaders who confidently see that this century belongs to the east.ModiXi

  1. Not especially “Asian”

While India feels great about the success of “Asia”, in many ways it does not feel particularly “Asian”. First and foremost, Indians feel Indian, and to them that is vastly more relevant than being geographically part of Asia.

  1. Remember the “Father of the Nation”

Whether dealing with the young or the old, in India never forget the “Father of the Nation”, Mahatma Gandhi.


  1. Equity up there with democracy

Partly because of Gandhi, Indian leaders are more concerned with equity than with spreading democracy around the world – and cannot understand the enthusiasm of the USA and its allies to champion democracy in unlikely locations.

  1. No junior partner

While many in the west still see India as a “developing” country and therefore a future player on the world stage, India has no intention of being a junior partner or a bit player in the world. Invite India in and you can expect them to want to be at the head of the table, making the running. This is a country whose time has come – and the people you deal with are highly aware of this.

Wipro wins biggest ever deal

Indian firm Wipro has won a more than $1.5 billion deal spread over 10 years from Illinois-based Alight Solutions LLC, achieving its largest ever contract. 

With this, the Bengaluru-headquartered software services exporter joins larger peer Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in winning larger deals at a time when the outsourcing services industry is seeing a slowdown owing to emergence of digital services.

TCS bagged three such multi-year large deals totalling more than $5 billion in revenue since September 2017.

This is a big deal for Wipro’s new boss, Abidali Neemuchwala, who took over in February 2016.


“This deal will result in revenues of USD $1.5 to $1.6 billion for Wipro over the tenure (10 years). This is Wipro’s largest win to date. This engagement will enable the digital transformation of Alight’s offerings across health, wealth, HR and finance solutions,” said Wipro in a statement, adding that it would “enhance the employee experience of Alight’s clients by leveraging Wipro’s solutions in digital technologies, cognitive automation and data analytics.

“This is a testimony to the capabilities we have built through our strategic investments in Wipro Digital, cloud platforms and cognitive platform Wipro HOLMES. We will leverage this expertise to digitalize and modernize Alight’s core across platforms, technologies and operations,” Neemuchwala was quoted in the statement.

Wipro also said it has completed the transaction to acquire Alight HR Services India Pvt Ltd, the India arm of Alight Solutions.

Indian stock markets scale new highs

Indian stock markets extended their record run this week, with the Sensex and Nifty both scaling new peaks.

The Sensex gained over 244 points to touch 38,938 while the Nifty50 index hit 11,760 amid higher global markets.nse

Market heavyweight Reliance Industries (RIL) led the charge, with shares rising 2% to Rs 1,318.20.


Metals, IT and auto stocks also had gains. The NSE metal index surged 1.8% amid a rebound in global commodity prices. Vedanta, Adani Ports, Maruti Suzuki, Axis Bank, Tata Steel and HDFC rose between 1% and 2%.

The NSE index, Nifty50, has had a record-setting run in the last two months, while the BSE has been Asia’s top performing index this year.

The new highs come as companies in India, the fastest growing major economy in the world, reported a 11.6% annual increase in profits for the June 2018 quarter, the strongest growth in five quarters.indiagate

Retail changing fast in India

The Indian retail market is changing fast, with a rapid consumer move to buying fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) via major retail outlets. This is happening across India but is fastest in urban centres.

India’s first major store was Big Bazaar which opened in Kolkata in 2001.  For the first time, following demonetisation and implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), modern trade has touched the double-digit mark, accounting for 10% of the overall revenue of the FMCG sector, according to market research and insights provider The Nielsen Co.


Modern trade’s growth stood at 25% during the April-June quarter, compared with 16% in the July-September quarter last year.

According to Nielsen, stores that stock FMCG products, operate on a self-service business model and provide shopping baskets or carts to customers are classified as “modern trade” stores.


Stores include names such as Big Bazaar and DMart.

For Marico Ltd, the maker of Saffola and Parachute oils, channels such as modern trade comprise 11% of India sales, and are growing at 39%. On the other hand, e-commerce, comprising 1% of India sales, is growing at four times the overall growth rate, according to recent report by SBICap Securities Ltd.


Urban retail is growing due to rising urban household incomes and increasing penetration of organised retail in urban centres. The share of urban retail is expected to grow from 49% in 2015-16 to 52% by 2019-20, according to a May 2018 report by Firstcall Research.

Modern retail is seeing retailers launch new stores and consolidate their footprints. For instance, in 2017-18, Avenue Supermarts Ltd, which runs DMart chain of stores, added 24 stores, taking its total count to 155.


Over the last few years, Kishore Biyani’s Future Retail Ltd has strengthened its footprint in western India with the acquisition of Hypercity Retail India Ltd. In the north, the company acquired Easyday chain from Bharti Enterprises and Big Apple. In South India, the retailer bought Nilgiris and Heritage Foods chains.


How “culture” can divide the west and India – and how to overcome it

Every country has a culture – the way things are done, how people think and more. To succeed with another country, it makes sense to first understand their culture – that way, we can adapt to it.

Cultural misunderstanding is at the core of our lack of trade and diplomatic connectivity with India.

The importance of cross-cultural understanding is not about focusing on “difference” – it is about knowing what those differences are, so we can then ADAPT our behaviour. Further, cross-cultural analysis is not claiming one view to be right and the other wrong.multicult

Consider what the academics call “absolutism vs relativism” – we in the west are absolutist so we place all our energy on contracts, project plans and we never like surprises. India is a relativist culture, so it knows things can only be defined relatively, and whatever we decide upon will change as life inevitably changes. You can see how these two differing world views create problems for us.

The absolutist thinker puts rules above relationships – while the relativist thinker places relationship way above rules. Knowing this, we can adapt.


Also look at western “individualist” culture and compare with India’s “collectivist” culture. The west empowers individuals to make decisions, whereas in a collective culture, decisions are made by the group and can take more time. Not such a problem when you understand it.

Plus consider that the west is called a “specific” culture while India is “diffuse”. What does this mean? The westerner is direct, open and always in a rush – cannot stay for dinner. The Indian prefers to be indirect, works around an issue rather than confronting it, takes time, wants you to stay for dinner and never says “no” even when that is the right answer, preferring the often misunderstood “I will try”.

With these differences and many more, whether we are Indian or western, if we train to understand and ADAPT to the difference, we face much better prospects of success.Tourists1