India’s “festive season” runs to the end of the year – brands should take the digital advertising route

Right from August, India gets into a festive mood.

In India this is the time to shop. But what about this year, with the impact of Covid19?

Sanjay Mehta is the Joint CEO of digital marketing consultancy Mirum India and he has some sound advice for brands and the festive season.

“What should you do to become a winning brand? Yes, you’ll certainly want to do marketing, but what specifically? It may not be the best time to experiment with expensive brand campaigns, simply because the lack of measurability of such campaigns makes it difficult to evaluate impact. Your key objective would be to spend money to deliver the best ROI in this challenging year.

“Digital advertising is the most potent weapon for a marketer to reach the consumer. After all, the Covid era has definitely seen significantly increased online time spends by the consumer. And the high level of measurability on digital allows you to do extremely result oriented marketing.

“Digital advertising is often used as a catch-all term to cover several different types of online marketing strategies, but what you should include in your media plan is a good combination of search engine marketing, some programmatic display ads — most certainly social media ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc — video ads, and maybe a good influencer marketing programme as well.

“In these last few months of stay-at-home, we have seen several edtech, fintech and healthcare brands create a huge market for themselves, solely using such digital advertising means.

“The overarching recommendation is to have a good budget apportioned for digital advertising, and spend it prudently on the best result-producing media, to ensure high impact” Sanjay says.

He also advises brands to be set up for selling online.

“Additionally, owing to the consumer now getting used to the convenience of online shopping, ensure that your brands are well-set up to be sold online, and provide the consumer a very seamless experience shopping at your online store.

“Get set for digital fireworks in your marketing mix for the festival season and have a happy Diwali for your business!” he concludes.

So – get involved and active in India’s festive season.

Why do westerners sweat so much over plans and deals? It’s all about “culture”

Why do westerners fret so much over contracts and project plans? Why do they become angry and agitated if things have to change? And why do their relationships end when the other side has a different view of planning? Why do westerners and Asians struggle to understand each other?

The answer can be found in one word – culture.

In writing about cultural differences, I do not mean to give offence, criticise, imply one is better or create division – my aim is understanding.

For Asia and the west, culture can be “make or break” in business, yet most of us are not even aware that the way we think is largely determined by our culture. This lack of awareness is poor preparation for global business and trade, where knowing culture is king.

With Asia, culture becomes complicated for westerners and many give up on it.

With India, cultural understanding becomes even more complicated, because it is a land of many cultures, different ways of seeing the world and is rich in diversity. For me, this is one of the great attractions of India. It is also why I go to Asia a lot. But for others it can become a deal breaker.

So, how can we bring an understanding of cultural differences to our business and trade negotiations between westerners and Asia? How can we find acceptance and understanding even when there is difference?

That answer can be found in two words – understanding culture.

Why contracts and project plans end in disputes

Most westerners place a high importance on rules, laws, regulations and contracts. They are almost “set in stone” and apply without exception. Most importantly, rules come before relationships – even if it is a family member. Variations to agreement cause confusion and even anger.

In Asia and especially in India, there are all the rules and contracts and so on, but the common view is that each circumstance and each relationship is different, so the rule may or may not apply. It becomes a moment by moment thing. Variations to agreements are taken for granted and fully expected to happen.

How does this work in business? For many westerners, any change to a contract becomes a time to consult the lawyers and can be a relationship ending event. For Asians, change is expected and accepted.

Why western individualism hits the collective wall

Even children are encouraged to make their own decisions in the west – including on courses, careers and most definitely on choice of partner. Under individualism, you make your choices and must take care of yourself – and in some countries this is harshly applied, in others there is a more compassionate welfare safety net.

Most Asian families make decisions for their children, including courses, careers and partners. The view is that the group – the family and so on – is more important than the individual. In return, the group looks after any member at time of need.

How does this work in business? An American is ready to sign the deal now – but the Asian partner wants time to talk to colleagues and ensure a group decision. Pressure versus group consultation.

Why westerners misunderstand indirect communication

In the west people can work together without having a good relationship and direct communication is highly valued. In fact, any indirect communication – going around the bush – creates mistrust in the other or is simply missed by the westerner. They just want the facts – a simple “yes” or “no” will do.

In Asia there is an overlap between work and personal life and they choose indirect communication because their major concern is to keep the relationship. Being direct such as saying “no” is difficult.

How does this work in business? People in the west keep work and personal lives separate so are less likely to socialise with Asian colleagues – or any colleagues – after work.

Why some hide face, while others save it

Most westerners make a big effort to hide emotions – this varies of course. They see “reason” as more important than “feelings”, so they often keep thoughts to themselves.

In Asia, spontaneous emotional responses can break out and this often surprises westerners. Saving face can become the most important thing.

How does this work in business? An Asian colleague will give or expect some emotional outbursts but is also looking for the following harmony.

Why becoming someone clashes with born something

Westerners value people by what they do or what they have achieved. Performance is king, no matter who you are.

Asian culture generally values people for who they are, so power, title and respect matter greatly, but of course the person should behave according to this status.

How does this work in business? Westerners will often “high five” with everyone including junior colleagues and everyone gets in to share the celebration, while in Asia the leader might receive most of the credit.

Why order dominates the western mind

“Order’ is highly prized in the west. That means doing things on schedule, being punctual, sticking to your plans and a “time is money” view of most things. They react badly to any disturbance to the smooth schedule.

“Time” is viewed differently across Asia, with the past, present and future seen as interwoven and so plans and commitments are more flexible.

How does this work in business? This different view of schedules and time causes relationship breakdowns and can see the end of the deal.

Why westerners feel in control of everything, including climate change

“Control” is big in the west – to the extent they see people as controlling nature or the environment, down to how they work with teams and with the organisation. Conflict is fine so long as the job gets done.

Asian cultures see nature and the environment more as controlling them – events, circumstances are in control more than the team. Conflict is avoided even at the expense of timely delivery.

How does this work in business? Westerners will need to give more reassurance and feedback to their Asian teams and setting clear objectives becomes paramount for both sides.

Adapting

These cultural differences can have big impacts, but with learning and adaptability, both sides can find they quickly work well, understand more and feel better about how things are going. Cultural understanding provides quick and positive results. Cultural ignorance can be the deal breaker.

India and Australia are perfectly placed to become closer allies in the post-Covid19 world

The relationship between India should flourish in strategic and defence areas plus trade and investment.

Both Australia and India are significant powers in the Indian Ocean region.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is a major power.

The trade relationship

India was Australia’s eighth-largest trading partner and fifth-largest export market in 2018-19, driven by coal and international education. Two-way goods and services trade with India was $30.3 billion in 2018-19, and the level of two-way investment was $30.7 billion in 2018.

Strategic relations much closer now

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has worked hard on the India relationship and his personal connection with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

On 4 June 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, participated in the Australia-India Leaders’ Virtual Summit. At this meeting, the two Prime Ministers elevated the bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).

The CSP is based on mutual understanding, trust, common interests and the shared values of democracy and rule of law. Through the CSP, both countries have committed to work together across a range of areas.

The CSP also marks a step forward in the two countries’ ambitious agenda to expand our trade and economic relationship, as outlined in the India Economic Strategy (IES), which was released in July 2018 and endorsed by the Australian Government in November 2018.

India’s growing economy and young population need Australian goods and services

Over the next 20 years, a growing India will need many of Australia’s goods and services, including agriculture, education and skills training, and healthcare. There will of course be growth across most areas – but these are the standouts.

Since 2000, India’s GDP has grown seven-fold to reach USD3 trillion. India’s economy is forecast to become the third largest by 2030 (currently seventh) in market exchange rate terms. India already has the third largest economy in PPP terms and is set to maintain this ranking. The two-way stock of investment was valued at AUD30.7 billion in 2018. In 2018, Australia’s investment in India was valued at AUD15.6 billion and India’s investment in Australia was valued at AUD15.1 billion. India was Australia’s 18th largest investment destination.

The Aussie “India Economic Strategy”

Australia’s economic engagement with India is underpinned by the India Economic Strategy (IES), which was commissioned by the Australian Government in 2017 and led by Mr Peter Varghese, former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2012-2016) and High Commissioner to India (2009-2012). This document is the guide for future growth.

Education is huge but facing challenges

Education is Australia’s largest service export to India, valued at AUD5.5 billion and accounting for around 85 per cent of the total. Indian students in Australia number almost 110, 000 (year to date September 2019), which marks a 33 per cent increase over the previous year. These students made 132,079 enrolments in Australia, comprising 15 per cent of international enrolments. As an education export market, India is second only to China, with exports valued at AUD12.1 billion in 2018-19 and 246,454 enrolments in Australia. Adapting to post-Covid19 education market changes will be a challenge for Australian universities.

Austrade is showing and creating the way

The Australia-India Business Exchange (AIB-X) is a new, Austrade-led, Australia-India business marketing platform that will build on the success of Australian Business Week in India, last held in 2017. This multi-month campaign included a coordinated program of activities and events. Minister Birmingham led a business mission to India in late February as part of AIB-X, with sectoral events and workshops to be held in five cities.

This will provide an opportunity to deepen trade and investment ties, focusing on small and medium across the IES’ priority sectors. Further information can be found on the Austrade website.

Plus Austrade has set up The Australian Store at Amazon India – primed to take off over the next few years.

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People-to-people links

Australia and India are building strong and lasting ties through our people-to-people links.

The Indian diaspora (comprising both Australians of Indian origin and Indians resident in Australia) is now Australia’s fastest growing large diaspora. According to the most recent (2016) Census, the number of people born in India amounts to 592,000, representing 2.4 per cent of the Australian population, or 1 in 50 people. Around 700,000 people claim Indian ancestry.

India remains Australia’s largest source of skilled migrants and the second largest source of international students. Hinduism is our fastest growing religion and Punjabi is our fastest growing language.

The Australia India Council

The Australia-India Council is also advancing Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests with India. Each year it provides grants for programs linking the two countries. I was fortunate to support the Genesis Horticulture Services research mission to India in November – part funded by AIC.

(Thanks to DFAT for lots of the above information)

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7 ways to succeed in wonderful India

This short list can be your guide to success in wonderful India:

  1. Bring a culturally aware and adaptable mind to India – you will need both. By “culturally aware” I mean more than how to greet and exchange cards. Cultural awareness is understanding how the other thinks and requires some study and effort.
  2. Develop some flexible plans for India – they will need to change!
  3. Commit to India for the long term. One or two years is not enough. I have been going to India since around 2005 and still learning new things and making new connections – to find a way through the maze that is India.
  4. Make social media a part of your program to build your brand and product awareness in India – the shift to social media/digital marketing there is huge.IndiaDigitalEco
  5. Adapt planning and approaches for the need of your business and sector. You might need a quick market study – or you might need studies over several years. Each is different.
  6. Learn as much as you can about your potential market – connect with your potential customers and see how they operate and what is happening in their sector.
  7. Let the market build a relationship with you and learn about your business. Again, like all the other points, this takes time.

CONCLUSION

It is going to take time to succeed in India. But for one of the biggest most dynamic markets with the youngest population on the planet, investing your time will pay off.

Why get closer to India? About 600 million people, more than half India’s population, are under 25 years old; no country has more young people. Remember the economic impact of the western “baby boom”? It is time the west moved closer to India in trade, culture and tourism. What do you think? As the great Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore said: “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

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7 ways Australia could build relations with India to balance China

While it is true that India is not just another China, there is a good risk management case for improving Australia’s trade and diplomatic relations with India.

To give energy to this relationship, Australia should take eight urgent steps:

(Keep in mind most of this relates to “post-Covid” but some could action now)

First, we should be flat out campaigning to get more Indian tourists down under. They now have the money, and a campaign for tourism would also communicate our culture to the broader Indian public. Let’s get Australia on the billboards, on the cable TV and in the cinemas in India.

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Second, encourage Bollywood to make more films down under and help them show the diversity of the Australian population and culture.

Third, reinforce our intellectual property and leadership in the twin areas of high demand over there – health and education.

Fourth, take more initiatives to exchange knowledge and services in the waste management and waste disposal fields – we are pretty good in this, with some of the cleanest cities in the world, and India is worried that rubbish is taking over their country.

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Fifth, create ways we can work closer on sustainable energy.

Sixth, make sure Indians are aware of our global leadership in fields such as wealth management, a growing need over there. The best way to do this would be to increase our investment into India.

Seventh, provide cultural training to Australians in all fields who are to visit India, so that our blundering around (which we often see as down to earth and friendly) does not continue to cause offence or confusion among our hosts.

Indian startups are driving growth and change

There are many drivers of India’s economic growth and transformation – but certainly punching above their weight are Indian startups.

There were over 50,000 startups in India in 2018.

India has the third largest startup ecosystem in the world.

The success is partly driven by corporate India (which is providing much of the funding) and by the Indian Government policies.

Bengaluru is in the world’s top 20 startup cities and ranks in the top 5 of the “fastest growing”.

Some of the best known Indian startups include Ola Cabs, Snapdeal (e-commerce), OYO (hotels), Swiggy (food delivery), Big Basket (food e-commerce) and BYJU’s (ed tech).

Watch this space.

Can you trade with India without leaving home?

As Covid19 has made us all (Australia, UK, USA, Canada etc) more cautious, we are reluctant to travel.

Add to that a leap in Indian online e-commerce for all kinds of products and services.

Is the future of trade with India digital? Do relationships matter any more?

We have always said that the key to long term success with India is in the careful and gradual development of close working relationships. This has to be done face to face, but these days can be supported via phone and video calls.

Deakin University is the prime example of success through perseverance and relationship building – they have had a presence in India for over 25 years.

Ravneet Pawha has led Deakin in India for most of that time and she is now the Deputy Vice President – Global and CEO – South Asia. She knows everybody in decision making on education in India. Ravneet is a regular promoter of Australia and our education at conferences and in Indian media.

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The Australian citrus industry is taking a closer look at India but their CEO has told members it could take five years to build a market.

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So relationship still matters in dealing with India.

For our diplomacy, we need closer relationships at Indian central and state government levels.

For education, we need to follow the lead of Deakin University and be on the ground over there, building collaborative relationships.

And for products and services, while online is becoming the way of the future, products and services will only become trusted and valued as people have a relationship with your brand.

Australian PM Morrison has been gradually building a closer relationship with India PM Modi and this is producing some progress on agreements and cooperation.

Relationship – it is the way forward with India.

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10 essential tips for doing business with India

Doing business with India? Here are some tips that might help your experience, but keep in mind you will find many variations and contradictions of these points in the very diverse and exciting India market:

The language barrier is real – even English

India has some 26 major languages, but your Indian counterpart will almost certainly speak English, which itself can be a problem – it creates the illusion of communication and understanding. Many of us speak English and think western – your Indian partner speaks English and thinks Indian, so take care to build real understanding. Also keep in mind there are “many Indias” with many different languages and ways of thinking.

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You are in a different culture

Visitors to most of Asia and China are visually reminded all day that they are in a vastly different culture. But often, especially in offices, India can appear quite westernised and individuals also give that impression. Better to open your mind and see things and people more clearly, looking beyond the surface level “westernisation” – exploring cultural differences expands your horizons and you will find many charming similarities.

Be patient and you will get there faster

Adopt a patient long term view – India is a 5 to 10 year game. It is very easy to get MOU’s (Memorandum of Understanding) signed with fanfare in India but too many do not produce any outcome. One way to improve our cultural dexterity would be to take a long-term view and apply lots of patience.

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Businesses should not start out on market entry unless they are prepared to commit at least five years to making it work. Governments need the same longer-term perspective. Rushed trade missions, political announcements and photo opportunities amount to very little – we see them as an achievement, but they are just a beginning.

Relationships take time – but they are everything

India is a collective culture which means relationships are the number one factor in success, and building relationships takes time. Many who see India as not a short-term transaction opportunity can find success, but not for long as someone with a better price comes along. A better strategy is to aim for longer success through a 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. Trust and relationship take time.

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“Yes” can mean “maybe” or “no”

See beyond the politeness: 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. The dumbest question for a business to ask in India is “can you help me with market entry for my products?” The answer will always be “yes” and you will sit idle for a long time back home until you realise this is not the right question. Within Indian culture built so solidly on relationship above all else, the word “no” is a real relationship breaker and is rarely or never used. “Yes” can in fact mean “maybe” or even “no” and you need to look for the signs. Like most of Asia, Indians are indirect communicators.

Prepare for the collective

Most westerners come from a culture of the individual, but the Indians they meet are firmly placed in a collective culture.  A visitor to an Indian company will often find four or five Indians in the meeting, and often it is not clear who is in charge. Many Indian leaders will not speak up or even speak at all in these meetings – in the collective someone else does the talking while they do the evaluating.

It will be slow and fast

Modern India can be slow or fast and it is hard to know which you will encounter. Sometimes delivery seems to take forever, yet on other occasions it is faster than the west. This means to succeed there you need incredible patience, so don’t send your least patient executive to India. Being able to respond positively under both slow and fast delivery is the key.

The visitor can be shocked and unprepared for the speed of modern India. Businesses need to go prepared to deliver on a product or service right now, not just having some idea for a future opportunity. Trade missions from around the world arrive weekly, so they have plenty of choice. Fast and slow, east and west – India is a living and dynamic paradox.

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India is many countries in one

Differences are not just seen in the North, South, East and West, India is truly many countries in one and you need to be ready for cultural diversity. While Mumbai is the fast and flashy financial capital, it is also a tough place because everything is done on grand scale and at great speed. New Delhi is more formal and stuffy, also more liveable, and is more than a political capital – it is a powerful business city. Chennai is one of my favourites, embracing that slower southern pace and the values that shine in southern businesses. Regions have varying strengths, so research is the key. Recent moves to allocate Smart Cities across India can provide insights into alternative gateways for you.

Navigate through the spider web

While the west strives for simplicity and certainty, Indian business leaders know that life is like trying to find your way through a spider web – where does it begin, where does it lead, who can tell? Consistent with this view, most Indian corporations offer an incredibly diverse range of products and services – whereas western business tends to focus on just one area. In most cases Indian companies are willing to buy from you but are also looking for the deal to include some intellectual property sharing arrangements – think about these before you head over there.

Learn the art of flexibility and patience

Being patient and flexible is an asset, even if you come from a country that likes to be blunt, direct and structured. Most Indian communication is indirect, so it can take some time to work out what the real issues are. India is full of surprises and you cope best through being flexible. Dropping any “one rule for all” approach is a good start.

If you are thinking of going, India’s great thinker Rabindranath Tagore can be your inspiration: “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

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India offered flexibility on RCEP – the world’s biggest trading bloc

RCEP – the initials that describe potentially the world’s biggest trading bloc.

RCEP needs India back – it walked out during earlier negotiations.

To urge India back to the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), its 15 member countries have offered New Delhi the option of deferring commitments related to opening up its market.

Reports on the RCEP move come on the eve of online discussions between Indian PM Modi and Australian PM Morrison. I hope they can advance the talks.

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The move was reported in The Hindu Business Line.

According to some diplomatic sources, the deferral means that India does not need to worry about RCEP’s impact on the broadening of its trade deficit with China and other member countries when it signs the RCEP agreement.

India quit talks with the RCEP — which includes the 10-member ASEAN, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand — in November 2019, as it could not agree on crucial issues including the level of market opening being demanded by the members, especially China.

“If India agrees to the package then it can enjoy the benefits of all other aspects of the RCEP pact such as investments, services and intellectual property rights, without having to worry about the fate of industry and farmers,” the diplomat further said.

The RCEP, once completed, could be the largest trading bloc in the world, accounting for 45 per cent of the world’s population and 40 per cent of world trade.

 

 

Stop seeing India through the lens of someone else’s trade war

Things get a bit biased in the west, and right now China is seen by politicians as a negative – even if most western economies rely on China trade.

The mythology from politicians is that their country – including Australia – should look at “diversifying” trade targets away from China.

Thinking of India as an “alternative” to China is a bit disrespectful of India and setting up for failure. Seeing India for what it is – a really good opportunity but on a different scale to China – will lead to better commercial and political decisions.

Let’s not look at India through the lens of someone else’s “trade wars”.

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When it comes to the world, China is the big game. India and Indonesia are also in the game and worth playing with, but each needs to be respected for what it is.

Take the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper which reported that growth in demand through to 2030 from China would be greater than that from the US, Japan, India and Indonesia combined. China’s rapidly expanding middle-class market is the big market.

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Even the Peter Varghese report on India’s potential showed that by 2035, Australia might export $45 billion of products and services to India. That would be great news! But compare that figure of $45 billion (and it’s 15 years off) with last year when Australia exported more than $160 billion to China.

When we remove the blinkers of politics, we can treat each country with respect and see the actual opportunity they represent.

We can open our eyes to a better view of trade – seeing it as part of the overall relationship of friendship with trading partners.

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