India post-Covid to get major economic boost from the rural economy

The Covid19 pandemic has crippled India’s urban economies.

But fortunately for India, the rural economy is stepping up.

Over two thirds of the population and 70 per cent of the workforce of India are in rural areas. The rural economy is now 46 per cent of national income.

And India’s 650,000 villages have money to spend.

How is this happening?

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Bharat, or rural India, is thriving – it is a combination of bumper crops, good monsoons and Government handouts.

In India’s auto sector, biggest demand is now rural – for tractors and two wheelers.

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Rural unemployment peaked at 26 per cent in May but by June 21 had dropped to 7.3 per cent.

For once in a long time, the Indian rural economy is the good news and could be the big driver post this pandemic.

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.

 

 

Australia should join with India to become the “food bowls” of the Indian Ocean

India and Australia can become the major “food bowls” of the Indian Ocean region, if the two countries can find a way to collaborate in horticulture  The region includes some of the world’s fastest growing middle classes, including much of Africa, the Middle East, India and its neighbours and Southeast Asia.

This is one of the conclusions of our study of “India-Australia Horticulture Collaboration” which was part funded by the Australia India Council, DFAT.

The Indian horticulture sector already faces pressure for change, presenting Australia with a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a collaborative commercial relationship with India.

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Pressures for change in India are market driven as the middle class grows, Government driven with a push to bigger farms, mining industry driven as it seeks to play a positive community development role and horticulture industry driven, as farmers want innovation as a pathway to better incomes.

Indian market becoming health conscious

Market driven changes result from a growing middle class anxious about the content, health outcomes and quality of the vegetables and fruits they buy. Plus, a whole range of vegetables labelled as “exotic” in India now face rapidly rising demand – broccoli, cherry tomatoes, capsicums, parsley, celery, cabbages, zucchini and asparagus. Berries are becoming sought after, especially blueberries and strawberries.

Government driven changes are creating one of the biggest historical shifts in rural India – the new Farmer Product Organisations (FPO).  The Government has set an aim for 10,000 of these collaborative ventures. An FPO is a grouping of at least 10 and up to 500 farmers into a collective including marketing. The Government will fund these FPO’s and possibly farm subsidies will be distributed via them.

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The FPO structure is currently in need of support services to enable them to secure business acumen, market linkages, better insurance terms, quality assessment infrastructure, precision agriculture solutions for better crop management, access to finance, IoT based applications and more.

At the same time India’s agricultural research centres (Central, State and private) are very keen to be part of the solution and become a focus for knowledge and training in horticulture techniques new to India. Their demand for displays and services around hydroponics and protected cropping is very high.

Miner driven changes result from delays and obstruction from farmers, and awareness that by supporting horticulture innovation around mines, they can contribute to increasing the income of farmers and provide new income for rural women – thereby making a contribution to the livelihoods of the communities they operate in.

Indian farmer driven changes follow complaints of declining incomes and knowing they have an inability to meet the needs of the new middle class, at home and in the Indian Ocean region. Women in rural communities are seeking new ways to add income to households.

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While farmers are traditionally conservative, there is growing awareness in India of the need for “new skills and innovations for new products”.

India will want collaboration, not high pressure selling

Facing these demands for change, India is not inclined to simply import and adopt western approaches – rather, it seeks to create Indian style innovations with global partners who can adapt to this demand. The Israel and Netherlands governments have established free standing centres of horticulture excellence, with low levels of interest and participation. Australia can move into this space if it is prepared to adapt to what India wants.

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What will be needed for these changes? Skills training and train the trainer programs, IT systems, adapted hydroponics and adapted protected cropping systems and products, post-harvest storage and to market systems and a combination of displays and training at Government and private research centres (not free standing).

Protected Cropping (PC) opportunities are huge but need to be tailored for India – including shelter by artificial structures and materials, enabling modified growing conditions and protection from pests and adverse weather. In the mix here are greenhouses and glasshouses, shade houses, screen houses and crop top structures.

Hydroponics and Controlled Environment Horticulture (CEH)

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The most modern and sophisticated form of protected cropping have been developed in Australia and we should be able to export this knowledge – might be relevant to corporate farms in India with some key adaptions, creating “modified hydroponics”. CEH combines high technology greenhouses with hydroponic (soil-less) growing systems. CEH makes it possible to consistently and reliably control or manipulate the growing environment and effectively manage nutrition, pests and diseases in crops.

Hydroponics in Australia and the west is crop production using a soilless growing medium with nutrients supplied in a liquid form. The choice of substrate can be varied to suit the crop and climatic requirements. Hydroponic growing also includes growing in a flowing nutrient stream without utilising a solid medium. This is known as nutrient film technique. For India, some adaptation of drip irrigation, soil and non-soil bases leads to “modified hydroponics” and would meet demand over there.

Agricultural research centres in India play a major role in supporting farmer innovation and skills upgrades. There is an opportunity for an Australian Centre of Protected Cropping and Hydroponics to be embedded in at least one of the Indian Government agricultural research centres, another with the State of Tamil Nadu and in a private research centre. These could be supported by a “virtual centre” with farmers accessing it via mobile phones.

This would be a major step forward in building a genuine India-Australia collaboration in horticulture, enhancing the capacity of both countries to become the food bowls of the Indian Ocean.

 

The “Developing India-Australia Collaboration in Horticulture” research project by Genesis Horticulture Solutions was part funded by the Australia India Council, Australian Government

 

Indian PM Modi announces A$400 billion stimulus policy

Indian prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a A$400 billion stimulus package, one of the biggest in the world’s responses to Covid19.

The package is approximately 10% of India’s GDP.

The stimulus package is called “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan” and aims to make India self reliant and to revive the stalled economy.

Details are still coming out but part of the program will be major reforms across areas such as land, labour and liquidity laws to underpin a boost to the “Make in India” campaign.

Other areas will likely include supply chain for agriculture, reforms to national taxation, simplification of some laws, build capable human resources and strengthening the financial system.

It is typical Modi – ambitious, unexpected in magnitude and investors are already reacting with enthusiasm.

India wine harvest down this year – opportunity for Australia?

India’s wine grape harvest is well down this year. A spell of unseasonal rain in October and November has spoiled grapes sown in Sangli and Nashik – both are in the State of Maharashtra in the “cooler” areas near the Western Ghats mountain range.

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Pictured above – Sula vineyards – dominant Indian wine brand

On average, the state of Maharashtra crushes 20,000 tonnes of grapes and produces 1.2 million litres of wine – this year, however, just 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes of grapes will be crushed, resulting in the production of 700,000 litres of wine.

I first heard about this from the Trade Promotion Council of India who produce terrific information about trade with India – well worth having a look at their website.

But the figures hide another reality – quality will be down.

Commenting on the issue, Mr. Rajesh Jadhav, secretary of All India Wine Production Association, said, “There will be a 25% reduction in wine production and due to poor quality of the fruit, it will be difficult to maintain quality.”

India’s millennials (there are 450 million of them) are drinking wine – not in quantity but definitely chasing quality.

The Australian wine industry has a presence in India but mostly at the lower end – cheaper or good value wines led by Jacobs Creek.

Time for Australian wines to pursue sales channels in India!

Melbourne seminar on India has best expert panel

BDO has assembled Melbourne’s best India panel to speak on Tuesday 3 March – book now – free event. Email michaelm@eastwestadvisers.net

They have a great line-up of speakers:
Michelle Wade, Victorian Trade Commissioner for India, Bengaluru
Susan Coles, Deputy State Director, Victoria, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Bill Cole, Partner International, BDO
Sandeep Khurana, Director, EastWest Advisers
Michael Moignard, Director, EastWest Advisers

I am proud to be the MC of this one.

Venue: BDO, 727 Collins Street Melbourne
Date: Tuesday 3 March 2020
Time: 12 noon start (lunch will be provided)
Email michaelm@eastwestadvisers.net

Pictured below: Bill Cole, Partner International, BDO

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Online food consumers fastest growing sector in India

In the next two years, the Indian food-tech industry is expected to reach the US$8 billion mark, according to a report by Google and Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The food tech space has been the fastest growing e-commerce segment in terms of reach and engagement, on the back of the rapid advancement in internet adoption and continued investments on consumer trials and delivery satisfaction.

According to the report, titled ‘Demystifying the online food consumer’, the major reasons for growth in the use of online food ordering apps includes a large variety of cuisines, good discounts and convenience.

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It said, “In fact, once users are satisfied with the service and start becoming habitual, they become more discerning about value – this behaviour is observable independent of town, class, social status, age and gender.”

Food tech is now in more than 500 cities in India.

Mr Rachit Mathur, MD and Partner, India Lead of BCG’s Consumer & Retail Practice added, “Overall online spending in India is rising rapidly and expected to grow at 25 per cent over the next five years to reach over US$ 130 billion.

“Riding on the wave of rapid digitization and steadily growing consumption, the reach of food-tech companies has grown six times over the last couple of years and will continue to increase further.”

The report is based on feedback of about 1,500 respondents across 12 cities.

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India’s FMCG market to grow 9-10% this year

Are you an FMCG exporter? Is India part of your plan?

According to market researcher Nielsen, India’s fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market is expected to grow 9-10 per cent in the January-December period, matching the expansion rate in 2019.

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There are two shifts in the Indian FMCG market – one is to branded products and the other is to online e-commerce.

A shift towards branded products has been driven by the GST.

“Following the implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax), a lot of unorganised players have exited the market across different FMCG categories,” said Mr B Sumant, ITC executive director of FMCG. “As a result, there has been a clear shift in consumption trend from unbranded to branded products.”

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Pictured above – the top Indian FMCG stocks

FMCGs can be divided into several different categories including:

Processed foods: Cheese products, cereals, and boxed pasta

Prepared meals: Ready-to-eat meals

Beverages: Bottled water, energy drinks, and juices

Baked goods: Cookies, croissants, and bagels

Fresh, frozen foods, and dry goods: Fruits, vegetables, frozen peas and carrots, and raisins and nuts

Medicines: Aspirin, pain relievers, and other medication that can be purchased without a prescription

Cleaning products: Baking soda, oven cleaner, and window and glass cleaner

Cosmetics and toiletries: Hair care products, concealers, toothpaste, and soap

Office supplies: Pens, pencils, and markers

Shoppers in India are leaping from buying unbranded at “mum and dad” stores to online purchasing.  

The most popular e-commerce categories, not surprisingly, are non-consumable goods—durables and entertainment-related products. The online market for buying groceries and other consumable products is growing, as companies redefine the efficiency of delivery logistics which shorten delivery times. While non-consumable categories may continue to lead consumable products in sheer volume, gains in logistics efficiency have increased the use of e-commerce channels for acquiring FMCGs.