Australia’s ‘An India Economic Strategy to 2035’ No. 4 – more focus needed on cross-cultural understanding

It is true that the “An India Economic Strategy to 2035” did acknowledge the importance of culture, but I would have liked to see much more focus on it. There is nothing bigger keeping us apart.

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 behavior, further, cross-cultural analysis is not claiming one view to be right and the other wrong.

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.Holi3

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, if we train westerners to understand and ADAPT to the difference, we face much better prospects of success.

Cultural differences (without adapting) are coming between Australia and India – if we change this, we change the relationship for the better.


Australia’s ‘An India Economic Strategy to 2035’ No. 3 – why creating forums can be a waste of time

I am not a big fan of “CEO Forums” as an instrument of diplomacy or trade. Most of them are a formality, many attendees are pressured to be there and there is no natural energy. Good business arises when there is natural energy.

But the report “An India Economic Strategy to 2035” clearly loves them, and it called for a new CEO Forum and several other top level meetings to be created.

I could not see anywhere in the report where it actually asked if India wants these forums.

Nor could I see much in the track record of the Business Council of Australia (which the report nominates as the organiser of the forum) to suggest they have a deep interest in India at all.

What is the alternative?

Some of my best networking and business experiences in India have happened when I have attended a local Indian event – run by CII, FICCI, various universities and some city chambers of commerce.

In a collective culture such as India, going to a locally run event is your invitation into the collective, you can see first hand how it operates and find your own place. Indians love you turning up and appreciate the respect it shows. Networking becomes dynamic and business doors open to you.

Much better than a formal, imposed Australian CEO Forum idea.

This cultural point is central to my views – an Australian-created CEO Forum occurs “outside of the Indian collective” and although they will turn up, you are missing a key opportunity to be accepted into that collective – which of course is when you really do business.

Where a forum is a natural consequence of a growing trade relationship, then I am all for it – but creating one when there is no natural base for it could be a waste of time.

Australia finally has a strategy to build relations with India – but detail and time will tell

At last! Australia has ‘An India Economic Strategy to 2035’ — let’s hope this will have an impact and lead to change.

The strategy document noted that current trade with India is around $15 billion – it should have lamented this as a pathetic failure of previous initiatives. In contrast, current trade with China is $200 billion.

The report talks about several priority areas but only time will tell if the detail and approaches are right.

It misses on not placing enough emphasis on cross-cultural understanding. This is Australia’s biggest failing and underpins our poor outcomes with India – we just cannot talk to each other in a way we both understand.

The report also misses some strategic points – while it talks about declining US power in the region it could acknowledge that India has never understood our close alliance with the US. Nor does India have Australia’s (US based) global focus that we have to boost democracy etc. India is far more accepting of the world as it is. To know this is to have better diplomatic (and trade) relations.

It is also light on detail about how to benefit from the reach and connections of the 700,000 or so Indians who have migrated to Australia. But further focus and research will no doubt come from the report.

I really like that the report noted the Indian opportunities for Australia “would not fall into its lap and that the government would require a sharper national focus on India, an unambiguous commitment by Australian business and a deeper understanding by both government and business of the magnitude of what is unfolding in an Indian market place which will only get more crowded”.

More to come…

Indian economy muscles past France

India has jumped to the world’s sixth largest economy according to figures from the World Bank.

India’s GDP was $2.597 trillion as the economy rebounded from the slowdown caused by demonetisation and tax changes.

India is also poised to become the world’s most populous nation with 1.34 billion people – and still growing fast as one of the youngest nations.

This population is part of the reason for economic success – the so-called “demographic dividend” of a young population is paying off with local consumer demand being the major driver and India has been able to find the skilled workforce for a growing manufacturing sector.Prayer2

This is a huge achievement with India more than doubling its GDP in less than a decade.

The experts believe India will soon overtake the fifth biggest economy, Britain, as the rise to the top continues.

Is your country serious about India? Lessons from FICCI and the UK

India’s Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has launched a portal called “UKThat” which will promote manufacturing and service industries from UK into India. Great initiative. Has FICCI done that for your country?

A series of initiatives to promote trade and investment between India and Britain was unveiled in India by the Indian High Commission and traders’ body the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The UK-India Technology and Talent Exchange Programme, dubbed TechXChange, is aimed at providing support to the best start-ups in both countries.

It follows from the technology exchange programme that has been signed between the two countries in presence of the Prime Ministers (Narendra Modi and Theresa May).

“This is an attempt to really give it some shape, some serious framework to make this actually happen between India and the UK,” said Sunil Parekh, FICCI’s Member of the National Executive Committee and Chair of the Sub-Committee on Start-ups, at a two-day UK-India Leadership Conclave which concluded recently.

Now, that is the kind of decisive conclave I would like for Australia and India.

Why not?

In a move to boost UK exports to India, the industry body announced the ‘UKThat’ Portal, which will create a marketplace for manufacturing and services industries and offshore traders of all goods and services to promote their products to international clients in India.

FICCI seeks to provide an easy way for Indian importers to quote and purchase from UK businesses without third parties or intermediaries, in complete transparent and secure transactions,” it said in a statement.

International Yoga Day gives insights into how India differs from China

One of the global initiatives of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been International Yoga Day – celebrated across the world on 21 June each year since 2015.

While China is building a global reputation based on the “belt and road” initiative and creating bases in the South China Sea, defending accusations of deliberately creating debt in emerging nations and interfering with neighbours, India just goes on doing its own thing.yoga2

China has an ageing population and a trade-dependent economy – it is vulnerable to global economic shifts and worried about security of trade routes.

In contrast, India has a young population and economic growth driven by internal demand. It is less likely to be affected by global economic downturns or security issues.

This is not to say security is not on the mind of India – it recently did a significant deal with Indonesia. But for China, security of trade routes is the dominant global concern.

That is why International Yoga Day gives special insight into modern India – lifting millions out of poverty, creating a strong economy and global strength but celebrating the quiet and peaceful side of its culture. This year the theme was “Yoga for Peace” and somehow I feel only India could come up with such a concept.yoga4

World Bank forecasts 7.3% growth for India – world’s fastest emerging market

The World Bank has forecast a growth rate of 7.3 per cent for India this year and 7.5 per cent for the next two years, making it the fastest growing country among major emerging economies.

A top World Bank official said India’s economy is robust, resilient and has potential to deliver sustained growth.economy India retains the tag of the fastest growing country among the world’s major emerging economies, Ayhan Kose, Director of the Development Prospects Group at the World Bank, told PTI.

“India’s economy (today) is robust, resilient and has potential to deliver sustained growth,” Kose said.

“India is doing well. Growth is being robust. Investment growth remains high. Consumption remains strong. All in all these numbers are encouraging,” Kose said, referring to the World Bank report on India’s growth rate figures.

“However, you look at it, India is in a very strong position,” he said.

Why India?

If you are in business or investment, this question (why India?) will have been asked before. But the answer is becoming more compelling as the following list shows:indiagate

  • India to remain one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Source: International Monetary Fund
  • FDI inflows increased by 37% since the launch of Make in India initiative. Source: Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Government of India
  • Leading investors ranked India as the most attractive market. Source: Ernst & Young Emerging Markets CenterIndian rail
  • India to have world’s largest youth population by 2020. Source: United Nations Population Fund
  • India to be the largest supplier of university graduates in the world by 2020. Source: British CouncilBKC1
  • India has the third largest group of scientists and technicians in the world. Source: All India Management Association & The Boston Consulting Group
  • Rising affluence is the biggest driver of increasing consumption in India. Source: Boston Consulting GroupEntertainment
  • India’s consumer story will be led by its 129 million urban mass consumers. Source: Goldman Sachs Group
  • Private consumption will be four times by 2025. Source: McKinsey Global Institute
  • Centre of global maritime trade to move from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean Region. India and China will be the largest manufacturing hubs of the world by 2030; Source: Lloyd’s Register Marine & University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
  • In next five years, India to have greater economic influence across the Asia Pacific region; Source: Baker McKenzie & Mergermarket GroupIndian airport
  • Over the next three decades more than 350 million Indians will move into cities. Source: McKinsey Global Institute
  • Over the next two decades more than USD 1.5 trillion investments planned for infrastructure. Source: Press Information Bureau, Government of India
  • India registered a record improvement on Ease of Doing Business ranking from 142 to 100 between 2014-2017; Source: World BankGateway1
  • India ranks 40th on Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2016-17; Source: World Economic Forum
  • 95% of 1.2 bn Indians are under Aadhar scheme: One of the world’s Largest Social Security Program; Source: Press Information Bureau, Government of India
  • Jan Dhan Yojana: Formalization of Savings: 312 million bank accounts have been opened with savings amounting to USD 11.6 bn; Source: Ministry of Finance, Government of India
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST), biggest tax reforms since independence; Source: Government of India

    India is on the move – time to jump on board!

Real leadership to boost Indonesia and India trade

The leaders of Indonesia and India have shown how to lead on trade – committing to boost bilateral trade to USD 50 billion by 2025, from around USD 18 billion this year. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo made the announcement during talks this week.


The boost follows a defence agreement earlier this month for an Indian port and base on an Indonesian island at the northern tip of Sumatra. The deals are confirmation of India’s active “look east” policy and signal a shift which will impact ASEAN.

This leadership is in contrast to Australia’s relationship with India, with trade stuck on around A$18 billion compared to over A$180 billion with China.

India’s Media & Entertainment growing rapidly – hungry for content and investment

The Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry grew at an average annual rate of 18.55 per cent from 2011-2017; and is expected to grow at 13.9 per cent to touch US$37.55 billion by 2021.


The next 5 years will see digital technologies increase their influence across the industry leading to a sea change in consumer behaviour across all segments.

The entertainment industry is projected to be more than US$62.2 billion by FY25.

The industry provides employment to 3.5-4 million people.

The entertainment industry continues to be dominated by the television segment, with the segment accounting for 44.24 per cent of revenue share in 2016, which is expected to grow further to 48.18 per cent by 2021.

Google’s video platform, YouTube, plans to increase its user base in India to 400 million, as rising internet penetration in the rural areas will enable consumers to access videos on their smartphones.

I expect personal video messages to be a massive growth area – with Indian creativity being stretched to supply this sector.

India is one of the highest spending and fastest growing advertising markets globally. The country’s expenditure on advertising is expected to grow at 12.1 per cent to US$10.59 billion by the end of 2018.

If you are an investor or content provider, India should be on your radar.