Gandhi lay drastically ill with the Spanish Flu almost 100 years ago

As India fights to contain the Corona Virus (pictured are temperature checks on visitors to the Bombay Stock Exchange) it has been announced that the historic Sabarmati Ashram (a former home of Mahatma Gandhi) will remain closed for visitors from March 19 till March 29 in view of the coronavirus threat, the trust managing the complex said on Wednesday. The ashram receives a large number of visitors everyday.

The closure comes almost 100 years after the great Mahatma Gandhi lay ill in this ashram – with the Spanish Flu (1918).

Sabarmati Ashram is located in the Sabarmati suburb of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, adjoining the Ashram Road, on the banks of the River Sabarmati.

I was there one year ago – a quiet, beautiful and emotional experience coming closer to the great Mahatma.


“All interest in living has ceased”, Mahatma Gandhi, battling a vile flu in 1918, told a confidante.

The highly infectious Spanish flu had swept through the ashram in Gujarat where 48-year-old Gandhi was living, four years after he had returned from South Africa. He rested, stuck to a liquid diet during “this protracted and first long illness” of his life. When news of his illness spread, a local newspaper wrote: “Gandhi’s life does not belong to him – it belongs to India”.

Fortunately for India and the world, Gandhi recovered. However, tragically the Spanish Flu killed between 17 and 18 million Indians.

Our thoughts are with India as it now battles to limit the Corona Virus – so far, all indications are that measures are succeeding.


7 strategies for India market entry 2020

  1. Find the affluent millennials

India is home to the world’s largest population of millennials—typically defined as those aged 18-35. At 450 million, these millennials are influencing the way Indians eat, shop, commute and buy, much like their global counterparts. They are the first upwardly mobile group in recent history of India – and will have an impact very like the way western baby boomers changed most things.


According to Santosh Desai, managing director of Indian Brand Advisory Group Futurebrands, Indians used to be “born something” but now can “become something”.

  1. Drill down to the real middle-class market

We know India has 1.3 billion people, but if you think too much about this you will get nowhere. Drill down to find your market.


For example, some estimate the “middle class” as high as 300 million. For me, this is way too high. Austrade takes a dimmer view – it estimates that there are approximately 30 – 80 million people in our target demographic, many of whom live outside Tier 1 cities. That’s a big range from 30 to 80, which shows that we just do not know. But for me Austrade’s numbers are too low.

Austrade looks for consumers that:

  1. can afford international travel to destinations, like Australia;
  2. can afford to send their children for study abroad; and
  3. can afford to eat at high-end restaurants and hotels or eat significant amounts of imported food and wine at home
  1. Think of India as many markets

Thinking of India as “one market” will slow down your impact and waste your marketing efforts. First, there is the divide between north, south, east and west. Then there are big metropolises (8-10) and hundreds of tier two cities (around one million plus). Then there are over 26 different languages, multiple food cultures, differing beliefs and interests. It is complex, so build that into your “many markets” strategy.

  1. Consumerism is changing in India

India had just 9 Shopping Malls in 2007. There are over 350 Shopping Malls in 2019. Plus 85 new Shopping Malls will be built in the next 5 years = 435 Shopping Malls in 2025.


Add to this that online retail is taking off, with Amazon and the local Flipkart leading the way – Indian consumers use cell phones for online access.

Dr Mark Morley Trade Commissioner India Government of Australia makes a key point about opportunities for us: “Australia is well positioned with the Indian consumer. Across India, we have a great reputation for clean, safe and reliable supply. We are well known as a premium supplier of produce, and we have a global reputation for our quality brands.”

  1. Thinking local is a good way to start

Especially for those in food, beverages, education and fashion, your beginnings for India can start right here in Australia.

About 650,000 Australians claim Indian ancestry, and we have over 65,000 Indian students here, which means a significant local market spending money. Add to that the growth in Indian tourists – up to over 300,000 per year and growing at around 15%. This gives you a good market testing opportunity.

  1. Collaboration is the new relationship

If you just want to “sell” to India, sharpen your pencil and think short term – sooner rather than later, India will find an alternative to you.

To be in India for the long term, seek genuine opportunities to collaborate with Indians – once you and Indian collaborators are working together, your future is more secure. This is how Indians prefer to operate, so drop “transactional” thinking and focus on “collaboration” – it is the new relationship.

  1. Give India the time it needs

Cultures based on relationship (collaboration) are slower to move, so give India at least three years. You might “sell” sooner, but for most this is a very short-term market entry approach.


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.


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.


Why Australian schools have missed out in India and 7 steps to succeeding there

Demand for education in private international English-medium schools in India is soaring.

Despite this, few if any Australian private schools and school product providers have made inroads into India.

One of the barriers is what I call the “agency thinking” of education – just appoint lots of agents and the business will flow. Maybe – but India is a relationship country and you only become a big player through relationships, not through agency.

Indian nationals in the more expensive private international schools with fees above USD$10,000 make up 43 per cent of students. That’s high. As India’s middle class expands, this figure will also rise.

It is a great opportunity for Australian school education – our whole education system is well regarded in India.

The main international curricula offered in India are the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and the Cambridge International Examinations.

Here is the bad news – no Indian schools are offering the Australian curriculum. Why not?

schools 3

I have long advocated a “partnership model” for market entry into India. I recently conducted research on “partnership and collaboration” opportunities in the horticulture sector and this is looking much more positive than simple going to India for a quick sale.

This strategy has also been endorsed in the Final Report International Opportunities for Australian School Curriculum, Assessment and Regulatory Products; Australian International Education: Enabling Growth and Innovation – NSW Education Standards Authority and Nous Group January 2019 – “Given the size and complexity of operating in India, a partnership approach could assist Australian agencies and providers in developing market opportunities.”

Australia is much more “transactional” than we like to think. That is why we have not done well in Indian schooling.

Keep in mind there are many barriers to market entry.

How do you create a “partnership model”?

  1. Of course, do your homework, which means pay for expertise to deliver real on the ground opportunities in India, which might include exchanges, curriculum, technology or some form of JV with an existing school or group
  2. Build relationships – which also means take your time, budget for the long road
  3. Look in the developing sectors, such as Smart Cities, new cities, redevelopments and the property landscape
  4. Create relationships across all areas of the education sector – governments (central and state), schools, advisors, curriculum, technology providers and more
  5. Leverage existing Australian university relationships in India
  6. Always, where you can, build a local Indian presence, because this above all else signals that you want to be a genuine long-term partner
  7. And always, where you can, build your presence through a Joint Venture with a respected Indian brand in your sector

Amazon is backing India to the hilt

Pictured recently in India – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with Amit Agarwal, senior VP & country head, Amazon India, during the Amazon Smbhav event at the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium in New Delhi Inc Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said on Wednesday that his company would invest an additional $1 billion to help bring small businesses online in India, and also committed to using the retail giant’s “size, scope and scale” to export $10 billion of made-in-India goods by 2025.


Bezos has faced some problems in India, but he is bullish and active.

Seeking to reach out to critics, Bezos, donning traditional Indian attire, said his company was committed to be a long-term partner of India.

Bezos was into India so much – “I want to make a prediction for you. I predict that the 21st century is going to be the Indian century.”

Why? “The dynamism, the energy… everywhere I go here, I meet people who are working in self-improvement and growth. This country has something special, democracy,” he said.

Bezos contradicted my recent blog (India and Russia the closest relationship on earth) – “I make one more prediction for you: In this 21st century, the most important alliance is going to be the alliance between India and the US,” Bezos added.


The firm aims to digitise 10 million MSMEs with the proposed investment. In addition to providing training and enrolling MSMEs into its programmes, Amazon will help them work on cloud technology through specialised Amazon Web Services offerings at low costs. It will also establish 100 “digital haats’ in cities and villages throughout India.

Amazon has invested $5 billion in India in the past five years. The e-commerce platform also announced plans to support local neighbourhood shops and kiranas. It will expand its Amazon Easy programme.

In many ways, India retail is leapfrogging from the corner store to fully online.

For those in the FMCG sector this is a pretty exciting opportunity. Time to get your India strategy right!


10 reasons to look again at India in 2020

Dr Mark Morley is an Australian Trade Commissioner in India. In the last twelve months, like many of us, he has changed his view of Australia’s prospects in India. Why?

Here are 10 reasons to change – taken from his writings:

  1. Indian tourists coming to Australia has for the first time beaten the number of Aussies going to India – there were about 350,000 and each of them sees “clean and green” and innovative Australia first-hand. Plus, more than 700,000 Indians live down under.
  2. Across India, Australia has a great reputation for clean, safe and reliable supply. We are well known as a premium supplier of produce, and we have a global reputation for our quality brands.
  3. India’s ease of doing business and transparency has improved, its regional infrastructure – including roads and airports, as well as its cold chain – is improving, it now has a national GST alongside unified regulations around food importation and labelling, and a hungry entrepreneurial scene that is looking for international brands.
  4. Most importantly, and this is the game-changer for Australian FMCG producers, it has unified, national (or near national) platforms for Australian companies to connect their products with consumers. Can you believe this change? India now has a platform for Australian companies to connect their products directly with consumers.
  5. Amazon, as well as other platforms such as FlipKart and niche online marketplaces such as NetMeds, have turned the retail environment on its head.
  6. The scale and scope of the opportunity in India is now hard to ignore: Amazon India can deliver to 50% of all postcodes in India within 3 days of order, and 100% within 5 days.
  7. The Amazon platform is currently adding 200k+ Stock Keeping Units (SKU) every day, joining the 170 million SKUs already present on the site.
  8. With the cheapest mobile data accessibility in the world, 85% of Indians access online platforms via their mobile devices. This has huge implications for a market of more than 1.3b people.millennialsphones
  9. Mobile accessibility has meant that the modern retail format in India has been largely leap-frogged. Greater connectivity, greater receptivity to international brands, and greater opportunity for Australian exporters.
  10. India is a global player. But it’s not China (and that’s important for many of you with lots of eggs in the one basket). So, hasten slowly.

I would add to this list that India has 450 million millennials (those aged around 21 to 37), more than any other country and they will not live, learn, watch, listen, consume, travel, drive or behave like the previous generation.


Why not start a conversation with Mark? Email


Reflections for the New Year – from Ram Dass

From his beginnings as Harvard Professor Richard Alpert, he became Ram Dass in India and is now at the age of eighty-eight. Here, for the New Year, are some of his quotes.

“Everybody is playing with their stories; who they think they are. It’s more fun to just witness it all. To be in the environment in which it’s all happening.”

“Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.”

“You walk down the street and you’re somebody; you dress like somebody; your face looks like somebody. Everybody is reinforcing their structure of the universe over and over again and you meet [each other] like two huge things meeting. We enter into these conspiracies. You say, I’ll make believe you are who you think you are if you make believe I am who I think I am.

“How do we know who we are? We might be one breath away from enlightenment or death or who knows? The uncertainty is great. It keeps it wide open.”

“Give up the anger. Working it through is making it something. Just give it up.”

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgement mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”

“The game is to be where you are. Be it honestly and as consciously as you know how.”

And from me – wishing you a happy and healthy New Year.