International Business : Indian Summer -- Land of Opportunity; with More and More New Zealand Firms Making the Move into India, Robert Smith Attended the Recent India New Zealand Business Forum Hosted by AUT

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Smith

When Gallagher Group first made its foray into the Indian agricultural management market in the early 1980s, a vital part of its new business involved setting up electric fences around plantations to keep hungry elephants out.

Using tried and tested techniques, the company's representatives set up the fences, only to find that keeping elephants away from vital crops was a little different from fencing off sheep and cattle. The elephants would simply wrap their trunks around the fence posts and walk backwards, bringing the whole fence line down. A little bit of lateral thinking was needed to solve the problem, and Gallagher hit on the simple solution of wrapping the electric wire around the post itself. After this, the elephants soon learned their destructive trick was not going to work any more, and moved on.

Setting up and sustaining a business on the Indian subcontinent will be fraught with its own unique challenges like intelligent elephants, but the opportunities and capabilities of the Indian market have become too strong to ignore, and more and more Western eyes are turning in that direction.

Locally, there has been strong discussion of a free trade agreement between India and New Zealand and it is one many businesses here are keen to see developed. India had a GDP growth rate of 9.4 percent in 2006-2007, making it the fastest growing in the world. Incredibly, India will soon overtake China to become the world's most populous nation, with a middle class in excess of 200 million and more billionaires than Japan.

India's massive internal market is progressively being opened to foreign business and three quarters of all Fortune 500 companies are now actively engaged there. It has a population that is becoming more urbanised each year, and while less than a third of all Indian currently live in the cities, rapid economic growth in the major centres is fuelling massive internal migration, creating major infrastructure opportunities. India was New Zealand's 23rd largest export market in the year ended June 2008, with primary commodities still dominating New Zealand sales to India.

The opportunities in India are there for the taking, and a closer look at India's markets, the possibilities, the pitfalls to avoid and the Indian method of doing business were the focus of a recent business forum held in Auckland. At the forum, representatives of India's business community and local companies who had made the foray into the market there, gave their views and tips for the future.

One piece of advice that came up often during the forum was the benefits of perseverance. While the Indian scene is a rapidly evolving one, New Zealand companies should not expect instant results. Gallagher was represented at the forum by the company's security management systems business development manager, Ian Meadows, who manages the Cardax partner network throughout West Asia, India, Pakistan and the Middle East. He said that while Gallagher's initial moves into the Indian market began in the early '80s, it was another 10 years before the company began racking up significant sales.

He said that while companies were now used to a lead time in business dealings of a couple of months or a year at most, its Indian success was a result of a decade of effort and showed the value in company founder Bill Gallagher's ongoing belief that there was business in that part of the world.

You have to really believe in what you are doing and keep at it. You may get knocked back, you may head up the wrong avenue, but you have to just keep going. It really is about perseverance. We do quite nicely in India now and have a lot of significant business there, but it didn't come easy. It took a lot of effort and a lot of visits, and sometimes you come back feeling a bit disheartened, wondering what was the point in going, but you just have to go back again and keep going. …