India’s immense market potential, orchestrated by the recent economic boom, has been attracting multinationals, manufacturers and suppliers from all over the world but the ways and means of doing business with the world’s largest democracy continues to be an enigma for many.
Red tape, depressingly long bureaucratic procedures and difficult business practices have been cited as impediments to do business with India in the past.
However, the increasing number of high-level official visits and contacts between businesspersons from both countries in the past few years has changed the outlook and New Zealand companies today see India as a ‘profitable and exciting partner.’
The political climate also became brighter last year, after Narendra Modi rode the wave of popularity to bring his Bharatiya Janata Party to the Treasury benches.
New Zealand has also gained notice in Delhi for its friendly stance.
Indian entrepreneurs are no longer shy, lackadaisical and ‘suspicious’ of their foreign counterparts; they have become smart, sophisticated and ready to strike multi-million dollar deals, with ease and expertise.
While the New Zealand and Indian governments continue to explore the potential for increased political and economic interaction, experience has shown that attainment of higher levels of two-way investment and trade will depend on the ability and willingness of private sector establishments to engage in meaningful relationships.
New Zealand’s success with China (with annual two-way trade in excess of $20 billion, with the target of $30 billion over the next decade) is a pointer in this direction.
Despite its largely opaque style of functioning, and its periodic dormancy, the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) remains the only credible organisation promoting ties between the two countries, especially in the absence of a collective body like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) or the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
Against such a background therefore, the Business Summit 2015 being organised by INZBC in Auckland on March 13, 2015 gains importance.
We hope that the visiting and home-based speakers will go beyond the rhetoric and set the pace for stronger and meaningful business collaboration and commercial and industrial partnerships. We believe that Indian entrepreneurs have matured to perceive the potential even in a small market, and it is the opportune moment for New Zealand businesses to engage directly with their Indian counterparts, rather than wait for the signing of a Free Trade Agreement.
As we have mentioned in the past, the Indian government is not in a hurry to progress such a pact, making such private initiatives more imperative.
New Zealanders have realised, albeit belatedly, the fact that they cannot ignore India and that to do so would be at their peril.
New Zealand companies are often diffident to compete with larger organisations and countries but size should not be a handicap, experts say.
We are confident that experts at the forthcoming Business Summit will explain how to enter the Indian market, either alone or as a joint venture partner.
There are a number of other options; it is also important for companies to protect their investment and come to terms with the realities of the Indian market.
While the Indian market poses challenges, New Zealand investors and businesses should adopt a proper strategy and obtain appropriate advice from appropriate agencies that form a part of our diplomatic mission in Delhi.