Entering India is your chance to infuse your business with first-hand jugaadi skills that will help you to compete better, not only in India but also globally.

Use Jugaad and localise 7 tips for global startups to expand into India successfully
Atom Startups Friday, June 15, 2018 - 16:07

India’s market is tempting and mind-boggling at the same time. Here are seven tips on how you can pave your scaleup’s road to success and expand operations into the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Use Jugaad, be jugaad.

Jugaad has become the darling of management techniques across the world, but nowhere will you find it exercised to perfection as in its origin - India. Jugaad has many interpretations ranging from ‘hack’ to ‘the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources.’

And indeed, approaching problems through the lens of constraint and limitation pushes Indian entrepreneurs to innovate faster, cheaper and better while staying affordable and sustainable. Indian products and solutions are increasingly appreciated by the global audience for their ability to disrupt the market not just through the usage of the latest tech but for their effort to remain affordable while doing so.

Entering India is your chance to learn from the masters of jugaad and infuse your business with first-hand jugaadi skills that will help you to compete better, not only in India but also in your home market and globally.

Localize, localize, localize

India is a complex market and exhibits a level of diversity that is incomparable. At the same time, it is one of the fastest growing economies and the second most important hotspot for global tech and innovation. It also has a massively expanding local middle-class. This country is buzzing. There is no place on earth where you’d rather be if you want to observe the expansion of human potential.

And, while the promise of entering the market early like in the present moment is obvious, we have seen even biggies fail. Those who have made it, have become experts in reading Indian clients and play to their needs and their ability and willingness to pay. And, this is true whether your client is a private consumer or a large corporate. The task at hand is localization, fine-tuning of your product, business model, and go-to-market strategies.

To put it in perspective, there is no Indian localization. You are likely to pull out your Business Model Canvas over and over again while rolling out into different regions of the country with their diversities in language, culture and religion. Client tests and interviews will be part of your road to success in India realizing that local behavior varies quite substantially across regions.

Come for the right reasons

India is an attractive market, there is no doubt about it. A large part of it is untapped, and rapidly growing. But make no mistake as it is probably one of the most difficult to conquer. While, all the factors mentioned make for a great climate to start looking at India as a market, make sure your timing is right, and you are coming for the right reasons:

India is part of your Internationalization strategy: Startups are ventures with a repeatable and scalable business model with the intent of becoming a large business. For that to come to life, there needs to be an international vision from the very beginning. India’s large market might be tempting but consider India more like Europe than the US.

Time to expand: You have reached full or close-to-full market reach in your home or other major markets. The past success stories will help you make your case to price-value conscious Indian clients.

Your product delivers an intrinsic value to Indian clients: Most importantly, ensure that your product and business model solves a problem for India and its demanding clients. Before you come, test your product for local interest, start with PoCs and early adopters. You know the game.

India has a vast array of challenges at hand, and some of them need rather urgent solving considering its growth trajectory over the next couple of years and decades. Make yourself familiar with the ranking of issues and how government, regulation, and private sector are prioritizing them, which will give you guidance on which wave to ride on and when.

Access to clients: Internationalization is all about access to new clients or upselling to old ones in new markets. For you to succeed in both, first check your existing client base and understand how they are represented in India. It will turn out even more successful if your contacts elsewhere in the world are of Indian origin. Use your Indian networks and ride their relationships.

Secondly, build your own network quickly. Tap into every possible way to accelerate your access to local clients. There are multiple organizations tailored to help foreign entities to enter the Indian market. Start with your county’s embassy in India and watch out for players who have specialized in Market Access support. Make sure your partner not only helps you with legal and administrative questions but also puts you in front of potential clients. On another note, India is an emerging hub for global innovation centers meaning that outside of the US, many large corporates source innovation through their Indian entities. India is known to add value to global operations and are now at the table for global decision-making in sourcing innovation for global roll outs, both for internal implementation and integration into global product portfolios.

Also read: T-Hub announces second edition of India Market Access Bridge program for intl startups

Be wary of the YES’s or 50 shades of YES.

We are speaking about language and how you will quickly realize that despite English being widely used in business circles, it's not as straightforward as you would imagine. You might still want to work with an interpreter as the communication is more indirect, intended to not to offend, and nurture relationships over everything else. It is important to understand what is being communicated to you while you do business in India. The most common example of cultural difference in language is the usage or non-usage of YES and NO. You will hardly find people that tell you an outright NO, more likely they will use some form of YES, that effectively means NO or maybe at best. It is advised to get a local companion to help you in the early days to learn distinguish YES-YES’ from YES-NO’s.

Effective Immersion and Indian Leadership.

India’s rapid growth pace can make navigation difficult and nerve wrecking. You, as the founder, should be on ground in the early days of your market entry journey. You are the one who can communicate the value of your solution and strategy best. It is essential for you to understand how to navigate the market to build an effective strategy with your future team. We have seen founders delegating market entry too early and fail because of the lack of commitment and understanding of market situation.

As much as your expansion needs your commitment for a smooth take-off, bringing Indian leadership on board is essential for your long-term success. Local experience and knowledge will help you to quickly localize, build on their professional network and ensure the understanding of Indian complexities, markets and clients.

Relationship is everything

In India, personal relationship is of utmost importance. Spend some time reading about Indian etiquette in business settings. The UK-India Business Council is providing some great insights. You will find a lot more formalities and acknowledgement of hierarchy compared to a country such as the US. Expect to spend more time with your clients. You will experience that quality time with your client is money. The lines between work and private life are a lot more blurred and inseparable in India.

Access is Key

As a founder and entrepreneur, you already know how the right network and ecosystem is essential for you to move fast, fail fast, and succeed fast. India has multiple local ecosystems, and all have their perks and gaps. Within India, you will need to decide on where to start your ‘desi’ journey. While Bangalore is still ahead of all other established and emerging startup hubs, Hyderabad leads in growth of number of startups and investments. The city has a tightly integrated approach, which ensures fast and successful engagement between the startup, corporate, and investor realms of the ecosystem. For example, T-Hub for Hyderabad has become the example of a successful ecosystem in the country that is working its way towards becoming a globally recognized scaling destination with programs designed to help startups and Scaleups gain access to a network of local, national, and global large corporates with proven paths right into their product portfolios.

Views expressed are author’s own. Juliane Froemmter is Director-International Relations, T-Hub, which is currently running India Market Access Bridge, a tailor-made program for post-series A startups and scaleups focused on B2B enterprise products and technology solutions for sustainability.

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