Canadian businesses seek to adapt to India


With the exciting and diverse business opportunities in India now
finally more in focus for Canada, the message that Canadian firms need
to adapt their approach to the Indian market should be front and centre.
However, it is a message that I believe Canadian executives, for the
most part, have not fully comprehended nor taken to heart. Their
historical focus on the US market hasn’t effectively conditioned them
for major adaptation.

Our recent Telfer School of Management’s 6th annual India Forum delved into the important theme of “Adapting Your Business to India”. This year’s  “National Capital India Forum
reflected Telfer’s expanding collaboration with partners and brought
together a diverse audience of Canadian and Indian firms, government
officials and intermediaries to demonstrate and debate just what this
“adaptation” entails.

In many respects, India is now a full-fledged buyer’s market and
Canadian firms face diverse, and at times, extremely challenging demands
as they attempt to enter the market. Requests for new and modified
products, unprecedented low pricing, technology transfer, flexible
timelines and local content are challenging all competitors in today’s
Indian market. These challenges are exacerbated by cultural nuances that
make the business environment difficult to read and navigate.

Our Forum showcased a couple of Canadian firms who have significantly
adjusted their business approach to penetrate the market. Samco
Machinery of Toronto with a nine year history in dealing in India is a
case in point. The firm has effectively adjusted its approach in
localizing production to meet the challenging demands and to provide the
framework for the Tata Nano, India’s $2,500 car. DataWind, another
Canadian firm with a unique offering of the world’s lowest cost
computing/internet device ($40 range), focuses on the bottom end of the
pyramid in India. The firm effectively exhibits “frugal innovation” as
it markets its Aakash tablet computer products.

The product, pricing, operational and other local adaptations which
these firms have made in order to penetrate the Indian market are indeed
remarkable. The success was achieved through intensive local market
cultivation and commitment and a complete reset of their business plans.
These firms are admirable beacons of change and role models. Let us
hope that Canadian firms, large and small can follow their lead and a
change in mindset will spread.

My view is that Canada has never been better placed to realize
significant business in India. Yet big questions remain for Canadian
companies. Do we want it as much as some of our competitors ? Can
Canadian executives reset their approach to succeed in India?

We need to keep these questions on the table. What do you think?

Reference: University of Ottawa

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