What does it take for a global brand to win India over?
Here are five tips that global brands entering the diversified Indian market should keep in mind.
India is one of the most diverse countries in the world with an amalgamation of various cultures, thoughts, and beliefs. With 20+ official languages, hundreds of dialects, dressing styles, food habits and beliefs, the country is a melting pot of different influences. With 30 states and 6 union territories, India as a marketplace is more like Europe rather than being a homogenous market. This cultural diversity gives global brands entering the Indian market an opportunity to establish themselves and form a local connect with their consumers. However, it can be challenging to formulate strategies for so many different needs. What should global companies keep in mind while planning to enter India?
Be a part of India’s cultural zeitgeist
Indians love cricket, movies, politics, music, festivals, and food. A global brand will be able to find its place in the cultural zeitgeist of India immediately if it is able to smartly ride on any of these opportunities. Companies entering the Indian market need to think what approach can be used during the next big cricket event. Is there something they can do to ride the wave of the next elections or can they use the next big festival season in India? This will instantly give a brand identity that Indians can relate to and establish a more personal connect with their target audience.
Identify the early adopters
Global brands should identify individuals and institutions aligned to their brand’s mission and under the value proposition. They are typically the ones who are relentlessly in search for something new and innovative. Feed their hunger to try newer opportunities. Strike win-win partnerships with such individuals/institutions, and make sure that these are successful. It is important to celebrate the success of these partnerships so that it inspires the rest of the ecosystem. Airbnb has successfully used influential personalities from different walks of life to become part of social conversations and eventually drive usage of their services.
Localise the playbook
India suffers from superficial market entry syndrome. Every other company is attracted to the big numbers India has to offer. It is easy to get million-odd users, especially for tech companies. But if you want to make it big in India, prepare yourself to immerse. Have a strategy to win Tier II and III cities and smaller towns. What works in metros will not work in smaller towns because of cultural nuances and different market conditions. Think beyond English as the Indian language market is much bigger and is growing at a faster pace. All global brands have playbooks of success, which work across markets, but when in India, it's important to localise the playbook to suit the local culture. Coursera has started offering courses from top-tier Indian institutes like ISB, and this has resonated well across metros and smaller towns.
Aim for government partnerships
India is one of the few countries that welcome global brands with open arms. Unlike some countries that are closing doors to global businesses, the Indian government has often shown a desire to collaborate with private entities. This is true for various departments/ministries. There is a race among state governments to outdo others and out-innovate other states. Airbnb’s Tourism Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme, in partnership with MTDC, which aimed at driving economic growth in local communities by helping micro-entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector, is a good example of mutually beneficial government partnership.
Make for India
Conditions in India are unique. With the country being an Android-heavy market, you will find users on a variety of devices - from the cheapest smartphones to smart feature phones with 4G connectivity. The level of connectivity varies from high-speed 4G connections in some patches of the city to 2G-3G connections in other parts of the same city. So, most consumer tech companies with long-term plans for India must deploy made-for-India products or tweak their global product to suit Indian conditions. Lately, India has become a laboratory for emerging and growing markets. If it works in India, it will more likely than not be successful in other emerging economies of Asia and Africa. Uber’s strategy to make product tweaks (cash payment) and launch a new app version (Uber Lite) for Indian conditions has worked wonders.
India is a multi-tier market that is constantly evolving. Hence every global brand should make an India playbook and constantly update it for continued success in this vast country.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)