Art of business-bending: All it takes is passion and strategy to go global
Credited as one of the fastest emerging economies in the world, yet Indian startups and companies due to a host of reasons continue to lag in the list of leading world companies. A list of the top 100 global brands compiled by Interbrand reveals that every single one of them belongs to developed economies like the USA, Europe, and China.
For most Indian brands overseas expansion is limited to exploiting immediate market prospects or generating fast capital. Such a strategy is more or less inconsequential for making a long-term mark in the global business landscape.
Reality indicates that cementing serious international growth for Indian brands is largely, a taxing affair.
A few homegrown businesses like Peter England or the TATA Group, amongst others, have managed to make the global cut. But the fact remains that an overwhelming majority of leading brands are restricted to serving only the domestic market. Given that the Indian economy contributes about 2-3% of the world GDP only, homegrown brands, unlike their global competitors such as Amazon or Toyota, are unable to address the rest 90-95% of the global market. Why?
A multitude of hurdles
- Armed with the second largest population in the world, India also enjoys the status of being the most diverse one with innumerable languages, religions, and cultures, all under one roof. While this may translate into an opportunity worth harnessing, it also proves to be a challenge in itself. Homegrown companies face an uphill task in creating global appeal due to a myriad of differentiated market dynamics in the country that are constantly at play.
- Shaping an enterprise that is attuned to universal standards demands non-stop brand consolidation at a gargantuan scale altogether. Thus, most Indian companies fall short of inculcating global business conventions, quality benchmarks, and the necessary ethos. Gearing up to such conditions is indeed a mammoth task and most of them fail to do so.
- Hence, a bulk of companies from India and other developing economies remain shrouded in a layer of increasing international mistrust. Their services and products are always under the global scanner as they are unable to pass the required standard and quality check. This is ironic at the same time as our human resource commands great value internationally. Whether supply-chain workers, skilled tech-professionals, doctors, scientists, and specialists – we have it all. Yet due to a plethora of inherently unfavorable market factors, Indian companies have a hard time capturing global audiences.
- While Indian companies do expand across multiple international markets, they are incapable of competing with the big-ticket entities there. This thin line separates figurative global brands from globally competitive ones.
- The lack of globally-resonant homegrown brands is also due to the glaring technology and innovation deficit, a constant characteristic of most Indian companies. This impedes India Inc. from producing brands which are competitive at a global scale. When multinational giants approach Indian customers with their world-class array of products and services, domestic brands are often at a loss in matching up to them. They find it strenuous holding their own. Employing superior tech-optimisation, in-depth R&D, and relentless attention to consumer detail, while keeping in mind the uniqueness of different demographics, are what make global brands like Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz international domain leaders.
Also, Indian companies are held back by the diseconomies that exist in retailing and purchasing, core functions, and overall brand promotion. It is presently unfeasible for emerging companies from developing nations like India to win customer bases in developed economies. Indian brands are also ineffectual in replicating the vast amounts of time, capital, and labor that are devoted by global brands in driving the all-important research and development culture within them. Now, the question worth asking is – can Indian startups and companies compete with multinational bigwigs?
The answer is yes! Provided the government along with the various public and private industry stakeholders sufficiently catalyse favourable conditions that aid domestic businesses in emerging as global leaders. It is indeed possible for Indian brands to ramp-up at an international scale if they focus on enhancing the current levels of product quality, core operations, and managerial caliber. Here’s how:
Step 1: Collaborate with global players
Partnering with seasoned and established business entities in their native countries is a great way of unlocking global business prospects. Such tactical alliances and collaborative ventures can help Indian companies in scaling international markets by streamlining their operations in unfamiliar terrains. Business coalitions also help in smoothening legal formalities and procedures that arise when Indian brands shift to foreign soils.
Besides earning a global presence, our businesses can benefit from the technological and innovation architecture stacks of global businesses. This was seen in the case of Mahindra joining forces with the French automobile brand Renault or Eicher uniting with the Swedish giant, Volvo.
Step 2: Realising the diaspora dream
Domestic companies can also achieve notable gains by associating with the expansive Indian diaspora in the US and UK. This will save an immense amount of overhead costs including advertising, marketing, and distribution that are huge in such countries.
Indian businesses can easily initiate contact with people of their ethnicity through dedicated Indian markets, cultural spaces, and similar pathways. It is also highly likely that NRIs residing in developed nations are aware about the said company’s global pursuits.
If the sizeable diaspora is affluent and the brand in question has a unique marketing appeal, then such extensive expansions are even more viable and fruitful.
Step 3: Raising the bar, constantly
Indian companies must imbibe western business tenets to the last letter. Developed economies display intense levels of work-discipline, quality standards, integrity of service, and uncompromised professionalism. Following such superlative business benchmarks can help them in augmenting their operations to global heights. On the contrary, most Indian companies are notorious for their slacker attitude, which obstructs their evolution.
By absorbing the ways of the western industrial culture, aspiring Indian companies can successfully improve their overall product/service quality, productivity, and business output. If homegrown enterprises envision competing with the top global names, they must also emulate their high levels of work-dedication, quality meters, customer service, and operational hygiene.
Step 4: Think big to grow big
Indian businesses that hope to become global leading figures must transcend localisation. To go universal, businesses must think universal too. This means that only by addressing the personalised needs of multifarious communities and ethnicities that exist around the world, our companies can replicate the success of global business leaders.
Take for instance the business strategy of fast-food behemoths like McDonalds or KFC. Both undertake comprehensive amounts of market research and in-depth survey to gain a deeper understanding of the prevailing consumer consciousness in whichever country they operate.
By efficiently catering to local tastes, aspirations, and preferences while simultaneously upholding their original core business ethics and maintenance standards they are able to captivate almost entire populations. It is also essential to be aware of contrasting sentiments, beliefs, and practices that are prevalent in various geographies. For example, in a Hindu majority nation like India or Nepal, or a Mohammedan country like Pakistan or Bangladesh, fast-food conglomerates will refrain from serving beef and pork respectively.
Step 5: Strike a rapport with your A-team
In the case of companies that are involved in producing web content for the benefit of consumption, it is important to be aware of the different viewpoints and interpretations of a single event or issue. The top names in this segment practice the policy of imparting sensitivity to the various opposing angles. This helps in lending voice to multiple narratives in a single brand-frame. It is also essential to create strong bonds with your offshore allies.
For an Indian brand that is involved in churning engrossing reads or reviews to a western audience, it is highly pertinent to bring aboard proficient writers, content-creators, and conceptualisers who can adeptly interpret the varying consumer needs and inclinations of that market. It is all about communicating clearly with your business heads and partners and preserving that business bond.
Step 6: Invest heavily in technology and R&D
Companies that are keen on cementing a global footprint must move beyond the game of generic production. They must adopt a long-term visionary model that involves adequate spending in cutting-edge R&D and tech-innovation. This will go a long way in creating indigenous patent-worthy products and services.
However, due to an extensive gestation time coupled with the need to infuse significant capital and other resources, most Indian companies hesitate venturing on such a demanding business trajectory.
This initial hard work pays off immensely at a later stage. Investing in technological upgrading and adequate R&D should never be considered a liability if a business intends global-scaling. This is why a vast surfeit of super-skilled Indian professionals and techies prefer working in the Silicon Valley (USA), rather than creating a brand of international repute back home.
The Indian talent pool though no less brilliant in comparison with its western counterparts suffers from a dearth of world-class infrastructure at various levels. This is a pivotal contributing factor behind Indian tech brands facing hardships in going global and generating long-term dividends.
Step 7: Capitalise on your cultural USP
Being blessed with an enormous vista of rich tradition is something that Indian companies must exploit. The Indian heritage is replete with unparalleled distinctions and attractive allures that can be strategically leveraged by homegrown businesses.
Indian cultural exports like spirituality, Yoga, classical dance and music forms, Bollywood, and even tangible produces like Ayurvedic concoctions, teas, and herbal medicines have great potential to be pitched as exclusive Indian offerings.
Organisations can tap into enormous prospects if they successfully convert these ideations into executable marketable concepts. India must learn from the examples of Asian economic powerhouses like China and Japan that have managed to translate and utilise their unique socio-cultural offerings into hi-advantage business propositions.
Indian businesses have miles to go before coming equal with their western peers, both in terms of gaining global eminence and customers. As international market dictates the survival of the fittest, only the fastest ones who can turn hurdles into ladders of opportunity can thrive in the contemporary business landscape.
Our country clearly has infinite potential in a multitude of domains such as technology, education, arts, medicine, etc. The challenge, however, lies in tapping into it. For India to emerge as a leading superpower and an economic hub, its biggest brands must switch to competing and winning in the global lane.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)