The Indian question: what’s the business opportunity?
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Once known as the jewel in the crown of the British Empire – and now a vital part of the Commonwealth – India has long been an important ally and partner for the UK. While it’s been over 70 years since India gained its independence, the two countries are still closely linked and enjoy a unique relationship.
As the seventh largest country in the world (in terms of land mass), India boasts a booming economy and offers a huge opportunity for international business. The largest democracy in the world – with a population of over 1 billion – is forging an ever-improving reputation as a business powerhouse.
Our partner Neil Humphreys caught up with Jyorden Misra, Managing Director, Spearhead InterSearch India, to get his views on the opportunities within India, the potential business pitfalls and what areas are particularly exciting right now.
Jyorden, can you give me a brief overview of search in India?
Executive search is a relatively new concept in India compared to European countries and America. Prior to the early 1990s, India’s search industry didn’t really exist; rather, there was a very much more generalist recruitment approach that’s nothing like the management consulting it is today.
The Indian economy opened up in 1991 and large companies started coming to the country. Search firms followed; our firm launched in 1997 and became part of InterSearch in 2007.
India is a unique country. What are its key strengths and opportunities?
Diversity within India is without doubt its key benefit. With a population of 1.3 billion, spread over a geographic range spanning 3.2m km, and speaking over 120 languages, India is arguably the most diverse nation in the world. While it can’t be said that this doesn’t pose challenges, it’s also a huge opportunity. With so many people offering a broad range of skills, businesses can expand into India confident that they will find quality people – and plenty of them.
India is rapidly being inducted into the world order. The country has a very large middle class of around 600m people, which plays a fundamental role in protecting the economy. The impact of the middle class has only grown over the last decade, in size and scale.
Another key benefit is that India has not spent the last 10 years in slow growth, like much of the world. It was relatively insulated from the 2007-08 global crash because the economy was not heavily dependent on export, and so has been able to concentrate on further growth in the intervening years, rather than focusing efforts on steadying the ship.
Finally, for British companies, the historical links between the UK and India offer a unique starting point for business. There are 1.5m Indians living and working in the UK and 800 Indian companies incorporated in Britain. Meanwhile, British companies operating in India employ more than 800,000 people. Two successive governments in India have made big efforts to help the relationship develop and the position this gives to British companies in India is unrivalled.
India is the fastest growing emerging market in the world, posing an unparalleled opportunity for bilateral trade. As a country, we are performing very well – but a lot more can be achieved for businesses with the right mindset.
What challenges are there when working in executive search in India?
Most people agree that India offers businesses a huge opportunity but, alongside that, there are significant challenges posed by the sheer scale of the country. India is still evolving at a structural level. For example, regulation and agreed processes can be difficult to navigate and there are instances where businesses have struggled to secure the right licences to operate. However, there has been a massive shift and things are much improved compared to how they were as little as five years ago. The country has made great progress, but if you compare India to other countries with larger economies, it’s clear that it still has a way to go.
Are there any industries that perform particularly well in India?
There are a number of industries which are really booming in India at the moment. Key examples are healthcare and medical technology, energy (especially renewable), education services, manufacturing, professional services, agritech and IT. However, most areas show a healthy level of growth.
One of the most important catalysts for growth has come with the rise of the Financial Inclusion sector, originally spearheaded by the institutionalization of the dynamic Microfinance enterprises. This, along with the rapid spread of digitisation and deep penetration of telecoms and internet connectivity across the country, has the opportunity to change the face of India by offering those at the bottom of the pyramid (where a large proportion of the population exists) access to finance.
Financial micro lending is injecting cash into the poorest areas of India and allowing people to change their destinies. For those without access to regular banking services, these loans are enabling them to set up small businesses, potentially employ others and, collectively, deliver a vital element of the economy. For example, a 10,000 Rupee loan (approximately £100) might enable a vegetable grower to buy a bicycle with appropriate accessories to take his produce to a market where a much better price can be realised, rather than relying on the local middle man. He might then be able to buy a motorbike, and expand his reach, business and returns many times more. This is rural revolution, a tsunami in a silent way – and the impact it will have on the Indian economy cannot be underestimated.