“Have fun, do business in India”, by Maarten van der Schaaf

What’s the best strategy to have commercial success in India? Have fun, understand the culture, take a top-down approach and focus on micro-communities. That and many more interesting thoughts and ideas were shared at the 9th Netherlands India Business Meet (NIBM) in Amstelveen last Tuesday.


Over 200 attendants

The event, this year moderated by Vidhya Sampath (TCS), is organized annually by ING, KPMG and the Netherlands India Chamber of Commerce and Trade (NICCT) to build and strengthen ties between the Dutch and Indian business community.



For the 9th edition of the NIBM the organizers partnered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Netherlands Enterprise Agency to highlight an upcoming Economic Mission to India led by Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. Over 200 people gathered at KPMG’s head office in Amstelveen to discuss commercial championship strategies for India, this year’s theme.


Two way street

After a short welcome speech of KPMG Netherlands CEO Jan Hommen, Marten van den Berg, deputy Director General Foreign Economic Relations at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the floor. Van den Berg pointed out that the Dutch/Indian business relation is clearly a two-way street. “While the Netherlands is the 5th largest investor in India, India is the 5th largest investor in the Netherlands. Although we are both knowledge economies, we are in many ways complementary to one another.” He reminded his audience of India’s need for medical research and agri-tech knowledge and the Dutch need for skilled IT-programmers. “The power of these fundamentals make for a strong business relationship.”


Make in India

“There has never been a better time to invest in India,” announced the next speaker, Mr Rajesh Nandan Prasad, the Ambassador of India to the Netherlands. Although such a message could be expected, it is probably the truth. The new pro-business government led by Indian president Narendra Modi is rolling out a bunch of new policies to improve the ease of doing business in the country, including “removing red tape, do away with old laws, and generally get things done quicker” in the words of the ambassador. Currently number 134 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, India aims to shoot up and reach spot 50 during Modi’s presidency. The focus of the new government is on foreign investment in manufacturing, said Mr. Prasad. “We want to raise our share of manufacturing in GDP from 15 to 25% and make India into a manufacturing hub.”


Have fun

As the conditions for doing business with India seem favourable, it is now time to act. To encourage the audience, inspirational speaker and author Rene Boender raised enthusiasm, energy and creativity with his talk called Einstein, Maslow, Pavlov & India. With a series of funny and thought provoking video clips, Boender reminded the attendants to shift from using the left, rational part of the brain, towards using the right, creative part of the brain while doing business in India. Practically, this means according to Boender that you have to visualize your ideas, break the routine and especially have fun. “Don’t focus on Return on Investment but on Return of Involvement,” Boender said. “When you give, give give, you will make contact and get the contract, your Return on India.”


A stoned sign

After the break the conference continued with the Make In India campaign movie, followed by a panel discussion with representatives of four Dutch companies that already do business in India. David Moore of supermarket chain SPAR emphasized the need to focus on micro-communities. “Even within Bengalore there are many differences. The sign on our first store was stoned because it was not written in the local language. Meanwhile in another part of he city, young buyers do like that Western supermarket experience.”


Henk Bijsterbosch of Greenfields, a supplier of sports pitches, shared how his company’s initial bottom up strategy (respond to tenders) failed, but when it changed towards a top-down strategy (reach out to authorities and sports bodies) it has been very successful.


Huib Smit of Allround Vegetable Processing told the audience that his company has been unlucky with an unreliable local partner in the start, but is now doing good business, especially because his company started to manufacture in India both for the local market and for exports. “That has been the best decision we have ever made.”


Finally Peter Zonneveld of Danieli-Corus reminded the audience that success comes by foot and leaves by horse. When asked about corruption he answered that there is only one correct answer to that: “No, stay away from that.”


10th NIBM in India?

Before Ram Lakhina, founder and chairman of Netherlands India Chamber of Commerce and Trade (NICCT) closed the NIBM with some concluding remarks, the NICCT chairman signed an MOU between his organization and CII Benelux. CII Benelux will become NICCT’s counterpart in India, with the aim of bringing large delegations of Indian businesses to the annual NIBM in the Netherlands and organizing the NIBM every two years in India itself.


Lakhina: “While the bilateral trade between India and the Netherlands has already grown from 1.2 to 6.5 billion dollar in the last nine years, there is still enormous potential for growth. The best is yet to come.”


NIBM 2014 Have fun do business in India

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