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India, a new frontier for entrepreneurs?

There are similarities and differences in every culture, especially in the business culture.

Us young entrepreneurs in the west are a new breed of people in the business world. We have made our money through non-conventional niche markets which most older entrepreneurs may find unusual. For example we are in industries such as App creation, New Media or in some more unusual cases things like Yo-Yo shops or Breakfast Cereal restaurants.

We are used to doing business with other young people through informal messaging services and light hearted coffee mornings or over a drink at a bar, smoking cigarettes and laughing together but at the same time working out the details of a project for an important client.

We as a group have thrown out the ceremony of formal business meetings in favour of a more relaxed and networked way of working. This is how we are doing things in the West, Rock n’ Roll business if you will.

Rush hour traffic is dangerous in Delhi.

Rush hour traffic is dangerous in Delhi.

This method is all well and good if your clients and peers are located in Europe or America, but as I soon found out, our way of thinking has not yet reached Asia, still a land very much steeped in tradition and formality. This is just a glimpse of the little things we as young westerners should consider if we do break into the Asian marketplace.

My trip to India started as a two birds with one stone kind of trip. I was originally going over as an assistant with my father’s company and decided to set up some meetings of my own to see how possible it would be to break into Asia. This way I got to see both the scientific industry and the media industry of India.

India is the third largest economy in Asia and has the hardest working professional population in the world. They don’t do nine to five, they often stayed on until the early hours of the morning to get things done.

Delhi skies at night.

Delhi skies at night.

One major difference that may halt European-Indian connections is the difference in payment. I met one man at the scientific centre who, for all his driving and errand running, received the equivalent of €15 per month.

With such a low standard of pay moving into India to set up a HQ would be counter productive unless you are already well-established in the West, but to outsource labor intensive jobs to India would be the smartest move, and they don’t mind Westerners doing that, in fact that was the main suggestion brought up in every meeting I attended from both industries.

Another factor that may make you stay away from India is the class system. They very much take into account what you wear to a meeting. No matter how hot you are, stay in that shirt! Whether you smoke or drink,  to engage in these activities is seen as lower class so hide it if possible.

Lotus Temple, New Delhi.

Lotus Temple, New Delhi.

Also, if you’re a not a spiritual person, you might want to keep it for yourself as well. Even the top scientists started lectures with appeasements to the god of knowledge, as they don’t care what your beliefs are, but couldn’t get their heads around my atheism.

These factors didn’t stop our connections but you could tell they were wary of a smoking, drinking, atheist from the west, but I looked sharp so that was alright.

So do your best to look clean and wholesome, that also applies to your ideas.

We in the west can get away with an idea for a magazine or viral video based entirely on trends such as punk fashion or B.D.S.M or a section where we tear some poor soul to shreds for being a twat. That kind of “tongue out, fingers up” mentality is completely lost in India. They didn’t have our rebellious counter culture revolutions so keep any pre-watershed ideas to yourself unless it’s unanimously taken in that direction at the meeting.

One thing that should be noted is that the people in charge usually have more than one business and much more than one job, so making a connection, say in the Pharmaceutical industry could very easily lead onto any other sector of the economy.

It’s this fluid movement between industries that makes India a crucial place to make connections when trying to break into Asia.

About Pete Leddy

An entrepreneur from Ireland, Pete spent years making short films. Then he set up a production house specializing in corporate web content and adverts. His work has taken him all over the world.

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