The win-win mission

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INTRO: Rohini Kappadath gives a first-hand account of the Victorian Super Trade Mission to India and tells you how your company can be part of one too

Victoria set a new benchmark in its trade engagement with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies when Premier Ted Baillieu lead a Super Trade Mission to India in February this year  in the hope of generating more than $200 million worth of trade and export business for the state.

More than 250 Victorian companies took part in the Super Trade Mission, making it Australia’s largest-ever trade mission to India.

Addressing large gatherings of business leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals in major cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore, Ted Bailleu remarked, “The size and scope of this Super Trade Mission to India clearly demonstrates our commitment to grow Victoria’s already strong relationship with India.”The mission clearly signalled to India that Victoria and its business leaders were willing to back their interest in the region with commitment and a mind-set of investment.
Institutional leaders from ten sectors of strategic importance to both Victoria and India,  represented Victoria’s capabilities in automotive, aviation, cleantech, education, food and beverage, ICT, life sciences, tourism and sustainable urban design.  Services organisations such as VECCI, Pitcher Partners, KPMG and ANZ were amongst the delegation providing necessary support to participants.

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The IT industry delegation departed a week earlier to attend India leading IT Industry Conference, NASSCOM.  Each industry sector followed its own schedule across the country and the delegation met in its entirety at a few signature events in key cities. This format enabled smaller groups to travel together and share their collective experiences in doing business in a new country.

India is currently Australia’s fastest growing export market, having grown at an average annual rate of 25 per cent since 2005. Government organised trade missions are proving to be an effective way to get a soft entry into what is a complex territory to navigate for new entrants. They provide companies with good opportunities to connect with a large number of overseas counterparts in a relatively short space of time and to ascertain more quickly the market potential for their products and services.

The Super Trade Mission to India commenced in Delhi on 21 February 2012 and individual sectoral delegations travelled to key centres including Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune. It builds on another successful trade mission to India,  involving 60 companies – led by the Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business, Louise Asher – that took place in April last year.  Last year’s mission is anticipated to generate more than $63 million in new exports, $19 million in capital investment and over 570 jobs in Victoria over the next 18 months.

SNAPSHOTS OF SUCCESS
A number of deals were initiated and concluded in the course of a trade mission.
For instance, in the education sector, a bilateral education meeting in New Delhi was attended by Indian and Victorian government leaders, university Vice-Chancellors, TAFE Institutes and leading education providers. The international education sector which suffered a setback during 2010-11 received a $2 million boost.

Seven partnerships were announced and signed between Victorian and Indian institutions which will strengthen cross-border collaboration in this sector — Deakin University and the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Indore; La Trobe University and HCL, and the Birla Institute of Technology (BITS)Pilani; The University of Melbourne and the University of Calcutta, and the University of Delhi; Swinburne University and AutoCRC Jaypee University of Information Technology Research Project Launch; and Victoria University and Ganpat University.

In the aviation and aerospace sector, Victoria and India have formalised a long-standing agreement to work together co-operatively to grow their aviation and aerospace industries through a memorandum of understanding between Aviation Aerospace Australia (AAA) and the Society of Indian Aerospace and Technologies Industries (SIATI), signalling a new level of co-operation and exchange between Victoria and India and making it easier for these organisations to share knowledge, develop expertise and transfer skills.

In the Sustainable Urban Design sector, Victoria skills and expertise in urban design and clean technology were highlighted at the Building Sustainable and Liveable Cities of the Future forum held in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry, the India Green Building Council and the Victorian Government in New Delhi. Victoria’s award-winning urban design business LAB Architects announced that it would be establishing its first office in India.

The life sciences sector offers significant opportunities for new education and research partnerships between India and Australia.  The resources, skills and knowledge needed to undertake and commercialise leading edge research is today driving cross-border collaborations and joint ventures in this sector.

Three new partnerships between Deakin University and Indian organisations, Bharat Forge, Indian Oil Corporation and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore were announced during a Research Symposium in Bangalore.

In the advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors a major new joint venture facility in Bangalore was announced.  Vyoneesh Rosebank Technologies (VRT) will operate state-of-the-art design, manufacturing and engineering technology for the manufacture of components and equipment used by India’s defence and aerospace industry.

A significant boost was given to local film and TV production sector, when announcements were made to support 10 Victorian screen practitioners who will travel to FICCI Frames in Mumbai to strengthen film and television ties between Victoria and India. The initiative will also support up to three Victorian companies to develop a feature film, television or digital media project as a joint venture with an Indian production entity.

Mind Blowing Films secured the contract to deliver an Indian film festival in Melbourne from 2012 – 2014.  An annual Indian Film Festival in Mumbai is a key Victorian Government initiative aimed at strengthening screen industry ties between Victoria and India.

Anecdotal conversations with participants on the delegation painted a picture of a steadily growing sense of optimism. Delegates shared positive experiences in relation to opportunity assessment.  In some cases, opportunistic meetings lead to robust discussions on the prospect of collaborative ventures.

Also announced during the mission was a joint venture between Melbourne-based company Chocolatier and Chocolate Merchants in India.  Over the next 18 months Chocolatier Australia plans to open eight branded chocolate shops across Mumbai and Delhi that will facilitate the sale of Chocolatier products to other retail outlets in India.

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in Mumbai
Victoria’s major events and culinary credentials were also showcased in India during the Super Trade Mission. The Grand Hyatt was used as the venue to stage “the longest table in the world”, where more than 460 guests were seated along a beautifully decorated table under immaculate white marquees. Strains of Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” wafted through the air as Mumbai’s high society sipped on fine Australian wines and tasted local culinary delights.

While the choice of exotic soft cheeses and subtly flavoured fish did not quite meet the palate of the local audience, the charm and elegance of the setting certainly did delight the senses. Brand Australia and Melbourne in particular will have received a significant boost at the end of that glorious Saturday afternoon.

Spring Racing Carnival in India
Another local cultural export at the centre of the Super Trade Mission’s weekend program was the promotion of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival in India’s racing capital. Staged in its own private pavilion at the Poonawala Breeders Races in Mumbai, the networking platform offered delegates an opportunity to interact and form meaningful relationships with counterparts and peers in a social setting. Initiatives like these are a testament to the government’s increasing maturity in relation to understanding the backdrop within which real business outcomes are achieved in a country like India.

It is evident that the government is focussed on delivering real economic benefits and approaching the task from a number of different angles.  These new, innovative approaches are a significant step towards building a richer, more multi-facted and more meaningful relationship with Indian businesses.

BOX THIS SECTION

PARTICIPATING IN TRADE MISSIONS
The State and Federal government invests a sizeable budget into assisting Australian companies with market entry into foreign markets.  The capabilities of government agencies such as Austrade have grown considerably in the past decade.  Australian trade and investment facilitation teams based in foreign markets have also grown and developed considerable depth of local knowledge and networks. These networks are available to Australian businesses and should be leveraged.

How to make the most of your participation
The value of participation is directly proportional to your investment of effort into your business visit prior to leaving Australia. Relying on the government alone is never a solid strategy for a successful entrepreneur.  It is therefore important to supplement the government’s own high- level brand building efforts for “Doing Business in Victoria” together with your own research and arranging of one-to-one meetings with target companies.
The local trade and investment office is able to arrange these meetings. However they can do so more effectively with your active involvement in the process.

Working with professional services organisations who have a strong India Business Advisory capability is another important element towards maximising returns while minimising risk. Organisations such as Pitcher Partners and KPMG have dedicated expertise and access to local networks in India. Leveraging this expertise can often result in a faster, smoother and more successful entry into a new market.

An important tip towards maximising the benefit of a networking event is to consult the local trade and investment representative about the guest list of people attending the networking events.  It is remarkable how often this step is missed, and yet it is vital to maximising your time in the country. A scroll of the guest list in collaboration with the local trade office will reveal those in the room who are particularly relevant to you and your business. Being able to focus your energies on these people alone can lift the returns on your investment significantly.

Cost of participation
The direct cost to participants only included items such as airfares, accommodation, and personal expenses. Eligible companies are entitled to claim up to $3,000 towards these expenses incurred under the Victorian Government Trade Mission Assistance Program.

The Victorian Government covered the cost of all programmed business networking events in India, site visits and business matching activities.  This constitutes a significant saving to organisations, in time and effort as well as in the direct expense of conducting these activities on their own.

On-going Engagement with India
Two compulsory orientation sessions were run for new entrants into India prior to departure. These briefings were useful in the information they provided to the uninitiated. They also offered delegates an opportunity to get to known some of their fellow travellers.

A less well known, though noteworthy, observation lies in the initiative undertaken by the traders of Little India, Dandenong, in the weeks preceding the mission’s departure.  A special ‘Blessing Ceremony’ was performed by priests of the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh faiths for the forthcoming ‘Super Trade Mission’ to India on 14 February.
Ceremonies like this reflect an emerging integration of cultural and business traditions occurring on our own shores.

Australian companies who are successful in India, achieve this by adapting to local norms, culture and traditions. Australian company, Oakton, who established an office in Hyderabad, is an apt example of an Australian company that has morphed itself into an Indian business in India. By engaging in locally accepted best practice they are able to attract and retain talent in the highly competitive IT labour market.

Adopting the mind-set of an Indian company is an important differentiator when establishing in India. To learn more about the mind-set of an Indian company, Australian businesses can leverage the growing number of Indian-owned business operating in our own backyard. These businesses can, on occasion, act as a valuable resource towards understanding how to engage effectively with India.
Other forums which offer this engagement include the Indian Executive Club and the Australia India Business Council events.  Interacting with visiting Indian business delegations when they are in Australia, is another useful way of remaining engaged with Indian companies on an ongoing basis. These delegations are organised by various Indian Chambers of Commerce like FICCI, CII and Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce.

The journey into India is more akin to a marathon, rather than a 100 metre sprint.  To be successful one will need perseverance, a clear vision of the goal and a guide to help navigate the terrain.

More information on upcoming missions can be accessed through Victorian Government’s Trade Engagement Program – India  (TEPI) on www.trade.vic.gov.au.

The writer is Director, Cross-Border Business, Pitcher Partners

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