Navigating India : $18 Trillion Opportunity

India has been packaged in multiple ways, for multiple audiences, both domestic and foreign. From the India Shining campaign to the more recent Make in India call, there have been efforts to position the country as an attractive destination for tourism and business alike, while also building a sense of pride and belonging.

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Even as we criticise the flatness of these descriptions, we would be hard put to come up with any concise and readily digestible version of the reality that is India that does justice to its complex history and diverse social and cultural fabric.

For those who wish to do business in India, to find a formula that can be applied to making sense of its regulatory frameworks (or absence thereof), political machinery, bureaucratic procedures, its resources, and formal and informal markets, it becomes a question of which slice to look at, and how.

Bharat Joshi, in Navigating India: $18 Trillion Opportunity, undertakes the role of interlocutor for those who might be seriously contemplating entering the Indian market—as investors, collaborators, makers and sellers.

He sets out to explain—rather translate—the landscape of the Indian economy in all its complexity, in eight analytical chapters and three illustrative appendices.

Addressing himself primarily to the foreign investor, Joshi begins by laying out the “promise”, emphasising that: “In the brave new world, you ignore India at your own peril”.

Author in his preface exclaims: India has just been rediscovered!

Well, not quite in the manner Vasco Da Gama did in 1498,
but by Indian and foreign investors alike, who have up-ended
their previous positions on India. And this appetite has grown
beyond taking quick (read fickle) money positions in Indian
markets through the foreign institutional investor (FII) route, to
the more committed foreign direct investment (FDI) channel.
The Indian business lexicon is rapidly being challenged and
redefined by the Modi juggernaut: FDI means ‘First Develop
India’, Made in India has given way to ‘Make in India’, and
unfamiliar notions like self-certification are being embraced.
The seduction of India, the market, has been reinforced
through the temptation of India, the cheap source of goods
and services.

Rising input costs in China and the European Union
(EU), Brexit, Trump administration, embargoes on Russia (via
Ukraine), and other geopolitical developments have only added
to the draw of a relatively predictable India. The world should
be paying a lot of attention to India, both economically and
politically, i.e. we should see India being courted by economic
powerhouses such as Japan and the United States of America
(USA) looking for a big Asian ally (soon to be the world’s third largest economy), to counter the threat—real or imagined—
posed by China’s growth and increasing assertiveness in the
international arena.

These rediscoveries are not new. The country has been host
to foreign corporations for centuries—and that’s not counting
the East India Company. Siemens has been around since the
1800s, Philips and Bata are honestly thought to be homegrown
enterprises by at least a billion Indian consumers, and Bofors
(Saab AB) almost brought down governments.

In the finest traditions of noisy entrepreneurial ecosystems,
India is home to a multitude of businesses, both Indian and
foreign, ranging from corner stores to multinational corporations
(MNCs), and sole proprietorships to public-listed companies.
India’s rapid rise up global rankings of wealthiest individuals
and corporations (Jaguar Land Rover and Arcelor Mittal are
famously Indian-owned), has fuelled their growing influence
beyond India on to the world stage.

As with any vibrant free-market economy, there are scores of
thousands of businesses that operate at each level and scale. And
as much as we are tempted to box these into neat generalizations
(small and medium enterprises or SMEs, liaison offices, foreign owned,export-oriented units or EOUs, information-technology
enabled services or ITES firms, etc.), Indian companies are not
immune and are faced with a range of problems with remorseless

Even companies that have been around for decades find their world order disrupted every few years, caused by sudden,unfathomable, often unfriendly legislative changes or decisions.

The speed of the elephant (that has scored over tiger as the
world’s favourite metaphor for India), i.e. the rapidly evolving
tastes and spending habits of its various strata of demographics,
catches us all off guard. This disruption compels these businesses,
large and small, to question, revisit and revise their practices if
they are to sustain their success.

This book aims to dive into these issues and examine through
the experiences of others; personal anecdotes and interviews; case
studies from the public domain; and this author’s impressively
cerebral insights—all of which will hopefully illuminate the path
to the promised land, the tourism tag line of which is something
of a warning—‘Expect the unexpected’.