DELHI: A four-day trade mission to India led by the Information Technologies Association of Canada wrapped up with delegate Goutam Shaw signing a deal with a large Indian firm, and other delegates walking away with valuable insight and new business prospects.
Following three days of meetings with large India-based ICT firms in Mumbai and Bangalore, the delegates – a diverse group of small and medium sized Canadian firms – arrived in Delhi for the final days of the mission, which included a visit to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and participation in Convergence India 2015, a large ICT trade show and conference.
At TCS, a division of India’s $100-billion multinational Tata group, delegates gained firsthand insight into the TCS Co-Innovation Network (COIN), which brings together the intellectual heft of partners ranging from international academia to small, innovative companies to deliver breakthrough technology solutions for large TCS customers such as SCALGO (Denmark), Apple and others.
According to sources Tata COIN has provided opportunities for dozens of small and medium-sized Canadian technology firms to work with TCS and other collaborators on the development of breakthrough technologies. In doing so, the program has helped these Canadian firms gain invaluable exposure to TCS and other global partners.
Qualifying for participation in TCS COIN involves a rigorous months-long process. Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment representative Ahkil Tyagi says the fastest way for Canadian firms to get started is through the federal Canadian Technology Accelerator Program, in which TCS COIN is a preferred partner.
Following the TCS visit delegates were whisked to Convergence India 2015, where several participating firms formed part of a large trade show display representing Canadian and Ontario-based ICT firms.
At a reception that evening hosted by Nadir Patel, Canada’s High Commissioner to India, delegates networked and reflected on the mission.
Goutam Shaw, whose Ottawa-based Excelocity, Inc. entered into an agreement to start a mass trial of its products in India, said the deal was a culmination of several prior trips he had made to India. While he sees a potential future need for a local presence, “Based on my experience I would say that it would not have made much difference if we had a sales presence in India for achieving what we achieved so far. I would consider getting one or two contracts (to test the market) before establishing a local sales presence.”
Among his observations, Garry Brownrigg, the founder and CEO of QuickSilk, an innovative enterprise-grade Content Management System and Customer Experience Management platform, says he now better appreciates the opportunities for companies like his, which are capable of serving India’s high-volume, low-cost market demands.
Having visited India numerous times Daniel Franz, a senior solution manager with Toronto-based Redknee, a company that provides critical real-time monetization software, cautions that in India price often trumps quality arguments.
When it comes to dealing with Indian counterparts, Franz adds that it is vital to understand cultural differences. “Feedback is often very direct; Western cultures might consider this offensive.” He says making a business meeting memorable to potential prospects is also a key. Should Canadians find themselves assailed by tough questions, he advises, “Be bold and stand your ground, otherwise you may be considered as just another vendor.”
Anthony Moots, vice president of Business Development with Toronto-based home construction software provider Builder Lynx, sees “lots of opportunity in India” and gained a sense that “Indians are eager to work with Canadians.”
He believes Nortel and EDC’s early work in India helped lay vital groundwork for Canadian firms. “Nortel did well in India 20 years ago; relationships were established between Tata, Reliance and EDC that continue to this day.”
For his next steps, Moots plans on learning more about EDC’s strategic lending arrangements with firms outside of Canada and how these may help Builder Lynx develop relationships and deals abroad.
Kelvin Ali, president of Ontario-based Northern World Entertainment Software, said, “I do wish to do business in India, but it will take a lot of effort and time to establish a solid footing in this market.” Like others, he believes “reliable boots on the ground will be necessary.”
Based on comments from India trade experts as well as first-hand observations of how Indian representatives carry themselves, including a custom of answering their cell phones during meetings, all delegates left with a better understanding of how Indians communicate and do business.
For starters, unlike North America, forget about carrying a relationship forward via email. In India, face-to-face meetings and phone calls are king.