7 Tips for scaleups expanding into India successfully

India’s market is tempting and mind-boggling at the same time. Here are seven tips on how you pave your scaleup’s road to success in expanding into the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Use Jugaad, be jugaad.

Jugaad has become the darling of management techniques across the world, but nowhere will you find it exercised to such perfection as in its origin country of India. Jugaad has many interpretations ranging from “hack” to the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources. And indeed, approaching problems through the lens of constraint and limitation pushes Indian entrepreneurs to innovate faster, cheaper and better while staying affordable and sustainable. Indian products and solutions are increasingly appreciated by the global audience for their ability to disrupt the market not just through the usage of latest tech but also for their effort to remain affordable while doing so. Entering India is your chance to learn from the masters of jugaad and infuse your business with first-hand jugaadi skills that will help you to compete better, not just in India but also in your home market and globally.

Localize, localize, localize.

India is a complex market and exhibits a level of diversity that is incomparable. At the same time, it is one of the fastest growing economies with the second most important hotspot for global tech and innovation decisions multinational companies catering to the world and a massively expanding local middle-class. This country is buzzing. There is no place on earth where you’d rather be if you want to observe the expansion of human potential. And, while the promise of entering the market early like in the present moment is obvious, we have seen even biggies fail. Those who have made it, have become experts in reading Indian clients and play to their needs as well as the ability and willingness to pay. This is true no matter whether your client is a private consumer or the country head of a large corporate. The task at hand is localization, fine-tuning of your product, business model, and go-to-market strategies. To put it in perspective, there is no Indian localization. You are likely to pull out your Business Model Canvas repeatedly while rolling out into different regions of the country with their diversities in language and culture. Client tests and interviews will be part of your road to success in India realizing that local behavior varies quite substantially across regions.

Come for the right reasons.

India is an attractive market; there is no doubt about it. It’s big, for a large part untapped, and rapidly growing. But make no mistake as it is probably one of the most difficult to conquer. While, all the factors mentioned make for a great climate to start looking at India as a market make sure your timing is right, and you are coming to India for the right reasons.

India is part of your Internationalization strategy:Startups are ventures with a repeatable and scalable business model with the intent to become a large business. For that to come to life, there needs to be an international vision from the beginning. India’s large market might be tempting but consider India more like Europe than the US.

Time to expand: You have reached full or close-to-full market reach in your home or other major markets. Past success stories will help you make your case to price-value conscious Indian clients.

Your product delivers an intrinsic value to Indian clients: Ensure that your product and business model solves a problem for India and its demanding clients. Before you move to India to test your product for local interest, start with PoCs and early adopters. You know the game. India has a vast array of challenges at hand and some of them need rather urgent solutions considering its growth trajectory over the next couple of years and decades. Familiarize yourself with the ranking of issues and how government, regulation, and private sector are prioritizing them, which will give you guidance on which wave to ride and when.

Access to clients: Internationalization is all about access to new clients or upselling to old ones in new markets. For you to succeed in both, firstly check your existing client base and understand how they are represented in India and if your happy customers from elsewhere in the world can introduce you to their Indian counterparts. It will turn out even more successful if your contacts elsewhere in the world are of Indian origin. Secondly, build your own network quickly. Tap into every possible way to accelerate your access to local clients. There are multiple organizations tailored to help foreign entities to enter the Indian market. Start with your county’s embassy in India and watch out for players who have specialized in Market Access support. Make sure your partner not only helps you with legal and administrative questions but also puts you in front of potential clients. On another note, India is an emerging hub for global innovation centers meaning that outside of the US, many large corporates source innovation through their Indian entities. Partly due to the country’s history as a destination for BPOs, the centers and R&D hubs in India have been able to add value to global operations and are now at the table for global decision-making in sourcing innovation for global role outs, both for internal implementation and integration into global product portfolios.

Be wary of the YES’s.

It is important to understand what is being communicated to you while you do business in India. The most common example of cultural difference in language is the usage or non-usage of YES and NO. You will hardly find people that tell you an outright NO, more likely they will use some form of YES, that effectively means NO or maybe, at best. It is advised to get a local companion to help you in the early days to learn distinguish YES-YES’ from YES-NO’s.

Effective Immersion & Indian Leadership.

India is growing at a rapid speed, which can make navigation difficult and nerve-wracking. You, as the founder, should be on ground in the early days of your market entry journey is a must. You are the one who can communicate the value of your solution and strategy best. It is essential for you to understand how to navigate the market for building an effective strategy with your future team. We have seen founders delegating market entry too early and fail because of the lack of commitment and understanding of market situation. As much as your expansion needs your commitment for a smooth take-off, bringing Indian leadership on board is essential for your long-term success. Local experience and knowledge will help you to quickly localize, build on their professional network and ensure the understanding of Indian complexities, markets and clients.

Relationship is everything!

Spend some time on reading about Indian etiquette in business settings. The UK-India Business Council is providing some great insights. While you will find a lot more formalities and acknowledgement of hierarchy compared to a country such as the US, for instance, you will also find yourself discussing your private life over tea before diving into business matters. Expect to spend more time with your clients. You will experience that quality time with your client is money. The lines between work and private life are a lot more blurred and inseparable in India.

Access is Key — we are here to open doors for you!

As a founder and entrepreneur, you already know how the right network and ecosystem are essential for you to move fast, fail fast, and succeed fast. India has multiple local ecosystems, and all have their perks and gaps. While India is now the third largest ecosystem globally, you will need to decide on where to start your “desi” journey. While Bangalore is still ahead of all other established and emerging startup hubs, Hyderabad leads in growth of number of startups and investments. The city has a tightly integrated approach, which ensures fast and successful engagement between the startup, corporate, and investor realms of the ecosystem. And I say it with some pride and admitted bias that T-Hub in Hyderabad has become the example of a successful ecosystem in the country that is working its way towards becoming a globally recognized scaling destination. Startups and scaleups working with T-Hub benefit from a wide range of mentors and experts as well as gain access to a network of local, national, and global large corporates with proven paths right into their product portfolios.

T-Hub’s India Market Access Bridge is your vehicle to make the most of your time by putting you in front of key clients from the get-go and setting yourself for success in India.

Authored by Juliane Froemmter, Director-International Relations, T-Hub