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India’s market offers huge export potential for many Irish firms

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, waves after casting his vote during India's president election at the Parliament House in New Delhi. Photo: Manish Swarup/AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, waves after casting his vote during India's president election at the Parliament House in New Delhi. Photo: Manish Swarup/AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, waves after casting his vote during India's president election at the Parliament House in New Delhi. Photo: Manish Swarup/AP

Rapid economic development in recent decades has meant that India, a digitally savvy and English-speaking country, is an increasingly important market for many export-focussed Irish firms.

Demographics are central to the attractiveness of the Indian market. A country with a population of more than 1.4 billion people, India will soon be the world’s most populous. And, by 2025, its growing middle class of more than 300 million people is expected to be the third largest consumer market in the world, according to Boston Consulting Group. India is also young – over half the population is currently under the age of thirty and this has led to a ‘demographic dividend’, where economic growth follows a larger working-age population. Indeed, India has been amongst the fastest-growing economies in the world in recent years, with 8pc forecast GDP growth for 2022.

New data published by Enterprise Ireland shows that exports to India by our client companies reached €127m in 2021. Although Irish export figures to India have grown significantly in recent years, they still represent just a fraction of the true opportunity that exists there. This was underlined at our recent India Ireland Business Seminar in Dublin, where Indian business leaders, corporate executives and academics joined Enterprise Ireland client companies and universities to discuss potential collaboration and partnership opportunities.

India is a dynamic and technologically advanced market. It has the world’s most affordable mobile data, and this has underpinned a huge digital transformation in recent years. Indian government investment programmes, such as the $18bn (€17.7bn) Digital India initiative which aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society, have also played an important role. This is creating clear opportunities for Irish firms, including IT services, fintech, data analytics, mobile and wireless services, business process management and IT consulting. The Indian government is also investing $7.5bn in smart cities initiatives across 100 cities. This points to tangible opportunities for Irish firms with expertise in Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, engineering, cleantech as well as energy infrastructure and management.

Ireland and India share many cultural similarities and it is estimated that there is a 50,000-strong community of Indian-born people in Ireland. While Hindi is the official national language of India and there are 22 other official languages, English is the predominant language of business there and this makes the country more accessible for Irish firms than many other markets.

Companies successfully selling into India have often found that localisation is key. Even the biggest brands in the world must adapt to local cultural norms, traditions and preferences when they go to India. McDonalds, for example, had to devise alternatives to many of their standard menu items that they sell elsewhere and use chicken instead of beef in their sandwiches. Pricing in this value-focused market also deserves special consideration which means sales prices typically need to be significantly lower than in more familiar markets. However, the sheer scale of India means that developing a bespoke market entry strategy is worth the effort.

India is a diverse and complex market. It’s a democracy, but the process of liberalising the economy only began gaining momentum in the 1990s. Business and economic reforms are ongoing and some markets remain protected. There can also be added challenges in the form of red tape and administrative burden in some sectors.

The complexity and scale of the Indian marketplace means that it is vital that Irish companies considering India as an export market work with Enterprise Ireland from the earliest stages. Our market advisors in Mumbai can be the gateway to local knowledge and expert advice which can help to determine if an offering is suited to the Indian marketplace. We can also help to identify potential local partners and distributors – a key success factor in India.

Ross Curran is director, India and South Asia, at Enterprise Ireland. To learn more about exporting to India, visit https://globalambition.ie/markets-opportunities/india/

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