Han van Schaijk | Dutch representative | Maier+Vidorno

First published in M+V’s India Insight in December 2016

The Netherlands is today India’s fourth largest trading partner in the EU and one of the top five investors. In recent years the value of mutual trade has risen to more than six billion Euros. We talked to Han van Schaijk, our Dutch representative, about the differences between India and the Netherlands.

What are the biggest cultural differences between how business is done in your country and in India?

The biggest difference is the way people communicate: in The Netherlands direct communication is standard – within and between companies; we always go directly to the point and immediately tell you our opinion. Many foreigners find Dutch blunt while we consider ourselves to be clear. The contrast with Indian communication styles could not be bigger. In India indirect communication and loss of face are important. The attitude towards hierarchy is another difference, Dutch people immediately say what they think, if the boss thinks differently, he will have to convince his employees. Dutch business people in India have to realize their counterparts may not be expressing their own views and may have to consult their management. In India relations and networks are key while in The Netherlands we focus on efficiency, so if you want to speak to someone you drop him an email or just call him. And the other person might simply refuse to talk to you as he feels there is no benefit for him without causing insult. As a result the contract means everything in The Netherlands and is far more important than personal relations. To a Dutch person a contract is the conclusion of negotiations.

How do companies from your country view India?

Most Dutch companies have not really looked at India as it is perceived as a difficult country to do business – rife with bureaucracy, inefficiency and non-transparent decision making. Key here is the lack of real knowledge and Indian experience. The companies that are active on the Indian market have a different view. Most are positive about the opportunities, the people and the way the country is developing – let’s work to get more experienced Dutch companies!

Which industries are most outward looking?

Basically all sectors are outward looking. Being a small country we simply cannot afford to not look outward. Having a trading tradition and blessed with huge ports, our economy is based on international trading. Saying that we do have particular strengths in agriculture. Strangely enough for a small country The Netherlands is the second biggest exporter of agriculture goods. Fertile soils, moderate climate combined with innovative agrofood technology are the basis of this success. Machinery, equipment and chemical and oil products are other important segments.

What are the biggest challenges companies from your country face in India?

The size of the country and the differences between its regions are the biggest challenge. SME companies are the base of Dutch economy and these companies tend to work with distributors – a model that is often not suitable for countries like India. Dutch companies tend to focus on niches and produce top quality products. Being relatively small, manufacturing special products for the Indian market is not an option and this makes the potential Indian market for many Dutch products very small. The M+V Business Incubator services is a good solution there.