Author: Elisabeth Hamacher | Freelance Business Journalist
First published in July 2017

Doing business in India not only requires taking risks, but also improvisational talent and a lot of patience. About 1,800 German companies have sales offices and production facilities in India, and at the India Day in Cologne, SMEs and corporations shared their India experiences. The event was organized for the seventh time by India’s market entry service provider Maier+Vidorno, the law firm Luther and the Koelnmesse.

The first speaker at the India Day who shared her experience in India was Ivonne Julitta Bollow, Director of METRO, handling International Affairs in the area of Corporate Communications and Policy. She described in detail how difficult it was for METRO in the beginning to convince small shops and traders about their initiatives. In order to gain their favor the trade giant had to arm itself with clever concepts. While market expansion started slowly with Bangalore in 2003 – they today have 24 markets opened in 14 cities – the company is now growing at a fast pace. By 2020, they target to open 26 more stores  and a total of 50 stores will sell in India. METRO plans to invest 230 million Euros in India according to the Business Standard. Almost all companies have to face hurdles whether as a newcomer or an old timer, if they successfully want to do business on the subcontinent. And when the supposedly last hurdle is passed, one thing can be certain: it was not the last hurdle after all.

The participants of the well-attended India Day in Cologne, which was organized by the Indian market entry service provider Maier+Vidorno, the lawyer firm Luther and the Koelnmesse, were all in agreement that the countries high growth offers great opportunities but is continuously testing foreign entrepreneurs’ patience. Business in India requires risk-taking and improvisational talent. Ideally ‘Chalta Hai’ (the Indian concept akin to laissez-faire) combines itself fruitfully with German thoroughness and quality consciousness.

Furthermore, the world’s seventh-largest economy attracts enormous economic potential. India performed more strongly than China in the first quarter of 2017 and experts, such as the analysts of Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) are expecting a growth rate of 7.2% in 2017 similar to the previous year. It is expected that India, which is managed by the economist-friendly and reform-minded Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will overtake China as the most populous country on earth in another five years. Already, the idea of 1.3 billion consumers is attracting giants like METRO, automakers such as Daimler, VW & Co, consumer goods manufacturers such as Beiersdorf and Nivea – as well as numerous ‘hidden champions’ with their highly specialized products.

To read more about other experiences from companies, such as Jagenberg and Jokari please read the full article in German “India Day 2017 – ein Rückblick”.

Eli Hamacher is a freelance business journalist and lives in Berlin. The economics graduate was working for the Times of India in New Delhi from 1986 till 1987. After that she returned to India several times, lastly to Bengaluru in 2014 and to New Delhi in 2016 where she reported about German SMEs for her clients.