How do you create such a winning sales team in India?

Amazon, Walmart and Apple. In 2020, all three of them will target one of the fastest growing economies in the world via their aggressive sales team in India. And that’s not surprising! Despite a lot of hiccups in the Indian economy, India is expecting structural economic growth in the medium term. Additionally, India is rapidly digitizing, putting the value of the Indian e-commerce market at around 200 billion dollars by 2025.

In short, this is a good time to enter the Indian market. To make your market entry a success, you need a good sales team. The country is almost as big as Europe. Therefore, without local support of sales team in sales and distribution you won’t be able to serve all regions in India. Knowledge of international sales is not enough. Take the recent example of Uber. It had to sell its Indian UberEats branch to its main, Indian competitor Zomato. This shows that you need to know the Indian consumer well in order to succeed as a company. So what would be the best way to organize sales?

How do you start a sales team in India?

A traditional sales team in India normally consists of several managers: national, regional and local sales managers. At the top of the chain are the national sales managers. They define the sales strategy, maintain relationships with key customers and coordinate the entire sales process. The regional sales manager is in charge of coordinating and negotiating with distributors, after-sales and inventory. Because India is so large, sales managers of a sales team, often divide the country into 4 regions: North, West, South and East. The regional sales managers are responsible for one of these regions. Further, they appoint local manager within these regions, who have the responsibility ‘on the ground’.


Search for a manager who can find Indian customers

If you’re just taking your first steps on the Indian market, you won’t usually start with such a big sales team. It’s therefore crucial that in the start-up phase you work with a local manager. He will have a lot of experience with your specific product segment. Besides, he will have a good understanding of how to market that product in India. The fact that this manager has never worked as a national sales team manager before doesn’t even matter that much. It is more important that this person can find Indian customers, set up the (online) sales, know-how distribution works in India and dares to take responsibility himself instead of delegating tasks to others.

Selling in India without a national sales manager?

If you have found the right sales man or woman, do not immediately designate them as national sales manager. Not even if he or she will eventually lead your sales team. In India, these titles are linked to a specific salary. For example, the national sales manager has an average income of more than €50,000 per year. In addition, you create the expectation that he or she will be supported in his or her work by a team of regional and local sales team managers, while you want to wait a little longer.


What are the alternatives? Give this first salesperson the title of business development manager. This position in India has exactly the same tasks as a national sales manager. However, this will be without the generous price tag and expectation of the support of a structured sales organization. Your first man or woman can gain experience in this way to eventually reach the position of national sales manager. This way, you will have the money left over to grow the sales team at a leisurely pace.

Another option is to choose a business incubator. This is a low-threshold and cost-efficient way to set up a sales office in India. That too, without having to register your own entity. You can fully rely on the existing structures and people we have in India for the export to India and the internal sales processes. Besides, you are not legally responsible and do not have to incur costs (compliance, audits, etc.) normally associated with setting up an office. It is therefore the safest way to explore the Indian market and grow in a flexible way.

More information about business incubator can be found here.