New Zealand businesses need to understand and engage with the aspirations and expectations of the new young India if they really want to succeed in the Indian market, argues Suzannah Jessep, the former NZ Deputy High Commissioner to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and current Director, Research and Engagement, Asia NZ Foundation.

Ms Jessep was delivering a keynote address at an event organised by the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) on Wednesday, April 10, hosted at WelTec and Whitireia’s NZ Institute of Creativity, in Wellington. The theme of the day was Perspectives on India: Diplomacy and Trade.

“With India having the largest population of people below 35 years, it’s the ‘Young India’ that New Zealanders need to understand. Modern India is a different world,” Ms Jessep said at the event, demonstrating how her recent posting to India had enlightened her about the complexities and the challenges of the Indian market.

India has been the world’s fastest growing major economy in recent years and by 2020 is expected to be the fifth largest economy in the world.  The bilateral trade between the two countries has grown significantly in the last few years with services trade having been doubled to $1.39 billion and goods trade reaching up to $1.27 billion, despite the long-pending Free Trade Agreement.

In recent times, there has been a growing inclination among critical stakeholders, including the INZBC - the premium NZ-India trade-related body committed to promote bilateral trade between the two countries - to not get constrained by the delay in signing of an FTA and focus on developing synergies within each other’s markets to get better business outcomes.

ICWA DDG, Soumen Bagchi

In that regard, the key takeaway from this recently organised INZBC event of focusing and catering to the aspirations of new young India would go a long way in promoting better business outcomes for both countries.

Earlier last year in August 2018 when NZ dairy giant Fonterra re-entered into the Indian market with a Joint Venture with the local Future Group after a decade long absence, the intention was clearly to eye on the aspirations of the new young India.

At the time of the joint venture, Lukas Paravicini, Fonterra's chief operating officer global consumer and foodservice had said, “the Indian dairy industry is transforming itself away from traditional locally-based dairy businesses with limited product and brand differentiation, to a new era where more value-added and innovative dairy products are in high demand across the country.”

Given that India’s demographic profile is fast changing, along with a rapidly growing economy, which is imparting more purchasing power to the vast Indian middle class, NZ businesses would undoubtedly do well, if they cater to their growing expectations and aspirations for consuming world-class innovative products.

In that regard, there are also opportunities to grow exports in areas such as professional services, in-country provision of education, healthcare, and aviation.

Michael Wood at the INZBC event

The event was moderated by INZBC board member, Esther Guy-Meakin, who is the manager - international trade at Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and the guests were welcomed by Victoria Spackman, Director - TeAuaha, who also outlined the work that WelTec and Whitireia NZ do in the creative arts space in Wellington.

The event also had participation from a visiting inward delegation from a premier Indian think-tank organisation Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), which was in the country for a track – II level discussion on the invitation of Asia New Zealand Foundation. Speaking on occasion the delegation’s head, Soumen Bagchi, DDG, ICWA, highlighted the recent progress made by India in the world economy and bilateral ties in the Pacific and beyond.

The other key speakers at the event were Michael Wood, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to Minister of Ethnic Communities, Barney Riley, Lead Negotiator, RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). Mr Wood was especially appreciative of the efforts of INZBC in engaging with the business community of both countries, to keep the dialogue going. Mr Wood also highlighted the excellent work being done by the ethnic communities in New Zealand which helps in advancing the people-to-people relations between the two countries.

Expressing satisfaction with the outcome of the event the INZBC Wellington Chapter head, Sushrutha Metikurke said, “The event had a great turnout with participants sharing their insights and perspectives on the New Zealand-India trade relationship. It was a very successful start to the year for the Wellington Chapter.”