The India New Zealand Business Council featured a former trade commissioner to India and a top New Zealand industry executive at its India Unplugged series of talks in downtown Auckland on May 23.

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) former Trade Commissioner to India Jane Cunliffe and Fonterra’s Global Stakeholders Director Simon Tucker spoke about India-New Zealand trade at the event.

Ms Cunliffe, who has returned from her stint in India, has had a ringside view of the fast growing Indian economy over recent years and is appreciative of the strides the country is taking.

She said Kiwi companies needed to see India “as a country to do things with rather than a country to sell things to.” Kiwi companies like Glidepath and some others had been “smart about setting up in India” and with this approach they have successfully leveraged their expertise along with India’s human capacity and scalability to sell globally.

With 53 cities with more than a million population, there were growing opportunities in the manufacturing, agribusiness and food processing sectors, she said, giving the example of the New Zealand apple industry’s collaboration with the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh to help them improve techniques of growing apples there.

Ms Cunliffe stressed on the importance of developing relationships with Indian business partners going well beyond just the business-to-business transactional relationship. Developing deeper all-round relationships were central to establishing long term business relationships, she said.

The Indian consumer was swiftly warming to e-commerce platforms for buying goods and the sector was growing very fast and Kiwi companies entering India needed to plan carefully for the long term, she said.

Mr Tucker said Fonterra was poised to reenter the Indian market shortly with its collaboration with the retail giant Future Retail Group.

He detailed the stark differences between the dairy environment in India and New Zealand and explained briefly what Fonterra was planning to offer the Indian consumer.

He said Fonterra’s previous foray into the Indian market might have been a little premature but with a growing highly aspirational and mobile middle class, the consumer scenario is different now and tastes have widened and there is a growing demand for niche products.

He said he was hopeful that bilateral agreements and the forthcoming RCEP (Regional Closer Economic Partnership) trade agreement would play a role in growing the New Zealand-India dairy relationship. Indian dairy consumption is tipped to grow seven times that of China over the next few years and is currently the biggest and the fastest growing dairy market he said.

India New Zealand Council member and dairy industry doyen Earl Rattray was the Master of Ceremonies and conducted a brief panel discussions with the two speakers and Quality NZ CEO and Director Geoff Allott, who has also been working with Indian markets for several years. A question and answer session followed.