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Exporters are once again being warned not to wait for New Zealand to conclude an FTA with India. 
A series of speakers at a recent ANZ India Insights event in Auckland urged Kiwi businesses to get involved with the fast-growing Indian market as competitors from other countries are not holding back.
The Neat Meat Company’s founder and MD Simon Eriksen said being first to market carries considerable benefits in India where brand perceptions can be markedly different from those in other countries. 
Eriksen was one of 13 Kiwi exporters who went to India in May this year as part of a trade mission led by ANZ. He said conversations at high-end Indian hotels firmed up his resolve to sell his lamb product as a premium brand. He cited the example of Spanish and South African winemakers who had gained considerable first-mover advantages in India over winemakers from France.
“What that told me was many Indians are not interested in what the rest of the world thinks. The first mover is the one they consider to be the most premium.”
Eriksen said he was told at a pre-mission briefing to expect any business with Indian partners to be a long-term process. “It’s about gaining respect and developing relationships.”
The fact that his grandmother was born in India was a “massive ice-breaker”, he said, and he advised Kiwis to feel comfortable talking about family and personal interests within a business context.
“Long-term business is about being genuine, and Indians can easily spot something that isn’t.”
Eriksen said he was also told price would come up early during business conversations, that time and patience are paramount, and contact via email isn’t enough. 
“It has to be voice contact. If you can do it, get on a plane and get over there as much as you possibly can.”
Despite India’s reputation as a difficult place in which to do business, Eriksen said he was “pleasantly surprised” at how quickly he could make some impact with some people.
His family-owned boutique meat products business is about to send its first sample shipment to India.
ANZ has also launched the second of its Insight papers on doing business in India. “Thinking India? Think Long Term” highlights opportunities, tips and advice for New Zealand businesses in protein exports, education and tourism.
In the new papers, Graham Beattie, director of Marlborough boutique vineyard Dog Point, advises exporters to think of importers and distributors as an extension of their business.
Describing the Indian market as “complex and ambiguous”, Alliance Group marketing manager John Rabbit cautions exporters not to get frustrated: “you just need to roll with it”.
And Golden Bay Fruit’s Heath Wilkins reminds Kiwis of Indians’ love of negotiating and securing a deal.
Mark Hiddleston, ANZ’s general manager Auckland and Northland, commercial & agri, says there are huge opportunities for both our country and individual Kiwi businesses “if we are strategic, smart and mobile”.
“Since 2008 exports have grown by 160 percent to over $900 million,” he says, “and there is every reason to believe the opportunities will grow further.” 
New Zealand and Indian trade negotiators recently held their ninth round of talks on an FTA between the two countries. Observers say they do not expect an agreement to be concluded within the next 12 months.
Sunil Kaushal, the recently-elected chair of the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC), has signalled his strong support for an FTA. Kaushal says lobbying on behalf of his members is a key priority and he hopes to help speed up the process by being a voice for New Zealand businesses. The INZBC is also working with counterpart organisations in India such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) to reinforce the message that both countries need to increase trade with each other.  
“This is not about one-way trade,” he says.
Kaushal told Exporter he understands there is strong personal respect and a good relationship between the two countries’ negotiators. He is also positive FTA momentum will continue as Ravi Thapar, the next Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, and a man known for his commitment to economic growth between the two countries, takes up his new role in the next few months.
By Ruth Le Pla. [email protected] 
Photo: Simon Eriksen (left) and Mark Hiddleston.
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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