Understanding Indian market –Tom Chalmers

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In my last column, I wrote about the opportunities we saw in the quickly evolving Indian market and our plans for our publishing businesses to launch a new venture and grow business in India. The last two months have seen feverish activity to put everything in place and build the base to launch our new venture from. This has involved sales and distribution agreements, strategic partnerships, marketing plans, through to office space and recruitment.

However, putting logistics in place around the venture concept is just one part of the equation, and in some ways it is the simple part. One way is to base these decisions on what has worked in the UK and elsewhere and try to replicate the set-up. And this is where many companies looking to build business overseas go wrong – they assume markets are the same whereas every international market is completely unique and needs to be first understood.

This is particularly true of the Indian market. Many international businesses see the billion-plus population followed by dollar signs but no business is, sadly, as simple as that. We’ve invested more time in the last three months researching and understanding the market and business culture than we have putting the logistics in place.

We’ve looked at market trends and at local pricing in particular. We’ve looked at the country by region, trying to understand where to focus our initial business efforts. We’ve seen ecommerce taking off in India but where and how (for instance, we realise there are still areas of the country that Amazon can only deliver to through partners) and the same for online payments through solutions such as Google Wallet.

I am also very interested in the range of different languages in India and while English language may for us be a good place to start, there are also huge potential markets in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu and Gujrati, and a number of other languages. Planning more for the medium-term, we are already talking with potential translation and retail partners about widening availability of our products across key Indian languages.

This is all before discussing cultural differences that affect both business and consumer behaviour. These differences can be very subtle but whether in a business proposal or marketing message they can make the difference between working together or not.

With all of the above in mind, one thing becomes quickly clear – we cannot expect to successfully operate a business in India remotely. The internet makes many things possible from anywhere in the world, but it is clear we won’t achieve what we want in India without having an office in the country with an Indian team. As a small business – we don’t have millions of pounds to invest in new market ventures – this is the biggest time and financial undertaking but it is essential if we are serious about understanding the market and being successful in it.

So, with the logistics falling into place and our understanding growing, the next step will be to actually fully launch our India venture and other related business. This will also be an equally exciting and daunting moment and one I am greatly looking forward to. By the time of my next column, we should be underway and I can report on how we have fared to that point!

Tom Chalmers is the Managing Director of Legend Times, a group of five publishing companies he has founded. He started his first company in 2005 when aged 25, Legend Press, a book publisher focused predominantly on mainstream literary and commercial fiction. Chalmers subsequently acquired Paperbooks Publishing, and later launched Legend Business, a business book publisher, followed by self-publishing and writer workshops companies, New Generation Publishing and Write-Connections, respectively. He also founded IPR License in 2012, a global rights licensing platform, which after two rounds of funding he sold in 2016, and is the founder of new content curation venture AIContexx.

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