Looking to Grow

Looking at the roadblocks to growth, the challenges that Indian businesses face and the opportunities that lie for them beyond Indian borders in other emerging markets, Ernst & Young conducted a three-day forum from the 6th-8th of September in Mumbai.

Through the three-day forum, the general focus was on what businesses can do to grow faster, encourage innovation and deal with a volatile business environment. On Thursday's first panel discussion, Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewitt, Chair UK India Business Council, Saugata Gupta, CEO - Consumer Products Business at Marico, Radi Soemarjono, Director - Global Business Development, Procter & Gamble Australia, Dr. Benno Lueke, CEO of India, Middle East and Egypt at ThyssenKrupp Uhde, Sunil Kaushal, CEO India and South Asia of Standard Chartered Bank, talked about businesses competing for growth in a volatile business environment.

Soemarjono commented on the competitive business environments around the world and laid emphasis on getting the leadership of a business closer to where the customers are. He said that companies that are competing with each other in one field could be partnering with each other in other aspects so as to benefit the overall business environment. Gupta from Marico said “the aspirations of rural and urban India are very similar. He said that increased focus must be laid on inclusive growth and not just per capita numbers; adding that it was important for entrepreneurs to provide similar products at a different price point to get a strategic advantage. The panel agreed that for a number of products India would prove to be a big market for many international companies.

Another panel discussion about new opportunity hotspots had representation from Libya and Bahrain besides the Chairman and Managing Director of Export-Import Bank of India. Hadi Al Alawi, Founder & Chairman, Al Hayat Group from Bahrain said that the entire middle eastern region is cash rich because of its vast reserves of petrol. He said that much of this money would be invested in improving infrastructure in the region and that area would see a lot of activity in terms of business. He also said that Qatar would invite a lot of business in particular because of the preparations for the 2022 Football world cup.

Libyan representative on the panel Dr. Ahmed Al-Jehani, Former Minister of Reconstruction & Stabilization expressed conern over the availability of the right talent in engineering and management. Another session in the day directly dealt with identification of the right talent to help businesses grow.

High performance anthropologist and leadership coach, Rasmus Ankersen said that there may be a situation that you are unable to invest in what appear to be the best talents for your company; he emphasized that one must change the way one looks for talent, "look in a different talent pool" he said. Ankersen said that to hire correctly the emphasis on college degrees should be reduced and looking closely at what a certain job requires and looking for the relevant talent should be the focus.

Harsh Mariwala, CMD, Marico, (left) sharing his views

Also on the first day Harsh Mariwala, CMD, Marico, shared that he believes that while growth has fallen in recent months, it is still pretty robust. This, he said, demonstrates the untapped potential of rural India. Mariwala added that he thinks the India growth story will remain robust as penetration levels in most product categories rise into rural India.

On the second day of the forum some leading innovators amongst Indian businesses offered their insight during a panel discussion on game-changing business models. According to Tata Chemicals' Arup Basu, for large well established companies to innovate, their leaders need to adopt an "ancestor mindset" instead of an "inheritor mindset."

He said that this forces them to think of what they will leave for future generations rather than be content with managing their inheritance from the past. Basu added that all employees should be encouraged to think innovatively and become partners in the innovation process. Aditya Ghosh, President, Indigo said that while innovation is tough in the aviation space, Indigo has aimed at encouraging innovation constantly. "We are aiming to achieve consistency" he said. He added that amongst their employees they encourage the entrepreneurial mindset to get a job done no matter what.

In another session on building brands a panel discussed the importance of advertising in brand building and the importance of choosing the right medium for the advertising and brand building activities. Anisha Motwani, Director and CMO of Max Life Insurance, said that in today's fragmented media world, consumers consider the medium before the message. Therefore, brands must decide on the medium first and then tailor the message according to it.

Venkatesh Kini, Global VP of Marketing, Juice category, Coca-Cola Company said in this regard that fragmentation of the media is not the problem, it is instead the fragmentation of consumers' attention, as they are bombarded with a constant flow of messages. Therefore, to get through to the consumer one must develop the right story which can then be pushed out through a variety of paid-for and other media, he added.

On the final day of the forum, a panel gathered to dicuss India’s online revolution. Some of India's top e-commerce businesses got together to talk about the challenges Indian internet based businesses face and what the opportunities are for e-commerce companies.

Also on the final day, the prospects of doing business with China were discussed. Over the three days other economies like Brazil and Africa were looked at. The challenges and opportunities in all of these economies were discussed at length to help give a perspective on where to look to help Indian businesses grow rapidly