” Choosing the Right Entry Strategy : “
One of the first and most important issues for a multinational considering doing business in India is ownership structure. Multinationals that enter the country on a stand-alone basis, our experience shows, generally fare better than those that use Indian partners to create joint ventures. Most global companies that opted for them have exited the Indian market, while some have purchased the stakes of their partners or established majority shareholdings.
One global consumer goods company, for example, bought out its Indian partner because of differences over product marketing and brand positioning. The multinational is now doing well in all the segments where it competes.
Multinationals that choose joint ventures as their entry vehicle into India think that a local partner can better navigate the market’s complexities and manage regulatory issues. There is some truth to that idea, but in practice, joint ventures often tend to emphasize short-term performance over long-term goals, long-term commitment, and an alignment between the interests of the global and local partner.
Without management control and a clear path to ownership, global companies may have no alternative but to exit the market. Joint ventures can be beneficial in some cases, but they are not essential if a multinational regards India as a priority market and regulations allow the company to have majority or complete. When joint ventures are necessary, multinationals should ensure that they have real management control and a clear path to ownership should that become necessary.
Partnerships with Indian companies need not be limited to joint ventures— multinationals should also consider strategic alliances with local players. An international technology manufacturer and an Indian company, for example, set up a local manufacturing plant that went on to double its production volumes every 18 months. This achievement set it on the path to becoming the largest of the multinationals’ plants in India, with the world’s lowest costs and high profit margins. From the multinational’s point of view, the success of this strategic alliance moved India from the “nice to have” category into an essential part of its international operations.
A global pharmaceutical company established itself as a stand-alone entity but developed strategic alliances with a local manufacturer in licensing and supplies for the generic and off-patent segments. These agreements helped the multinational to enter India’s fast-growing market for low-cost, easily accessible branded generics and off-patent medicines.
Winning in India requires an intense and concerted effort. The multinationals need top leaders willing to make a commitment to the Indian operation and to localize and empower it. They must adapt to the Indian consumer’s demand for innovative, low-cost delivery systems and high value for money products, as well as identify and implement an appropriate ownership model.
Finally, senior executives of these companies should not neglect the management of local stakeholders, such as regulators and activists. The best efforts to localize an Indian business model will come to naught if these influential groups are overlooked.