The last decade has in many ways been dominated by the rise of China and the scramble of western economies to capitalise on shifting wealth. This next decade however will reveal that China was merely a precursor to the larger impact that India is having on global politics, power and profit. A model example of this is Aishwarya Rai, pictured above. She is a former Miss World, has three times graced the cover of Vogue, works with L'orealCoca-Cola,Longines, and with 5 billion fans is the worlds most popular actress commanding the equivalent of US$15m per film. Yet for the best part, most amongst us in the west have not even heard of her.

In this same way, our communities are host to tremendous economic wealth in the Indian Diaspora, but we are for the best part unaware of their existence, unsure how to access these markets or worse still, both. The Indian Diaspora is a community of more than 30 million, a population greater than Australia and a market worth hundreds of billions that can no longer be ignored. They key to accessing this market and increased profit, is cultural and ethnic awareness leading to a change-up in business process.  

In this month's report, we review the Five Rules of Engagement with Indian markets and how to capture the tremendous purchasing power they command.

The report is delivered in three segments;
Section 1; The Market, Defines the Indian Diaspora, where it is found and it’s purchasing power across five western economies.
Section 2; Cultural Hooks, Explores unique cultural customs, rites and taboos to better understand how to effectively engage with the Indian community and identify market opportunities.
Section 3; The Five Rules of Engagement, Makes recommendation on what action to take to capture the Indian Diaspora market and profit in your market segment.
Diaspora comes from the greek meaning ‘to disperse’, it i
s the noun used to describe ethnic and cultural communities living away from their source culture. In this case, more than 30 million Indians residing outside of India. The largest western communities are found in the USA, Canada, UK, NZ and Australia; collectively accounting for nearly 6 million people. 

These are tremendously valuable consumer communities. Even considering New Zealand which at 100,000 is host to the smallest portion of the Indian Diaspora, yet this community commands a purchasing power greater than $2.6 billion. The remaining communities in Australia account for $15 billion, Canada, $46.3 billion, United Kingdom $50.6 billion and $125 billion in the USA. [Figures quoted in US dollars]. 

Collectively this tally is approaching $240 billion and if it were a country, it would rank in the GDP top 40. Remember that this only considering the five countries considered in this report; out of a total of 30 countries where the Indian Diaspora community is greater than 50,000 people. 

The Indian Diaspora is made up of highly skilled, English speaking, internationally networked and industrious people who despite a tumultuous political history, are well established outside of their home country. Like most ethnic communities, the Indian Diaspora tend to reside in clusters of suburbs making the task of identifying and doing business with them somewhat simpler. In the US the Indian Diaspora is growing at nearly 70% making it one of the fastest growing ethnic groups. The larger communities of 100,000 to 500,000 Indian residents are found in a number of suburbs across California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Similarly sized Indian communities reside in a handful of Canada’s suburbs across Ontario, British Columba, Alberta and Quebec. In the UK, eight London suburbs alone are host to nearly half a million of the Indian Diaspora. Large communities may also be found in Wolverhampton, Leicester, Oadby and Wigston in the Midlands. Most Australian and New Zealand capital and large cities are host to Indian communities that like elsewhere, are readily identifiable in a handful of suburbs. 

Lakshmi Mittal is a member of the Indian Diaspora and shares a token of his wisdom on finding business opportunities with Indian communities. He is a person worth observing as the richest person in India and the UK were he now resides; as well as the second richest person in Europe. He has recently made news for purchasing three properties collectively worth £500 million on "Billionaire's Row" at Kensington Palace Gardens and shares the following wisdom;

Always think outside the box and embrace opportunities that appear, wherever they might be... you learn a lot about bridging differences and reaching compromises when you grow up in a country with over 300 languages and ethnic groups.” - Lakshmi Mittal

The world is littered with examples of the success a company enjoys when they think outside the box, embrace opportunities and get culture right. This is of course the traditional mandate for all business and marketing activity. When the company position and cultural framework align, there is good money to be made and customer service excellence becomes a natural consequence. There is serious money to be made and talent to be tapped in the Indian Diaspora, but we must firstly seek to understand the unique cultural nuances of this community to identify how business must change-up to capture the opportunity. In the next section we consider the history, religion, society, cuisine and communication of the Indian Diaspora. 

History - Religion - Society - Food - Communication

Following independence from Britain in 1947, India become the world’s most populous democracy. It is also a key partner in the BRIC community; Brazil, Russia, India and China who will dominate politics, power and the global economy this century. By McKinsey estimates, the current Indian middle class segment 50 million is expected to grow to 583 million by 2025 and has a strong leaning towards western consumerism.  

India is often referred to as a sub-continent, partly due to its size measuring in at nearly half of Australia’s land mass and also its logistic separateness to Asia along the Himalaya mountain range. More importantly perhaps, India is thought of as a sub-continent because of its diverse cultures and languages. There is as much diversity in India as there is an all of Europe. Different parts of India have different histories, languages, customs and cuisines. Different states may be thought of as different countries, again much like continental Europe. It is difficult to generalise about values and customs as there important differences between between geographic regions, social class and religious groups. 

With 957 million adherents, Hinduism is the most followed religion in India, it is also one of the world’s oldest major religions believed to be 10,000 years or older. Today it is difficult to separate the religion from cultural practices linked with it as it is a body of beliefs, philosophies and a code of conduct. Unlike Christianity or Islam, there is no religious founder, nor an encompassing Hindu organisation.

Hinduism holds some contradictory beliefs and accepts all other religions as fundamentally true. A Hindu adherent is therefore permitted to believe in both Hinduism and a non-Hindu religion in the spirit of ‘live and let live’. There is also the sense of endlessness in concepts of time and space, Hindus believe that any and all possibilities can co-exist. The concept of reincarnation is the belief that the individual soul passes through a sequence of life cycles over an immensely long period, finally achieving freedom from this cycle of birth, death and rebirth pending on one’s karma. Karma is the consequence of all of ones thoughts and actions, and therefore people are responsible for their position in reincarnation as bad thoughts equal bad karma and a lower reincarnated position; possibly in a non-human form.

Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that condones discrimination based on one’s position in social strata. Discrimination based on caste is now illegal and caste no longer determines ones occupation. Having said that, most well educated and wealthy Indians still come from higher castes whilst the dirtiest and menial tasks are performed by people of lower castes. There is a similar vertical separation in the workplace, comparable to a familial hierarchy. A superior is expected to behave in an autocratic yet paternal manner and a subordinate to behave like a son, compliant and respectful. 

Hindu women in recent times have had improved access to education and enjoyed remarkable success in business and politics. The former Prime Minister Indira Ghandi [pictured here] was one of the first women in the world to become leader of an important nation. 

Indians are typically risk averse preferring tangible benefits that are readily realised. Globally, 36% of people recognise the intricacies of complex financial products like pensions and investment tools. Around 41% of Indians say they do not understand these tools but yet have the highest rate of savings to any other nation in the world. Indians save as much as 30-40% of their income, even when residing in western communities where the average saving rate is negative. Real estate, gold and cash savings are tangible investments typically preferred by Indian communities.

Indian cuisine varies considerably between regions and in the last 50 years, the Indian Diaspora has significantly influenced dining around the world. In the UK for instance, Indian food is considered to be English cuisine with over 8,000 restaurants out numbering Chinese restaurants two to one. The industry employs 70,000, serves 2.5 million customers per week and Chicken Tikka outsells the traditional Fish and Chips. London now has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai or Delhi and the UK Indian food industry is more than £3.2 billion.

This prompted British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook [pictured here] to respond that; 

“Britain is not a single Anglo-Saxon race, but a gathering of different races. Chicken Tikka Masala, is now Britain’s true national dish”. Robin Cook

Indian food is typically eaten by hand without cutlery, however Indian’s understand that westerners are not familiar with this way of eating and it is acceptable to request cutlery if it is not already provided. Even mild food is often served spicy and measures of ‘mild, medium and hot’ do not equate to western expectations. 

Food and cutlery should always be received and handled with the right hand; the left hand is considered unclean. It is also considered rude to offer someone food you have already tasted or cutlery that has come in contact with your mouth. Many Indians are vegetarians, and those that eat meat will avoid eat beef as cows are considered sacred. Indians know that westerners consume beef and so the meat is available in some restaurants and hotels, however it is advisable not to consume beef when dining socially or for business with Indian colleagues. It also good practice to wait for the host to start their meal before commencing your own and to finish their meal before you leave the table.  

India formally lists 22 languages, the main language being Hindi even though it is spoken by less than half the population. English didn’t make this list but is used as a second language and quite widely spoken. Fluency with English coupled with access to satellite television has accelerated the impacts of globalisation across Indian social strata making material prosperity more desirable and challenging traditional values.  

Indians are proud of their heritage but are prepared to communicate in English and seek to understand western traditions even though they might appear rude or abrasive. All communication should observe traditional notions of respecting elders in age, class or employment status. Indian employers, or those in position of eldership by age, should publicly recognise their subordinate team members as this is highly valued, even when not actively sought.

Always use titles when addressing people, even children, for example ‘Master’ for young boys, or ‘Head of Department Mr Smith’ for an adult. Be aware of ‘Indianisms’ that are a common point of confusion for English speakers.  
  1. -‘he scored cent per cent on the test’; means he scored 100% on the test
  2. -‘where do you stay’; means where do you live?
  3. -‘kindly revert’; means please respond
  4. -‘has gone marketing’; means has gone shopping
  5. -‘out of station’; means out of town
  6. -‘dickey’; means the boot/trunk of a vehicle
  7. -‘do the needful’; means do what is necessary
  8. -‘lakh’; means 10,000 and ten lakh makes one million written as 10,00,000
  9. -‘crore’; means ten million written as 10,00,00,000

These five rules are excerpts from my first book, Diverse Prophets, The Five Laws of Profiting in Diversity

Rule One
‘Question your answers’. Become aware of unconscious bias that unintentionally blinds us to the opportunities right before us. 

Rule Two
‘Known something about everything and everything about something’. Add breadth to your cultural knowledge, experience the exotic other and then strategically drill deep in to truly understand where opportunities are and how to capture them. 

Rule Three
‘Hire Diversity; Higher Income’. Attract, retain and promote diverse talent in your team to accelerate your market penetration, leverage profit and capture the wisdom of crowds.

Rule Four
‘Give Up More Often’. Commit to your market and they will commit to you. Whether it be strategic corporate social responsibility, financial grants or simply time and care, sow into your market to reap in the same.

Rule Five
‘The Platinum Rule’. Upgrade from the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated and instead, treat others the way THEY want to be treated.

The market opportunities in the Indian Diaspora are undeniable. Yet it seems nobody is aware or doing anything about it. These opportunities are set to exponentially increase in the coming 50 years and the first companies to work with the market will own the space; that is if they are culturally aware. Cultural training is highly effective to elevate your team to readily identify market opportunities and deliver customer service excellence. Not all training is of course good training; it must be experiential, measurable and tailored with your specific process, product and business in mind. Books, reports and policy documents can not make what is deemed a ‘soft skill’ and convert it to hard, measurable and effective outcomes. Sasha Jovanovic will tailor and delivers a one day facilitated training program that can be booked either on its own, or over four half days on a quarterly basis covering;

Module One; the Indian Diaspora as a market opportunity
  1. -identifying the how, what and where of the market in relation to your unique business products/services and customers
  2. -morning tea of Indian sweets and beverages are provided

Module Two; Indian culture and society
- a detailed look into the nuances of Indian culture and society and how they impact the Diaspora community and business relationships
  1. -lunch of Indian cuisine is provided

Module Three; communicating and building relationship with Indian peers
  1. -a workshop activity and game in an experiential learning environment for practical exposure to mirror real-life engagement. This module covers email and verbal correspondence, dress, body language and negotiation techniques. 
  2. -afternoon tea of Indian sweets and beverages are provided

Module Four; closing sales and service excellence for Indian customers
  1. -putting it all together in effectively increasing your Indian customer base, closing sales for ongoing repeat relationships and improving customer service excellence.
  2. -understanding and adhering to the five rules of Profiting in Diversity, across your organisation in HR, marketing, sales, communications and corporate social responsibility.