Hey India … Canada is more than just a resource nation

by Brenda Bouw

When Absolute Software Corp. brought its business to India five years ago it wanted to take advantage of one the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world.

The Vancouver-based company, which makes security and management solutions for computers, tablets and smartphones, saw a country filled with homegrown and international companies hungry for data-protection across a broad base of businesses.

“We view it as one of the key markets for us going forward over the next three-to-five years,” said David Trotter, area vice president for the Asia Pacific and Latin America.

For Absolute Software, the reception in India has been good. Trotter believes that’s because the company is actively engaged in the market through local partners on the ground and across the country.

“If you have a question, they want it answered quickly by someone in India, during their working hours, not three days later in Canada,” he said. “Your customer service level has to be high.”

Experts say there should be more companies like Absolute Software going into India in a more meaningful way, particular in sectors such as high tech, clean tech and transportation in which Canadian expertise may not be as well-known as other Canadian strongholds. Doing so would help shed Canada’s image as primarily a resource nation, a reputation some say could be holding back Canadian expansion into the important Indian market.

“Indians widely recognize Canadians for commodities like potash, grains and uranium, as well as big energy like oil, gas and hydroelectricity,” said Raj Narula, President of TaraSpan, a company that helps companies set up shop in India, and accelerate and de-risk their market entry.

He says the U.S. has been much more aggressive than Canada about capitalizing on the Indian market. “American companies have gone blockbuster with their India strategies. They have invested billions of dollars,” he said, citing giants such as General Electric, CISCO and Bosch among those that have established divisions in the country. According to Narula, there are about 700 Canadian companies in India, up from about 250 three years ago. “But we still have a long way to go,” he said.

Akil Hirani, managing Partner at international law firm Majmudar & Partners in Mumbai, said Canadian companies could take better advantage of its research and development capabilities in particular, across a number of sectors. That also includes stronger development of business-to-business relationships.

“We have a pretty big talent pool available that Canadian companies could easily be tapping into,” he said. “More awareness of India needs to be built in Canada, within the different provinces as well and not just places such as Vancouver and Toronto.”

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