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by Ed Frank | | February 8, 2018


Three lessons about doing business in the nation of 500 million smartphones.

After joining the recent Prime Minister’s delegation to Mumbai and Delhi, I gained valuable insights into how Israel and India are complementary and can work together for mutual benefit.


The classic Israeli joke starts like this: (I’ve heard this in many contexts…) ”An Israeli and an Indian businessmen meet to discuss the potential market for a new Israeli product. The Israeli business person gets excited about the opportunity and shouts “between the two of us, we have a market of over 1.3 billion people!”  Friendly jokes and cultural differences exist between the two countries, and this was evident in our many meetings. But the intent to work together was very evident, from the largest multinationals to the independent consultant, that I met on this delegation- from Tata and Reliance multinationals to M2K Technologies – in the mid tier.

Arriving to Delhi at night I was met with the cold air, a mass of people, and signs along the highway, featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi shaking hands. While we thought we were the side most benefiting from the relationship, the Indians are equally excited about the Israeli technology and opportunities that we can provide them. It was clear that India sees the relationship as more than just a regular diplomatic trip, but a historic occasion for their country.

India and Israel trace their cultures back thousands of years, with a strong appreciation of each other. A population of over a billion is so huge a number that coming from Israel with a population of less than 1 percent of that number, it is quite difficult to comprehend.  When I asked some of the business people (keep in mind - highly educated and well traveled people) how many people lived in Israel the answers I received were shocking - 300 million was one guess, or 50 or 30, with only a few getting the right number of 8 million. Considering that Mr. Devandra Fadnavis, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra (which includes Mumbai), has a constituency of over 160 million people, one can only begin to understand the vastness of the Indian market.From my personal experience working between Israeli and Indian companies - we see more complementing than competition.

Focusing on quarterly results

CEOs of many international companies are focused on quarterly results - a short term outlook that has been the cause of many unsuccessful decisions. The CEO of Tata Group stated in his presentation to the Israeli delegation that they also look at quarterly results - but a quarter of a century! This is a long term outlook that we can’t really understand when we are so focused on the short term. But if we look at what India has accomplished in the past 25 years, it’s no wonder they are looking at the long term.  

Sell Relationships not features

As a rule, Indians prefer to work with friends, and don’t buy features, but rather relationships. Typically an Israeli CEO will make a presentation entirely on the strength of their company and products, sometimes not even mentioning personal background.  Yet in our meetings with Indian companies a greater emphasis was placed on the background of who you are meeting, and this can make a big difference when trying to close a deal.


Patience is key

Business is slow to develop but lasts a long time. Decisions move at a slower pace than with other countries due to the culture - but the size of the market and the stability of the client justify the wait.

India and Israel are two of the oldest civilizations in the world, but the relationship between our modern nations through technology is just beginning. It was an incredible experience to join the Prime Ministers delegation and we look forward to seeing many more delegations, trade, and investment between India and Israel. 

The author is the CEO of Axis Innovation, an advisory firm globally connecting investors and corporations with the best technology startups. On March 21-22 the firm will host its flagship innovation conference - Axis Tel Aviv, a significant opportunity to establish new connections with leading member of the startup global ecosystem.




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