The Challenge Of Global Opportunities

Updated: Jun 28 2003, 05:30am hrs
In recent times, Indian industry has been bewitched by the promise of potential opportunities from across the worldboth short term and longer term. The former would include the business potential arising from the Afghanistan and the Iraq reconstruction and the latter would be the emerging opportunities in Europe, Pakistan and now of course, the flavour of the fortnightChina. And in tapping these opportunities, industry has however very often demonstrated a herd-like attitude.

Take the case of Afghanistans reconstruction. A large contingent of Indian industry hotfooted it to Kabul in the early days sensing business from areas ranging from information technology to engineering.

But the emerging opportunities have clearly belied early expectations. Similarly, there has been a whole host of strategies, plans and enthusiasm that was generated soon after the Iraq war. Industry associations like the Confederation of Indian Industry and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) were initially quick to spot the potential, do the networking, but soon enough faced the roadblocks.

Again, when there were statements indicating a thaw in in Indo-Pakistan political relations, some companies drew up quick plans to fire their business guns across the border.

However, in recent weeks some of the those loud pronouncements have turned into muffled voices. Finally, in the last few weeks there has been heightened activity for scaling the great wall to China and do business with a country that till recently hard a large part of Indian industry scurrying for cover. Today, overnight, there are early plans of seeing a competitor in a partnership mould.

Why is Indian industry shifting into high gear to tap global opportunities Is it based on realistic plans For one, a number of these decisions in the first instance would have been knee-jerk reactions.

However, at the same time, it is also a reflection of the uncaging of an industry that is slowly but definitely gaining courage to play on a wider canvas. It is also the maturing phase of Indian industry which wants more for itself than just the domestic pie.

But it must be mentioned that there is an adhocism in some of these decisions.

In a number of these processes, there are a handful of individual and corporate champions who try to get the rest of the industry to follow them.

That is where part of the problem comes. Because in doing so, companies have time and again found that they have lost out more than they have cashed in. A lot of manpower and resources have been wasted in doing research, but not all of it in the right direction.

Finally, there is no assessment whether the new opportunities fit in with the companys core strategy and strengths. Is it your core competence to do business in these geographical areas Do you have the wherewithal to handle these transactions Do you have an exit plan that will not burn your fingers Very often, some of these things are not through clearly.

Again, there is sometimes a feeling that if you miss the early novel advantage, then you may miss all the opportunities. But in some of these cases, business history has demonstrated that it does not always work like that: a late entrant may be able to avoid the mistakes that some of these global minefields may pose.

In the case of China, for example, companies also look at building long term plans. But, it is equally important to make some quick gains and successes.

Today, in a large number of Indian joint ventures based in China, Indian companies are slowly gaining the majority control after gaining some quick gains. One lesson here: you need to balance the short term with the longer term to gain on the global canvas.

Finally, Indian companies need to assess each of these decisions and businesses that come up on a case-by-case basis, so as to ensure that the grand plans, trips and tall vision do not remain mere pipedreams.