Wrapping up a three-day trip to India, President Obama offered a message that many U.S. entrepreneurs already know well—the world's largest democracy should be a vital business partner to Americans.
President Barack Obama said something on his three-day trip to India that many entrepreneurs have known for a long time. India holds a key to the future, not just in a strategic sense, but also for business.
And how the United States interacts with India, the world’s largest democracy, will have a huge impact on the world. “I believe that the relationship between the United States and India will, in fact, be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” Obama said.
Those are more than just pretty words. The president backed them up by endorsing India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and removing restrictions on India to engage with the United States on nuclear, aerospace, and high-tech deals. On the sidelines of Obama's three-day visit, his first to India, a number of deals were announced totaling $14.9 billion and creating 53,670 jobs, according to the White House.
But it’s not just the major deals like the ones the president announced that are important when it comes to India, especially for entrepreneurs trying to grow their small companies into big ones. And it’s long past time to get over the stereotype of India as the land of call centers for giant firms. In fact, it may hold an even bigger
opportunity for American entrepreneurs than China.
India is the No. 1 English-speaking country in the world, and as soon as an American hears that data point, it just shocks them, they have to take an extra minute to think about it until they realize that it’s true. So if you’re going to look for a country that may be user friendly to get into, a country that has a government similar to our own, a country that has democratic values similar to our own, that has a culture similar to our own, a language similar to our own, then India looks more attractive probably at first blush than China. Not that China is unattractive—they’re both very, very attractive. But I think for the average American company entering into their first overseas market, and they’re just sort of dipping their toe in the market and learning about being a global company, they may find better success in India, and then in China a little bit later.
Plenty of entrepreneurs already know the huge opportunity
India represents, not just as an export market, but as a market for talent that can help them start their businesses domestically at a fraction of the cost it once took.
Here’s a look at just a few ways American entrepreneurs are tapping into the growing Indian market:
Outsourcing for startups: Going to India or elsewhere to look for certain well-trained, technical developers can dramatically lower the cost of starting a venture here in the United States, said entrepreneur and Portfolio.com blogger Christine Mason McCaull. In a project she and her partner Chip Roberson developed, she estimated savings of $45,000 by outsourcing certain functions.
A huge market: OK, Harley-Davidson isn’t anybody’s idea of a small company or a startup. But it is one that is synonymous with the U.S. brand. And Harley is betting on India. As the country—already the world’s largest motorcycle market—builds better roads, Harley is betting India’s growing middle class will want to take to the open road like their American counterparts.
With Obama doubling down on U.S.-India relations, now could well be the time for entrepreneurs to take a close look at what it would take to do business in the world’s largest democracy.
“In short, with India assuming its rightful place in the world, we have an historic opportunity to make the relationship between our two countries a defining partnership of the century ahead,” Obama told the Indian Parliament. “Together, we can create the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future.”