Is it easy for a foreigner to do business in India?

As an NRI, who’s relocated to Mumbai post-Covid, I can firmly say that India is a tough terrain for a foreigner to establish a business venture. However, among all the tribulations that one may face, the largest democracy of the world offers a palette full of both positive and negative dynamics for one to be able to be successful in business. Let’s explore.

1. Booming economy post-Covid

When the recent pandemic brought the whole world to its knees, a nation called India was already preparing itself to be a one-stop destination for multi-national businesses. Ever since Covid got spread from China, India got the chance to come out as a saviour for many of the international companies based in China. In addition, India opened its doors to welcome business immigrants, thus boosting its economy through foreign investment, job creation and modern infrastructure. While the West is still picking up post-Covid and Ukraine-Russia wars, India’s economy is flourishing with hundreds of thousands of small and medium enterprises. Every third Indian youngster is more than willing to stay in India, build a start-up from scratch, and become a solid entrepreneur.

2. A very tardy process of company registration

Company registration in India is one heck of a headache. Apart from submitting a dozen documents, new company registration is usually applied through a Chartered Accountant (CA). It takes weeks to get a revert from the authority. After the company is declared registered, the next milestone is to open a bank account. All these officialdoms may make you go crazy because, throughout the whole journey, you’ll encounter people who’ll promise you a date and time and would just never meet those deadlines. The way out—sit back and boost your patience level!

3. Inexpensive labour and facilities

India is known worldwide for its cheap and accessible labour force. You can quickly build your team—from teamaker to CEO—at a very low pay package from the country’s 1.38 billion population. However, though team members might be degree holders, there is a high chance that you land into a workforce that demonstrates low ethical standards and unprofessional attitudes. This is mainly because of the poor Indian educational system, which focuses on a theoretical and read-and-cram system.

Apart from cheap labour, the best part of a foreigner starting a business in India is the high-quality facilities at extremely low costs, like internet and co-working spaces. You can also simply work for free from coffee shops, like Starbucks and CCD, using their free internet facility. Likewise, if you wish to buy or rent any electronic gadget, like laptops, you can get stupendous deals you might have never seen outside India. The reason behind these low-cost facilities is the highly competitive Indian market where thousands of service providers are involved in a cut-throat competition, fighting to offer better services and prices to consumers.

4. No professionalism and ethics

The most significant setbacks a foreigner can face in India are unethical approaches and unprofessionalism. According to my personal experience, every second person expects extra favour, extra compensation, or bribe to do the very job they’ve been appointed to perform. While India is known universally as a country of start-ups and entrepreneurs, no one can obliterate the fact that it is also known as a destination where corruption and “jugaad” (Tr. “makeshift”) are at their peak.

Besides, punctuality is almost unheard of in India. Have you heard of ‘Indian Time’? It is synonymous with ‘being late’—at least, this is how it is perceived outside India. Recently, an Indian friend forwarded me a funny WhatsApp message, which goes like, “Do you know why Indians are never on time?” “Because they believe in a second birth.”

5. Scalability and growth

India has the second-largest population on planet earth. While 25% of it is affected by multidimensional poverty, the rest are climbing the societal status through a more enhanced lifestyle each day. They have excellent purchasing power even after the pandemic. This is explainable—Indians know how to save their money for future use; this practice is ingrained in their culture and passed on from generation to generation. Imagine the scale at which a businessperson can operate. Imagine the large audience they can attract, without forgetting that India has the highest percentage of youth (356 million of 10–24-year-olds) globally. From online marketing to offline marketing, your business can attract a mass with incredible purchasing power. You can spread your offices, products, or services to various parts of the country.

6. Beware of thugs and swindlers

Lastly, we can safely say that India has seen not only small scammers, thugs and swindlers but also those who’ve become world-famous and are discussed as case studies in numerous premier universities across the world. Many of those defrauders have also inspired the making of illustrious movies and web series. So, beware of anyone who approaches you. Take calculated risks.

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