Vineet Aggarwal, founder of the Cerule Group, believes this is one of the best times for Australian businesses to enter India. And that his company is the bridge that connects the two limitless oceans of opportunity
The beaches and vast open spaces of Australia lured 21-year-old Vineet Aggarwal to the country. But the exciting business environment and endless opportunities ensured he stayed. Today, the proud founder of the Cerule Group, a firm he got off the ground in 2009, is a rare SME consultant in India entry services, and has grown to become one of the preferred and trusted India market entry advisors for many of the global successful businesses operating in India. The lure of the ocean though seems to have remained. Cerule, says Vineet, means the colour blue in Latin. “For us, blue symbolises the vast space, the unexplored territory and the unknown horizon—like a boundary-less blue sky or a limitless blue ocean.”
Cerule India Advisory focuses on helping small and medium enterprises worldwide in India market entry strategy, corporate structure and on-the-ground execution. “We help global companies leverage the “India Century” by helping them understand the market, identify opportunities, partners and funds, set up business and attain sustainable success,” says Vineet, who has garnered degrees and diplomas in both finance (CA and CPA) and business (MBA from Melbourne Business School and Stern Business School, New York University) over the years, all while working in parallel with big four global professional companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG in both India and Australia.
Cerule provides end to end support to businesses entering India in a range of services, including market research, entry strategy, business model, international taxation advise, JV partner or investor search, staff recruitment, bookkeeping, auditing, cultural orientation, market representation in India and Australia, intellectual property protection, legal and commercial contract vetting, tax and other regulatory compliance in India, which Vineet says is the need of the hour.
While the business engages most of its staff in India, providing two-fold advantages to clients—access to specific expertise and network in the Indian market and keeping the cost competitive for all kinds of services—the international experience of the team ensures quality and communication.
“We see ourselves as partners in growth and success of our clients, and not just the corporate advisors, as we commit to execute what we advise,” says Vineet, taking the case study of Di Bella Coffee, one of his recent successes.
Opening up of foreign direct investment in the retail sector was one of the factors that made Di Bella Coffee invest in India. Though India offered opportunity in tit burgeoning middles class, the company found it also came with challenges such as dealing with different cultures, the snail speed of government response, and red tape. “We were the bridge that they needed in terms of strategy, and todayDi Bella is successfully running many outlets in Mumbai,” says Vineet, has served in the Federation of Indian Communities in Queensland and as president of the Association of Indian Chartered Accountants in Australia.
Cerule’s most recent win was helping award-winning Australian pizzas company Pizza Capers make their India foray. Since they got to India in early 2018, they are already onto their fifth outlet.
“We have several other ventures we are working on,” says Vineet, who is vice-chairman of the Australian chapter of The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India. “An agreement signed by an Australian gold mining company with Indian joint venture partners for exploration in India as well as helping an Indian chemical manufacturer successfully expand into Australia,” he adds.
India, says Vineet, is now like that limitless ocean that once lured him to Australia. A lot has changed in India, he believes, which has made the environment conducive for business. “There is absolute majority at the centre and the government has introduced some important reforms such as increasing FDI in railways, defence and insurance. They are re-looking at the foreign education bill for setting up universities in India. And many other reforms to simplify doing business in India, for example, the enactment of Goods and Services Tax,” says Vineet.
He adds that since inflation has been brought under control—although part of it being due to global prices of oil and commodity—it has made a stronger balance sheet of India. “Foreign reserves are at the highest level and the rupee is stable. There is consistent growth rate of 7 per cent plus over a number of past quarters, and a clear consensus on forecast growth rate of India beating China in years to come. So there is a lot of positive news about India and this is one of the best times for Australian businesses to enter India,” says Vineet. “India is the poster child of the emerging market. The time to get on board is now.”
To identify the opportunities in India, it is important to understand the 5 key policies, among many others, that the present government is focussing on:
- Make in India: The government is promoting manufacture of products in India. There are many policies that have come up to simplify the ease of doing business in India. So this provides opportunities for businesses looking for setting up manufacturing unit outside of Australia.
- Digital India: This move aims at increasing coverage of digital network across the country, with some very ambitious targets. It means opportunities for the ICT segment.
- Smart Cities: India has a program to build 100 new smart cities to support growing urbanisation in India. At its basic forms, all those cities would need basic facilities in infrastructure, energy, water, waste management and transportation.
- Clean India: Sanitation and waste management is a big problem in India, and the government has focus address these issues. This opens up the market for waste management, water treatment facilities etc.
- Skill India: The government is focussing on improving vocational skills of the Indian youth. I see this as a big enabler for all other policies and India needs to have the skills to be able to deliver its ambitious plans.
Australia, India, what’s the difference when it comes to business?
- Culture—There are different working styles in the two countries. Multi-tasking is common in India, meetings may not start in time, the working day starts late morning, they expect flexibility in schedule, prioritisation is changed on the spot. All these factors make it difficult for Australians to adapt to the working style.
- Diversity —There is diversity within India, with 8-10 discrete regions with different languages, food and culture. One needs to know which region you are working in and how to work with them.
- Communication—Statistics say that only 4 per cent Indians can really speak English Fluently. The rest can speak English, but there is always a risk of misinterpretation. So it’s very important to understand what the other person really means. For instance, in terms of response, Indians do not say No. If they have not done something, they would rather stay quiet till it’s done instead of responding that it hasn’t been done. Also, while email is a prevalent form of communication in Australia, Indians are more used to phone or face to face communication.