Orsolya Vásárhelyi

Orsolya Vásárhelyi

fellow of Bridge Budapest, NNG, India, Japan, South-Korea, 2015

So does a Hungarian business in India after living there for four years

Hotel, airport, another airport, another hotel, new country, new culture, new people and tasks. I didn’t even have the time to realise that I was in India but Péter Bolesza, Vice President of Emerging Markets at NNG and me are already in a Seoul park and are trying to understand the events thus far. Péter has lived in India for four years by now hence there aren’t that many Hungarians who would have a deeper understanding of the situation and business culture of India.

From the outside one can see great poverty in India while amazing luxury cars and donkeys and motorbikes with complete families sitting on them are stuck in the traffic jam together. They have their own for everything from Silicon Valley (Bangalore) to Hollywood (Bollywood). The economy is almost entirely self-sufficient but they still stop me on the streets to take a photo with me only because I have white skin.

Estimates say that by 2020 the Indian population will have increased to 1.3 billion, and it has its often forgotten but continuously increasing middle class—together with the upper ten thousand there will be some six hundred million people by the middle of the next decade. By 2025 this will have meant a solvent population with the size of those of the European and American markets together. Even today a smaller local newspaper can easily have one-and-a-half million readers a day. Incomprehensible numbers with great potentials in purchase power and with a very different culture.

The entrepreneurial mindset is perhaps the strongest in India all over the world. There is a great business potential within almost everything, if only a very small percent of the population buys a particular product or service we already speak about millions.”, explains Peter the opportunities. It is interesting that, in contrast to this, in Hungary there are targeted programmes to encourage young people to do business and to take risks while the whole thing is an integral part of the culture in India and it is often the only way here to get ahead in life. I think it is India where the most startups in the world are, I mean that everybody works very hard and they continuously reinvest their money. One should not think of successful startups with billions (though there are some of these as well), as buying and running a three-wheeler may be also regarded as a business.” 

Péter tells a lot about the entrepreneurial mindset and creativity in India, my personal favourite is the “monkey deterrent business”. Monkeys are a serious problem in the towns as they get together into packs and try to get food and go even inside the houses. A few years ago monkeys became an issue in the neighbourhood where Péter was living and there was nothing to do—one had to call the monkey deterrent. It is one of the features of the Hindu religion that no living being may be harmed. This is why one can see that many different cows, dogs and pigs along the roads. In this context deterring is to be understood slightly differently. “The person arrived and a large male monkey was sitting on the luggage rack of the bike. The method is very simple, one has to have the house peed around by a monkey that is as large as the pack leader, and the smaller and weaker monkeys wont dare to go inside the area so marked. It works perfectly and solved the monkey issue for a long while.”

In India there is a general attraction to products from abroad, but the mindset is different. One can do business with Indians on the long-run if one obeys the cultural rules and is there—in person.  “If it comes to business both Arabs and Indians look for partners first within the family, after that come friends then other Arabs or Indians and we come only after them. If we did not want to be the fourth ones in this line then it might happen that one must drink coffee all day long with a friend or client”.