India and Canada have witnessed good trade relationship, which needs to be a more stronger, therefore stalwart trader like Mr. Hemant M. Shah working selflessly very hard for the same. Mr. Shah believes trade with India is a matter of “Trust and Relationship”.
Hemant M Shah may have lived in Winnipeg Canada for more than four decades, but he knows the ins and outs of India’s business climate as well as anybody.
Speaking about his background, Shah said, “I’m a Bombay (Mumbai) boy, born in a kutchi Jain family. Kutchi are mostly business people, the traders. I came straight from plus-30 degrees to minus-30 degrees – that is Winnipeg – in 1977.”
Mr. Shah’s grandfather and father were known in parts of India for the gum exporting business the family had run for more than 100 years. Mr. Shah, however, wound up taking odd jobs when he settled in Winnipeg,
India’s economy was largely closed to foreigners at that time, he notes. But Mr. Shah was certain that he could navigate the system and establish trade relationships between his new home and the bustling climate that had reared him.
“An Indian diplomat in Canada told me, ‘Hemant (NRI), your role is like Lord Krishna,’” he recalls. “Lord Krishna was an Indian god and he had two mothers. So, one mother is your motherland, India, and the other is your adopted home, Canada. You have both cultures and business practices for both countries, and you are promoting that.”
Mr. Shah has spent more than 35 years with a Canadian family-owned company called Cubex, which, among other things, makes drilling equipment for the mining industry. The company sold its first equipment in India in the early 1980s.
As the company’s director of international marketing for West Asia, Mr. Shah has gained insight into what it’s like for a Canadian company breaking into the Indian market. Here’s some of his collected wisdom.
The Canadian trade commissioner (Department of Foreign Affairs, Government ofCanada) was a big help to Mr. Shah in his early days, supplying him with reports and data that helped him land deals. It was also the federal government’s trade commissioner who first referred Mr. Shah to Cubex in the early ‘80s. “I was proud of the federal government’s trade commissioner service, foreign affairs,” Mr. Shah says. “They gave me moral support, they helped me, told me how to contact companies. Few Canadian exporters will admit the Canadian government played a role in their business, but I am proud to say they played a very large role in my career of 42 years. Nobody, in 1977, was thinking that India could be a good partner for Canada.” He was promoting Canada /India trade, India was very close economy called Import Licenses Raj in 80.
Shah advises on how to keep patience in order to get a good opportunity. “Canadian businesses looking to India should be ready for the fact that success is not going to happen overnight,” he warns. “They must have patience, they have to have time. They should go with a time frame of one or two years, not a couple of trips. You have to be committed to the market.”
When it comes to establishing solid business relationships in India – be they with joint venture partners, potential customers or others – Mr. Shah advises Canadian companies to think of the process like dating.
“You cannot be rushed and think you’ll get on a flight and come back with the order,” he says. “You need to earn the trust of your partners in India. I explain it as if you’re dating someone. I go on one, two, three dates with someone. Then on the fourth date, maybe I say, ‘Okay, we’re going to get engaged.’ So I give an engagement ring. And then after the fifth or sixth date, there’s a wedding. That’s how you can look at it.
“On the first or second trip to your joint-venture partner or a private corporation, they’re not going to invite you into their home. On the third trip, when you’ve got into their good books, earned trust, shown your credibility, they will invite you home with the family for dinner. And that’s your first success. It’s a process, and Canadian businesses have to understand it.”
Mr. Shah suggests to be adaptable and learn the culture. “India is a very open market now, but you have to follow the culture and process,” Mr. Shah says. “Yes, there is pollution in India, yes, there is traffic in India,” he says. “But do I go and complain about traffic?
“If you want to do business, be adaptable and don’t complain. Canadian companies, when they leave the airport in Toronto or Winnipeg to go to India, they should leave their Canadian hats behind. If you adopt the culture and business practices of India, you will be more successful.”
That also means concealing any frustration that arises over government red tape. “Government bureaucracy is there, I’m not going to say it’s not,” Mr. Shah says. “But bureaucracy is there in Canada also. I sell lots of equipment to Africa, I sell to Russia, I recently sold to Saudi Arabia, and there is bureaucracy there, too. You have to figure it out, follow what they want, it’s a different culture. It takes time, but you need to understand there’s more than 1 billion people.”
1990 was a big turnaround point for Mr.Shah. Because that same year he received the first Manitoba Export award. And he was the first Asian to receive this award. In 1990, Mr Shah was also introduced to few industrialists by High Power Business Contacts and he sold the corporate jet to an industrialist in Pune, India. Mr. Shah became a one stop shop to provide maintenance and parts as well as commercial pilot training and his corporation (Winnipeg aviation) trained more than 100 students. Today these pilots are flying in Indian sky.
Mr. Shah is now enjoying his retirement and working as a volunteer for a Senior Citizen organization (Victoria Life Line), who provides assistance to senior citizens. Also, Mr. Shah is always ready to be a mentor to anybody who is trying to promote Canada-India trade.