Gitesh, could you start by telling us a little about who you are and where you’re from?
Hi. I am a curious blend. I was born in India’s capital of New Delhi, spent my initial years in the northern state of Haryana, and moved to Chennai (South India) at 11. I did my schooling and college in Chennai. I did my MBA in Sydney in 1995 and became an Australian in 2007.
I am married to Anjalii, an ex-flight attendant and now a very trusted education counsellor/chocolatier/baker/soap maker! We have two daughters — Aksharaa (14) and Anika (12).
And how did you come to have an ongoing connection to Australia? After all, it’s around 8000km from India!
Well, from being an alumnus in 1995 to working for Austrade for almost 10 years to becoming an Australia citizen — the Land Down Under has had a karmic connection with me.
I studied in Sydney and worked in Melbourne, but there is something very special about Queensland, that ‘soul-connect’. So life has a way of bringing you home.
How did your professional life lead up to becoming Queensland’s Trade and Investment Commissioner in India?
I started off as an entrepreneur with my own event company. But the corporate world beckoned, and I worked for the famous Taj Hotels for 5 years, then moved to Austrade.
I then took a leap of faith, and joined a mid-sized company to create a new product/revenue vertical for them as the CEO. We took the group to about A$100 million turnover, and I made them a Top 100 brand in India. But Australia was always a plan, and I did get a call to join TIQ in 2017 … so, I am happy to say, here I am.
You’re now based in TIQ’s office in Bangalore, which is referred to as both ‘India’s Silicon Valley’ and the ‘Garden City of India’. What makes Bangalore uniquely Bangalore?
From being a city state of the South India dynasties, to a British cantonment, to India’s Silicon Valley, Bangalore has come a long way.
The recent IT boom has made it a megalopolis of 10+ million people, home to almost all the Fortune 500 companies and a hub for IT, aerospace, aeronautical and automotive manufacturing, education and more.
It also means that urban challenges are a daily test of faith, from air and water to the famous Bangalore traffic. But the cosmopolitan vibe and the smorgasbord of Indian diaspora and international expats make it a city with a unique buzz.
India is home to 1.3 billion people, which is a massive potential market. What are today’s Indian consumers looking for?
The first thing that may surprise you in India is its millennials, the 400+ million youngsters between 18 and 35. They are consumers who are driven by ‘living for today’, brand-conscious, health-focused, and keen to soak up experiences.
They’re a mobile, highly educated workforce, armed with almost a billion mobile connections, in the largest smartphone market of the world, where the data is cheap, and it’s being mined to predict consumer behaviour and influence choices.
Rural India is also fast embracing a digital economy, driven by the government’s push on digital transactions. Rural Indians are leapfrogging into technology for agriculture and food processing, and becoming new consumers for fast-moving consumer goods and consumer durables.
I like to call them ‘the two Indias’. And both Indias are embracing change, socially aware, environmentally driven, connected but also disconnected — propelling the nation into the future as perhaps the world’s third largest economy very soon.
What big opportunities in the Indian market do you see for exporters over the next few years?
I think that Queensland needs to position itself as a ‘solution state’ in India, addressing India’s needs for energy security, food security, and technology in health, aerospace, agri-equipment, and education.
Apart from the traditional industries, I see a lot of scope for commercialisation of IP, investments into new tech, alliances between Indian corporates and Queensland universities, and with niche, mid-sized Queensland companies.
Queensland companies who are export ready, or already exporting, can look at India as both a market and as an amplifier, a place to leverage. I strongly advocate finding partnerships rather than just export orders.
If I’m an entrepreneur sitting in Queensland and I’m keen to export to India, where do I begin?
If you are exporting a product, service, technology or best practice, you can begin by talking to our colleagues at TIQ in Brisbane or regional Queensland.
You can also talk to our team members in India, for a conversation about what you do and what your expectations are. In some cases, we will be even keen to know your 3–5 year strategy, to perhaps go beyond just finding you a buyer, and exploring partnerships, licensing, investing, etc.
Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share?
I would like to say that India is the big opportunity that the whole world is chasing, due to its young population, digital aspirations, consumerism and inherent strengths.
Unlike many other large export-dependent economies, India has massive internal consumption. If you have a product that can satisfy a need, and it’s priced for local acceptance, the Indian market can give your bottom line a tremendous boost.
India is also flush with investment, both receiving investment (in IT, pharma, start-ups and retail) and investing in other countries (in resources, health, design and automotive industries). In some cases, Indian companies have overtaken bigger brands globally — for example, a recent news article reported that sales of Royal Enfield motorbikes made in India are now equal to those of Harley-Davidson, KTM, BMW, and Ducati combined!
I also believe that Indian Government decisions related to GST and demonetisation will, in the long term, have a positive impact on the economy.
I say look at India with a new set of eyes: look at the appetite and aspirations of young Indians especially, and be tenacious in aiming to meet local needs.