Department for Business and Trade: How to export to India

Ameeta Virk of the Department explains how to crack the world's most populous market
Ameeta Virk MBE
Bandra–Worli Sea Link, Mumbai India
Bandra–Worli Sea Link, Mumbai India

As India Market Specialist at the Department for Business and Trade, I have been working with SMEs on their market entry and expansion into India for nearly a decade.

There has been a notable increase in market focus during that time. Whilst India has been very much on the radar of UK SMEs for the last five years, it has now moved into the centre spot as a primary growth market. In fact, India has an important role in most UK firms' international expansion strategies, and this is hugely exciting.

Moreover, the India opportunity delivers. Poised to be the world’s third largest economy by 2035, India has undergone a robust programme of government reforms designed to create a stable, efficient and less complex environment for potential investors in the market. India continues to see significant growth in all areas from infrastructure and manufacturing through to the creative industries and luxury goods markets, with total UK exports to India in 2023 amounting to £15 billion in the 12 months to September 2023.

I am passionate about helping more UK businesses to have a share of this success. Along with the companies I support, during my time working in the UK-India corridor, I have learned many dos and don’ts. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Get your pricing strategy right: This does not mean the lowest price possible. Yes, India is a price-conscious market and negotiations with potential partners can be intense. However, India is also an innovation and quality-driven market. Lead with the merits of your product or service – the India market places value on products and services that are in high demand and that it cannot easily replicate.
  2. Visit the market, and then visit it again: Business in India is incredibly relationship-based, built on rapport and trust which is best established face to face. You must visit the country not only to meet with potential partners but to understand the market, explore the rich and diverse cultural landscape and see for yourself where your product or service best fits.
  3. Give the market your 100%: I often say, it can take 100% of your effort, commitment and enthusiasm to reach 1% growth in India – but that 1% is all you need to transform your business considering the number of consumers, fast growth and long-term economic strength of the market.
  4. Some complexities are avoidable: While it is undoubtedly the case that India presents a complex challenge for would-be exporters, it is important to understand that much complexity can be avoided by getting the right expert advice from the outset. The Department for Business and Trade can connect you to the right regulatory partners who you can engage with on specific barriers and fill knowledge gaps to enable your business to gain a foothold in the market.
  5. Take a long-term view: It takes commitment, patience and perseverance to succeed in India. Actual business and commercial return can take years to generate. However, this should not dissuade you from prioritising and committing to this market. Just remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint, and those willing to commit will be best positioned to reap the rewards.

So, if you are considering expanding your business this year by looking overseas, India’s economic ascent offers huge potential. At the Department for Business and Trade, we can offer free advice and access to experts both in the UK and India, alongside dedicated trade missions to introduce you to prospective buyers and partners. 

You can find more information about selling your goods and services to India at www.great.gov.uk/campaign-site/sell-to-india

Written by
Ameeta Virk MBE