Have an India-specific strategy: Often, companies find it difficult to have a country-specific strategy as the market may not be large enough. But don’t make the mistake of bringing in a product from another part of the world just because it has worked there. We realised, for instance, that rather than large bottles of shampoo, sachets work in India. So India is the only market where we have sachets.
Understand who you are talking to: This is a country with huge diversity. Consumers are remarkably different and you have to listen to them all the time. For instance, our research shows that of the maximum of 66 different skin types in the world, India has 44. In other markets, such as Japan, there are only three or four different skin types. So, be aware that you are catering to a heterogeneous set of consumers.
Provide consumers with aspirational brands: Don’t bring in old brands and products and expect consumers to buy them. The evolution of Indian consumers is obvious and they don’t want the brands their parents were using. They know what is “hot” globally. They won’t compromise — and nor should you.
Create new products and categories: When you are a late entrant to a market, differentiate yourself by being the first to market new products. That’s the only way to stay relevant. For instance, when L’Oreal entered India, there were established beauty brands but there was no organised hair salon space. We created that and now, 15 years later, have 60,000 salons across India.
Build a local organisation: The talent pool in India is among the best I have seen. Companies will gain immensely by making the best use of the workforce here — our Indian operations have less than 10 expats in a total workforce of over 1,250. Indian executives do well not only in their home markets but are also a great resource when posted overseas.