Country Focus: India

India is often called the world's most religious country, and soon may be its most commercial.

Country imageSurprised? Foreigners often forget how integral trade has been to the nation's narrative. From its location at the heart of the Silk Road in antiquity; to the days of tea and spices, when India arguably gave rise to the world's first multinational, stock-issuing corporations; to today, when the subcontinent is poised to deliver hundreds of millions of consumers who actually consume, India has repeatedly beckoned makers and sellers of all kinds.

It has also bedeviled them. While caravan raiders, stormy seas and the dangers of fickle princes and popular uprisings no longer pack the same punch, today's challenges to trade in India are no less real. Bureaucratic obstacles, infrastructure challenges and cultural differences can easily discourage those who set out to explore this market without a reliable guide.

Overcoming the challenges

In fact, India can be one of the toughest nuts for companies to crack. The World Bank rates the country 134th out of 189 for ease of doing business; on some key components of that measure, it fares even worse: 186th in enforcing contracts, for example. This helps explain why the world's second-largest country still produces only its tenth-largest economy. And while the potential for labor-cost savings made India a leading destination for foreign direct investment, it remains a very poor country: 133rd in individual purchasing power, according to the IMF, with most growth driven by a small, well-educated segment of the population, largely in the services sector.

Whether or not India's 50-million-strong middle class blooms tenfold in size in the next decade, as many predict, or levels off and trends with the demand for inexpensive service-sector labor, just another commodity in the nation's long history of exploited resources, only time can tell. Reaching India's full potential will require more consistent corporate legal protections and regulatory enforcement; accelerated infrastructure and environmental improvements; and better economic policymaking.

Finding the right partner

Both the potential and uncertainty of doing business here make selecting the right partner essential. Established in 1999 and growing with our clients, UTi India now boasts more than 600 employees at 31 freight forwarding, contract logistics and customs brokerage locations. Ranked second in air export shipments by IATA, our efficiency and service are also exemplified by top-performer awards in recent years from Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines and Turkish Airlines.

We have similarly strengthened our position in ocean forwarding and gained increased visibility in the contract logistics market with expanded facilities in support of automotive and retail clients. Our CL resources are focused in Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Sanand, where we have grown by aligning with clients who see UTi as a long-term partner. Understanding the necessity of providing a one-stop solution for our clients, the CL team has developed the capability to offer build-to-suit logistics engineering solutions.

Another key differentiator for UTi India is our customs brokerage operation. We are one of the very few multinational logistics service providers who have their own license in India, which has proved invaluable for our clients in negotiating complex Indian customs regulations and processes. It also gives us an edge in providing our clients with visibility to their supply chains, which is a mammoth task for forwarders who outsource this segment of their business to local brokerage entities.

We look forward to supporting your entry or growth in this challenging, exciting market. Contact UTi India Managing Director Sameer Khatri to learn more.

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