‘This experience is something that no classroom can teach you…’

By Sparsh Sharma

A group of 19 MBA students from Université Laval – located in Québec City in Canada, a city recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site – were on a study tour to India. This is the fourth time in five years that a team from the university came to India. Given their success in the previous years, the university decided to come back again this year.

The students travelled to different cities in India mainly to meet companies and promote their products and services and perfect their knowledge of India. The Canadian students represented 19 different companies in varied sectors like education, foods, manufacturing, IT, entertainment, beverages, etc.

Geneviève Marcotte, coordinator of the tour and a participant, answers some questions about the group’s visit:

How would the knowledge be useful to the group and the companies they represent?
GM: This experience is something that no classroom can teach you; after doing in-depth research before coming here and then meeting with your contacts on the field makes us realise the fruit of our labour, which is most certainly rewarding.

I believe that all students should take part in a trade mission like ours, as the experience shows you how small the world really is, and how accessible international markets are. International trade is important to both Canada and India. All the resources offered, in Canada and on the field here in India, were extremely useful for my future career of working in international business development as they were for all students involved in the study tour.

What was the methodology behind the study tour?
GM: Université Laval acts as a non-profit organisation that offers Canadian companies the opportunity to develop their international market. Our team is young, dynamic and benefits from accumulated knowledge of our 16 years of existence. Over 400 companies such as Bombardier, Maison Simons, Philips Lumec, etc. have already used our services. Our agents not only receive training from field experts but also work year-long to perfect their knowledge about the country abroad, its culture, economy, politics and language(s). Before getting into a trade mission like this, they do a market study to be sure about the best way to penetrate that particular market. It is a good opportunity for companies that desire to penetrate new markets and obtain professional, personalised service at an exceptionally competitive price. The University of Laval Commercial Missions is here to facilitate a period of transition to these new markets. From market potential evaluation to importation and exportation logistics, possible entry modes, technical representation as well as searching for distributors and clients, development agents, or the MBA students this time, worked three weeks in India to reach all goals of Canadian enterprise. Companies wanting to participate in our trade missions pay an amount which covers only cost for mission such as hotel, per diem and transport.

Would the products be marketed focusing on the Indian market?
GM: I think the business opportunity in India is immense but foreign companies must be very careful while entering this market. Though marketing is an important process in selling most products, the cultural challenges and political barriers are numerous. Obtaining permits can take long, finding the right distributor can be difficult and finding the right logistic strategy to make it all work is the key. Marketing will come once you have everything else in place, and if you have done all other things correctly, the publicity and advertisement will find results by itself with minimal effort.

Did your group’s impression about India change?
GM: It’s my second time in India and every time I discover a wonderful country with people wanting to learn more about us and teach a lot about their culture. It’s amazing. We thought India is a misinterpreted country: the advances that have been made, the technology available is impressive and the stereotype of ‘poor India’ is misleading. Businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) all across the country, offer a wide range of high-quality products and services, and I think many people confuse lower production prices to lower quality. When you look at a giant like Tata, and all of the industries they are able to thrive in, it gives you a great example of the wide range of available knowledge, and its influence on the global scale.

Nader Daher: “India is a very sense-awakening place. Doing business here is a full human experience.”

Jonathan Bouvrette: “India brings a model of cooperation through open-mindedness”

Simon Lemay-Roux: “India is an incredible experience – business-wise as well as personally.”

Marie-Pier Michaud: “Canada and India are so different that every aspect of India becomes so impressive.”