How Global Businesses Are Breaking Into the Indian Market

There is a saying that “all politics are local.” The same can be said for content. To truly penetrate a market, your content has to be local. Some of the most well-known businesses have tried to enter the Indian market and stumbled because they failed to appreciate that fact. This article assesses how global companies can adapt their content mix to thrive in one of the most exciting emerging economies.

India Is Not One Market

One of the biggest mistakes that international businesses make when breaking into the Indian market is treating the country as a single, homogeneous population. India is not one market or one nation; it is a country that is home to over a billion people who speak more than 15 different languages. If companies are targeting a particular customer base, they may offer content in English or Hindi, the most commonly spoken local languages. However, to compete on the national level, companies must provide content that is as diverse as the Indian population.

Content Must Be Localalized

Many global companies think they understand India because of their experience entering other emerging markets. Some companies adapt their content to suit local tastes, such as the McDonald’s “Maharaja Mac,” but then fail to appreciate cultural norms, such as the fact that many Indians don’t eat beef. Other companies, including Samsung, have emphasized local issues such as rural development in advertisements rather than simply focusing on specific product features. For every global company that stumbles in India, another finds a way to connect with local audiences. Learn more about localization.

Netflix Stumbles in India

An excellent example of failing to localize content is Netflix’s initial foray into the Indian entertainment market. Netflix entered the Indian market in 2016 and offered the standard Western content suite available in the United States and other countries. Not only did Netflix fail to take a commanding lead in the local streaming market, but it also fell short in comparison to local competitors such as Hotstar. Hotstar offered an extensive library of local content in English as well as in Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, and Malayalam, appealing to a broad swath of Indian viewers. Netflix stumbled in its Indian go-to-market strategy and will have to work hard to catch up.

Amazon Learns From Netflix’s Mistakes

Amazon entered the Indian market after Netflix and had the opportunity to learn from Netflix’s mistakes. From the beginning, Amazon set aside $100 million to acquire local content from major Bollywood studios and emerging content creators. Amazon also has at least 18 original programs in its production pipeline and is aggressively seeking local distribution partnerships. With the benefit of hindsight, Amazon recognized that localized content was the key to success in the Indian market. To be clear, Indian viewers enjoy western content. However, for global businesses in India, distinguishing themselves from their competitors requires an emphasis on localized content that resonates with Indian audiences.

To a certain extent, the Indian market can be unforgiving. Well-capitalized global companies can struggle to compete with local startups a fraction of their size. India is a large, diverse market, and global businesses that understand that will be best prepared to hit the ground running. All content is local, and if you want to sell to customers in the developing world, you need to speak their language.



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