In 2012, a dedicated group of enthusiastic individuals from New Zealand came together to establish QualityNZ. Their mission was to introduce the exceptional products and services of Aotearoa New Zealand to the rapidly expanding market of India. Despite India’s vast population of over 1.3 billion presenting a promising prospect, the intricacies and magnitude of this market have historically posed challenges for businesses originating from New Zealand.

Through painstaking research and insights acquired from their in-depth exploration of the market, QualityNZ successfully crafted an innovative business approach. This approach centres on establishing direct connections with consumers, delivering unparalleled service, and ensuring meticulous quality control at every phase.

Former Black Cap player Geoff Allott leads the company, while the board is composed of a remarkable assemblage of Kiwi cricket icons: Patron, Sir Richard Hadlee, along with Ambassadors Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum, and Daniel Vettori, all of whom hold ownership stakes and possess strong affiliations with India. These esteemed cricketing associations assume a vital function in endorsing and advertising the offerings of QualityNZ.

Over the past 12 years, QualityNZ’s growth has been slow and steady. But over the past year or so, it has drawn up plans for rapid expansion both in its food service offerings and adding new lines of business in the education and tourism sectors. Under India’s Make in India programme, it has established a food processing facility in northern India and is looking to double its turnover this year. It projects a ten-fold growth in business in the next three to five years.

Indian Weekender Editor-at-Large Dev Nadkarni interviewed Geoff Allott in Christchurch and Auckland and also visited QualityNZ’s offices in Mumbai in July. Excerpts from the interview:

DN: At a time when not too many NZ companies were considering doing business in India, what spurred QualityNZ to set up there?

GA: When I first arrived in India twelve years ago, I immediately noticed the absence of NZ products. During my stay, I noticed the lack of NZ goods in hotels, restaurants, and retail stores. This realisation sparked the idea that India held immense potential. Over time, as I saw India’s development, the concept of seizing this opportunity became clearer. About seven years ago, I decided to act on this idea. Back then, India was primarily associated with cricket and not seen as a market for business ventures from NZ’s perspective. However, I had an advantage due to connections, including renowned cricketers, who were aware of India’s potential. With their support, I initiated our efforts.

DN: How did you leverage star Black Caps as brand ambassadors to open doors and establish your brand?

GA: Cricket legends like Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori and Steven Fleming played pivotal roles. These individuals not only acted as brand ambassadors for QualityNZ, but also held a stake in our brand’s quality and values. They brought credibility to our company due to their influence and reputation in India. These cricketers have deep connections within India and were pioneers in building NZ-India relations, particularly through the IPL. Their involvement provided us credibility, network expansion, and a deeper understanding of the Indian market.

DN: What were the challenges you faced initially and your approach to entering the market?

GA: Our first trip to India led us to jot down several reasons against pursuing this venture. However, a friend from NZ Trade & Enterprise advised us on the importance of having substantial resources and patience. Supply chain management, maintaining quality control, storytelling, and establishing a direct presence in the Indian market were key challenges. Additionally, India’s high tariffs and price expectations necessitated efficient supply chain systems. Eventually, we set up a subsidiary in India with a streamlined supply chain, which facilitated our decision.

DN: Many foreign companies fail in India because they try to cater to all markets. Quality NZ’s success has clearly come from intense focus on a niche that you identified and nurtured. How did you go about this?

GA: India is a vast and deep market. We realised the importance of focusing on a specific niche, which, in our case, was premium New Zealand sheep meat aimed at luxury establishments like five-star hotels.

DN: Your company has expanded from quality NZ food to education, tourism, and other verticals. How do these diverse ventures fit into your strategy?

GA: We believe in contributing to India’s growth, aligning with the ‘Make in India’ campaign. We are gradually expanding our product range and manufacturing in India. Nutraceutical products and education recruitment are exciting verticals. Tourism is also a focus, utilising India’s extensive networks. The synergy lies in leveraging existing contacts while diversifying our offerings. By aligning with the Indian market’s growth, we aim to become exporters and contribute to India’s economy.

DN: Your expansion into 46 Indian cities seems meticulous and quite in tandem with the rapid growth in the country’s middle class and its disposable incomes across the country. What drives your strategy?

GA: India’s progress over the years, overcoming challenges like banking reforms and GST implementation, is commendable. The Modi Government’s shift from ‘red tape to red carpet’ underlines India’s drive to facilitate business. India’s growth potential, along with the government’s reforms, is a significant driver for our operations. Our growth has been methodical, ensuring that our operations are adaptable and controlled as we expand into numerous cities. Understanding each market, its unique dynamics, and nuances, is crucial. We break India down into distinct markets and take time to comprehend its culture, population, and needs. This approach strengthens our presence and offers us a better grasp of opportunities and challenges. We are also excited to see India’s exponential growth in tourism, education, and other sectors. The Indian government’s dedication to ease of doing business and promoting investment is encouraging.

DN: Do you plan to raise capital in India’s capital markets as part of your growth strategy?

GA: While raising capital in India’s capital markets is a goal, our current focus is to build a strong business foundation. We aim to establish a robust presence and become financially capable of such endeavours. Collaborating with Indian partners and exploring different business models will aid our efforts. Additionally, our connection with Bombay Stock Exchange and strategic export marketing opportunities are avenues for potential growth.

DN: What advice would you give NZ companies looking to enter the Indian market?

GA: I’d advise companies to recognise India’s potential and show commitment. Patience, understanding the market, building relationships, and aligning with India’s growth are essential. Niche focus, credibility, and adaptability are key elements. Establishing a long-term presence, providing value, and fostering deep relationships are vital for success in India. The willingness to invest time, resources, and effort, combined with a comprehensive understanding of India, will pave the way for meaningful ventures. I am proud of India’s progress and excited about its future. India’s demographic advantage, growing economy, and global influence hold immense promise. It’s crucial for both India and NZ to collaborate strategically. This collaboration should encompass various government divisions and emphasise shared values and trade relationships. India’s potential is immense, and by fostering strong connections, we can contribute to each other’s growth and success. I am happy to share my experience and advice to any kiwi company wishing to explore opportunities in India.

Dev Nadkarni’s India visit was facilitated with a grant from the AsiaNZ Foundation
First appeared in the August 28, 2023 edition of the Indian Weekender