Winnipeg Aviation Limited
Hemant M. Shah, Executive Director of Global Sales – Winnipeg Aviation Ltd., Canada, has urged Canadian companies to be patient and adaptable to the culture and process of India for doing business in the country.
Sharing his experience and wisdom for doing business with Canada, he said Canadian businesses looking to do business in India should have patient and success is not going to happen overnight.
On establishing solid business relationships in India through joint venture partners, potential customers or others, Mr. Shah advises Canadian companies to think of the process like dating.
“They must have patience, they have to have time. They should go with a time frame of one or two years, not a couple of trips. You have to be committed to the market. The big companies like Sun Life, Bombardier many others, they were there when I was first going there,” Mr. Shah said.
Born in Mumbai in Kutchi Jain family, Mr. Shah has spent more than 35 years with a Canadian family-owned company called Cubex, which, among other things, made drilling equipment for the mining industry. The company sold its first equipment to India in the early 1980s.
As the company’s director of international marketing for West Asia, Mr. Shah has gained insight into what it’s like for a Canadian company breaking into the Indian market. He knows the ins and outs of India’s business climate as well as any Indian Businessman.
“I’m a Bombay boy, born in a Kutchi Jain family,” he says. “Kutchis are mostly business people, the traders. I came straight from plus-30 degrees to minus-30 degrees – that is Winnipeg – in 1977,” says Mr. Shah.
Mr. Shah’s grandfather and father were known in parts of India for the gum exporting business, the family had run for more than 100 years. Mr. Shah, however, wound up taking odd jobs when he settled in Winnipeg.
India’s economy was largely closed to foreigners at that time, he notes. But Mr. Shah was certain that he could navigate the system and establish trade relationships between his new home and the bustling climate that had reared him.
“An Indian diplomat in Canada told me, ‘Hemant, your role is like Lord Krishna,’” he recalls. “Lord Krishna had two mothers. So, one mother is your motherland, India, and the other is your adopted home, Canada. You have both cultures and business practices for both countries, and you are promoting that.”
The Canadian trade commissioner was a big help to Mr. Shah in his early days, supplying him with reports and data that helped him land deals. It was also the federal government’s trade commissioner who first referred Mr. Shah to Cubex in the early 1980s. “I was proud of the federal government’s trade commissioner services, foreign affairs,” Mr. Shah says. “They gave me moral support, they helped me, told me how to contact companies. Few Canadian exporters will admit the Canadian government played a role in their business, but I am proud to say they played a very large role in my career of 42 years. Nobody, in 1977, was thinking that India could be a good partner for Canada.” He was Promoting Canada /India trade, India was Very Close Economy Called Import Licenses Raj in 1980s.
“You cannot be rushed and think you’ll get on a flight and come back with the order. You need to earn the trust of your partners in India. I explain it as if you’re dating someone. I go on one, two, three dates with someone. Then on the fourth date, maybe I say, ‘Okay, we’re going to get engaged.’ So, I give an engagement ring. And then after the fifth or sixth date, there’s a wedding. That’s how you can look at it,” he explained.
“On the first or second trip to your joint-venture partner or a private corporation, they’re not going to invite you into their home. On the third trip, when you’ve got into their good books, earned trust, shown your credibility, they will invite you home with the family for dinner. And that’s your first success. It’s a process, and Canadian businesses have to understand it.”
Be adaptable and learn the culture
“India is a very open market now, but you have to follow the culture and process,” Mr. Shah says. “Yes, there is pollution in India, yes, there is traffic in India,” he says. “But do I go and complain about traffic?"
“If you want to do business, be adaptable and don’t complain. Canadian companies, when they leave the airport in Toronto or Winnipeg to go to India, they should leave their Canadian hats behind. If you adopt the culture and business practices of India, you will be more successful.”
That also means concealing any frustration that arises over government red tape. “Government bureaucracy is there, I’m not going to say it’s not,” Mr. Shah says. “But bureaucracy is there in Canada also. I sell lots of equipment to Africa, I sell to Russia, I recently sold to Saudi Arabia, and there is bureaucracy there, too. You have to figure it out, follow what they want, it’s a different culture. It takes time, but you need to understand there are more than 1 billion people.”
New Journey /New Sector: AVIATION
1990 was a big turnaround point for Mr. Shah. Because that very year, he received the first Manitoba Export award. And he was the first Asian to receive this award. In 1990 Mr. Shah was also introduced to few industrialists by High Power Business Contacts and he sold corporate jet to an industrialist in India. Mr. Shah became a one-stop shop to provide maintenance and parts.
Hemant M. Shah states that he is proud to inform that he belonged to Kutch. In 1990, when he sold corporate jets to the industrialists of India, the people appreciated saying that a Kutchi boy can sell ‘Aeroplane’.
Gradually, new horizons opened before him. Then the idea emerged in his mind as to why not prepare commercial pilots. When he became the executive director of Winnipeg Aviation, he held a ‘roadshow’ in India. That fetched the first batch of 10 students, all of whom were Gujarati. Like this, he got 180 students. he brought those youth from India to Canada and made them pilots. Today those children are working as commercial pilots with major airlines, not only in India but in Europe and other countries. He does not know how to express the pleasure he experienced last year when he was travelling with his wife Hina from Canada to India. They sat behind the cockpit. The plane was ready to take off. Suddenly, one commander came and touched the feet of his wife and that of mine and said – Sir, hoon Captain Kalpesh Parmar! Tamaaro student! (Sir, I am Captain Kalpesh Parmar, your student). That crowning moment is still alive, which moistened their eyes with a sense of Indian pride!
Spotlight Episode 32 (S2) – Inspired by Founding Chairman of FOG Canada, Mr. HEMANT M. SHAH
Winnipeg Aviation Limited has been a leader in the flight training community in Canada over 35 years. The Company values flight safety & professionalism above everything else. The Company believes in demanding the most from their students as flying can be, on occasions, most demanding endeavor. Besides, the students demand maximum fo their training dollar. The Company also dealt with aircraft rentals & maintenance.
|Image Caption : Hemant M. Shah, Executive Director, Global Sales of Winnipeg Aviation, Canada||click for high-res image|