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The Airport Economist on India

Last week, Tim Harcourt, also known as The Airport Economist, dispelled myths about the difficulties of doing business in China. In this week’s installment, he covers his experiences doing business in India, which are also featured in his new book, Trading Places: The Airport Economist’s Guide to International Business .

doing business in indiaOffering tips on the countries that have become his backyard, Harcourt says when considering opportunities in India its best to leave any cultural baggage at home.

“India is much more than the 3 C’s – cricket, curry and commonwealth,” says Harcourt.

He adds that business people must be mindful that 50% of the population is under 25.

“So education, sports and fashion are very popular,” he advises, but cautions that solely relying on the national obsession with cricket can be a mistake. “Cricket is a good icebreaker but it won’t do the entire job for you,” says Harcourt.

He says that countries like Australia have successfully used cricket superstars, like Shane Warne, to open doors, but after that the relationship must be based on the usual business diligence.

A bonus in India as compared to other countries in Asia, is the large, and free, English media.

“The large English press opens many opportunities to run a good public relations campaign,” he says.

Harcourt also advises that businesspeople wanting to enter the Indian market would do well to ask their country’s representatives in India for help navigating the notorious red tape.

“It’s a relationship driven country rather than translational so business takes time. As my Indian colleagues say: ‘It’s a good wicket, but before you can make runs you must carefully prepare the pitch.’”

 

 

The perceived challenges of doing business in China

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tim harcourt

The latest book from The Airport Economist, Tim Harcourt, shares the lessons he has learned travelling through Asia as an adviser to governments and trade missions, but has its beginnings in lessons he learned as a student at The University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Harcourt says, many of the students he lived with were from Singapore and Malaysia. They were very smart at math and econometrics and helped him get good grades.

A prized scholar at Adelaide, then Minnesota and Harvard University, Harcourt credits those friends for enlightening his interest in Asia.

These early lessons helped him realize that doing business in China is not as scary as commonly thought.

“Don’t be put off by the horror stories of non-payment in China,” he says. “You are more likely to lose your pants in the United States than your shirt in China.”

He also warns not to overplay the cultural issues.

“Even if you don’t speak Chinese it doesn’t mean you won’t be good. You just need to have a good niche, product,” Harcourt says. “But be realistic. Just because it’s China, you’re not going to suddenly sell 1.3 billion pairs of socks.”

Harcourts advises looking to second and third tier cities, which still have populations of around 15 million people.

“They are growing fast with plenty of urbanisation. Think construction, landscape gardening, education…” he says, adding that to land big contracts in secondary cities it’s best to seek the help of your country’s trade representatives to pave the way through municipal bureaucracy.

Harcourt’s final piece of advice is that to succeed overseas you can’t rely on luck.

“There is no trick to finding opportunities,” he says. “Be well prepared, flexible and do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask for government help too.”

Preparation is key he says but adds that being flexible is also important. “Try not to overcook your strategic plan,” he says. “Innovation often comes from random thought. Over-thinking can hinder action. Get out there, try things and do it!”

With a good story, and country specific practical tips Harcourt says that Trading Places will help businesspeople wanting to take the next step in international business get started.

“I hope people reading it will become more knowledgeable about the world and more confident about going offshore. They may even have a laugh at the same time!”

Tim Harcourt’s new book, Trading Places: The Airport Economist’s Guide to International Business hits the shelves on 1 Oct. Come back next week for part two with Tim where we get the inside track on doing business in India.

How The Hotel Industry is Adapting to Meet Today’s Modern Business Traveler

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businesswoman running with luggageThe face of the modern business traveler has changed. For one, it is increasingly female – women are the fastest-growing segment among business travelers in the U.S., accounting for nearly half of the market. It is also getting younger – Millennials currently make up an upwards of 35% of the workforce and are expected to soon surpass Boomers in overall travel spending. It is also more often seen working in the lobby and public spaces rather than tucked away in a guest room. Hotels, among other travel industry companies like booking sites and DMOs, are being forced to look at their branding, business models and communications methods to meet the needs of this modern business traveler.

The business travelers of today – especially the ever expanding Millennial market – are looking for flexible work spaces with high-speed and complimentary Wi-Fi, where they have the option to work and network, enjoy a good meal, cocktail or cup of coffee and be as social as they choose. They aren’t looking for cookie cutter experiences, but to discover something new, different or unique with each hotel stay – from the design to culinary offerings or craft beer and cocktail selections at the bar.

Hospitality brands like Sonesta, a global collection of 55 properties in eight countries, have taken notice, and aim to deliver a guest experience that is different, and flexible to meet each guest’s needs – from business to leisure travelers.

According to Mark Sherwin, Executive Vice President Operations for Sonesta, the brand is “passionate about offering guests a sense of place, not just a place to stay.” Sherwin says there is “no typical Sonesta, but a portfolio full of diverse and distinctive properties as individual as its guests.”

A bold and independent-minded aesthetic is woven throughout the hotel’s guest experience, from lobbies and dining experiences to rooms – all also conveniently fitted with complimentary Wi-Fi for guests. Bright, vibrant tones are being carefully selected in design updates to brighten the mood, provide light and airy spaces and inspire creativity during each stay.

Read this CNN post for another perspective on the Makings of a Modern Business Traveler.

 

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“Unmanage” your travel to slash costs and earn cash

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main watching plane at airportIt’s a popular misconception that companies will lose out on business travel discounts if they use an open travel platform. Finding a company who provides business rates with an open booking platform is tricky. Even harder to find is one paying cash back on just about every booking, every flight, every hotel, and every rental.

ExpertFlyer caught up with Shannon Fore, Director of National Accounts at Global Travel for Business, a unique unmanaged business travel booking engine that purports to provide a wealth of travel product and cash back incentives.  According to Fore, there is no doubt a cost associated with traditional managed travel. Some companies charge per employee, per month, some charge a flat annual fee based on corporate size, as well as reporting capabilities. For example, many managed travel companies charge a per transaction service fee of $25-$55. So, if a company does 3,000 transactions a year this amounts to a bill of $165,000 just to pick up the phone! The determining factor in whether or not this Managed platform cost is worth its weight in gold can be summed up in terms of savings. Do the savings outweigh the costs?

Fore says, based on her research, that unmanaged travelers spend a third less per trip compared to managed travelers. It was also determined that unmanaged or open travel bookers experienced a higher level of employee satisfaction since, in fact, they were in charge of their trip — down to seat choice, hotel choice and carrier choice. The alternative is being at the mercy of a managed travel booker who carries the purse strings, as well as criterion which goes with there company travel policy.

Faced with increasing travel costs, tax hikes, fuel surcharges and the like, companies are urgently looking for savings opportunities more than ever. Seems like now’s a good time to explore options, such as open travel platforms that have no set up fee, no transaction fees and no monthly service fees.