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Selling Specialised Tactical Equipment in the Indian Marketplace

Updated: Feb 29, 2020


 

It has long been known within the special operations and counter-terrorism communities that much of the cutting edge advanced technological development in internal security (IS) and counter-insurgency (COIN) equipment or “kit”, has its genesis in Europe. This can be in part be attributed to the sophisticated, yet violent terrorist threat and sub-national conflict endured by European police, security forces and counter-terrorist elements for the past many years. European IS, and COIN equipment manufacturer's today more than ever are being looked to by official Indian government agencies to provide state-of-the-science tools for specialist units tasked with security, defense, protection, and crisis intervention.


The battle to protect physical and personnel assets, combat organized violent crime, eliminate illegal international drug traffic, and the eradication of terrorism are a priority with the Indian government. India’s modernization plan for the Police and acquisition for the Armed Forces presents a new frontier for many American and European equipment manufacturers.


Not One More…

Many off-shore equipment manufacturers looking to enter the Indian market are unclear as to how to get their products to the appropriate Indian end user and corresponding purchasing activity due to the seemingly de-centralized procurement methods practiced by many agencies.


There are a number of horror stories in the industry about foreign manufactures losing tens of thousands of thousands of Dollars, Pounds, and Euros trying to penetrate the Indian market. Some of these manufactures unfortunately met unscrupulous people who told them grand tales of boundless India Shining stories and Government wealth, and of the many contracts that lay before them with the Armed Forces or the hundreds of police, CAPF and other agencies throughout the country. Besieged with seeming good fortune these well-intentioned companies spent heavily, and for most realizing little or no return. Others more than likely, were not well informed and entered the market blindly making one ill informed decision after another. The moral here is “once bitten, twice shy”.


Choose Your Representative Wisely

Agents and representatives in India are plentiful, but good ones are hard to find. Select an appropriate representative for your company, one who reflects your business interests, dedication to quality, work ethic, and most of all professionalism. It would be wise to consider someone who has been in uniform.


Due to the sheer size and enormity of the India market, off-shore manufacturers must clearly define their goals and expectations relative to target markets, sales, projected revenues, and growth, without wasting valuable time and precious financial resources.


Police, CAPF and Other Law Enforcement Organizations

There are more than 100 law enforcement agencies such as State Police, State Armed Police, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and correctional organisations in India. This figure does not come close to including the multitude of private and corporate security organisations which can be found in every city. It has been estimated that there are nearly two million men and women are actively involved in the enforcement of law, public safety and security. Without exception every one of these organizations and its members procure a wide range of equipment.


Many contemporary law enforcement organisations also have several types of specially trained units, with different requirements such as VIP security, industrial security, railway protection or anti-terrorism. In addition to the local police and state law enforcement agencies, there are also the CAPF which purchase a variety of specialized equipment to support their missions throughout the country. Here is where the hard work comes in, manufacturers will need to register as vendors with each organisation’s procurement activity. This as you might imagine is no small undertaking, but is absolutely essential to your success.


At the Central Government level (to include the Military) at a bare minimum, you can get most updates from the e-procurement website ( www.eprocure.gov.in ). This website is updated “daily” and, primarily details government tenders above a certain level. Almost all RFIs and RFPs are available online. However, smaller quantities, particularly civil end use items continue to be procured on a limited tender system. Detailed information for CAPF can be a part of subsequent specialised articles.


Indian Armed Forces

When planning your sales and marketing strategy for the military services; Army, Air Force, and Navy also keep in mind the following. The Special Forces, Para Forces, National Security Guard, Coast Guard, Rashtriya Rifles, Assam Rifles and the CAPF above represent correspondingly additional large markets, with many of the same requirements. Although, these agencies differ in their operating environment and therefore have some difference in protective equipment. For e.g. the ITBP operates in high Himalayas and therefore requires more snow scooters and boots.


The Armed Forces, procure both a unit and depot level and centrally through formal contract mechanisms. A good part of procurements also happens at the Command level through the ACSFP. When marketing products for the Indian military, Global manufacturers should really examine "where" and at what level their equipment will be inserted into the force structure (i.e. soldier, fire team, section, platoon, company or higher). With the decentralised system in place procurements in the military continue throughout with a network of distributors in place. These registered ‘vendors’ often help cover small sector level requirements of the military with equipment other than arms and ammunition.


Information on military procurement can be obtained from ( www.defproc.gov.in ). More detailed information can be a part of subsequent article about the military alone.


Market Entry

The Indian market is a vast maze of agencies, and organizations fraught with pitfalls, where market entry timing and position are critical. Long before actually beginning your marketing and sales effort you must develop an effective strategy or marketing plan to penetrate your identified police, military and or security market segment.


Manufacturers must apply the four principles "P's" of marketing [Product, Placement, Position, & Price] to their targeted markets. Utilizing the “4-P’s” manufacturers must further exploit their products identified and proven advantages quickly, in order to dominate the competition, and secure a “valued” position with the customer. The development of a cohesive marketing strategy is critical to your overall success and ultimate acceptance of your product in the India marketplace.


Competition

Fundamental market intelligence is critical to the success of any new business venture, especially one launched several thousand miles and a few oceans away. Take the time to conduct an in-depth market survey to determine which companies pose the greatest potential competitive threat to your product, and which if any of those firms can be cultivated as potential allies and strategic business partners. This includes the strength and market position of your domestic and other foreign competitors, size of their market share, emerging technologies, end user requirements and relationships your competitor may have with the customer.


Much like working in any developing nation or newly industrialised country, manufacturers need trusted “in-country” agents, representatives and or teaming partners. Make sure your representatives have adequate market and product knowledge. The strength of the relationships you develop with these essential “in-country assets” will portend your success in India.


Publicity and Advertising

Manufacturers rarely take the time to send out “new product” announcements to the end users, and "press releases" to leading industry publications. Many a times, manufacturers assume [wrongly] that it’s not worth their time and effort, or more often than not, just too busy. The strategic use of the publicity mechanism can help to position your product in the India marketplace through “paid” or "non-paid advertising".


Many defense publications have “new product” sections, whose aim and goal is to publicize new products. Further product exposure can be gained through product evaluations in trade journals, editorial coverage, technical presentations at symposia, and various other means. Advertising is a critical component of the overall marketing plan which complements publicity. The range of professional publications addressing the police, law enforcement, security and conventional military markets is not so large in India but evolving at a fast pace. Selecting the most appropriate trade publication(s), from the more than dozen or more journals representing the correct demographic readership for your products is critical. Rarely can only one journal or magazine deliver the entire targeted demographic market segment a manufacturer is seeking. Along with requesting the publications audited distribution and readership demographics, manufacturers should also ask for the editorial planner which describes each month’s featured editorial focus, and trade show distribution issues. Critical factors affecting advertising success also include layout and design of ad content, positioning on the page, placement within the magazine and frequency of advertisements.


Exhibitions

Every year the list of defense, security and special operations related exhibitions continues to grow, as do the substantial fees they charge. Interestingly however, there are only a select few exhibitions that continue to provide consistently positive results for manufacturers within certain market segments. The three major exhibitions that consistently provide large numbers of high quality attendees include the Defexpo ( www.defexpo.gov.in ) and Aero India Show for the Military/Aviation, and International Police Expo (www.internationalpoliceexpo.com) for others.


There are correspondingly a number of high-quality smaller exhibitions that are organised in the military at local formation level. These do not have a published date following a definite calendar but are something to look out for. Selecting the most appropriate exhibitions for your product is key, but also don’t forget selecting the best booth locations at the exhibition is equally important.


Lastly, salesmen are not always the most appropriate persons to totally staff your booth, consider using technical staff or “operators” with appropriate backgrounds during trade shows, helping the customer or to understand the "real world" applications of your equipment.


Associations and Networking

Along with the large number of government and military customers in India, is a correspondingly large group of professional associations which can be joined by any OEM. A wealth of business information can be derived from “networking” within professional associations.

Valuable marketing tools such as small well focused technical symposia, exhibitions, annual meetings, mailing lists [both email and postal] and membership guides are all available to the astute manufacturer “working” an association. The larger associations have their own exhibitions and conferences, many of which are used to conduct annual meetings of regional chapters and sub-committees (i.e. Small Arms, Night Vision, Physical Security, etc.) membership in and attendance of these are essential. Several of the more well-known trade associations amongst many include FICCI (www.ficci.in), ASSOCHAM (www.assocham.org), CII ( www.cii.in), PHD Chamber of Commerce ( www.phdcci.in )



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