3 mistakes to avoid when breaking new markets

The founder of Kohli Ventures Tej Kohli explains that there's money to be made in emerging markets, but businesses should learn from his mistakes.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 30 Jan 2019

The growing economies of India and China, with their burgeoning middle classes and preference for Western goods offer ample opportunities for ambitious British businesses.

But they come with risks, as billionaire tech investor Tej Kohli explains. His investments in everything from eSports to renewable energy have taken him all over the world, but he admits that "most of the issues I have regretted come from that part of the world."

Here are his top three tips for businesses looking for opportunities in unfamiliar markets.

Don’t take the legal system for granted

"I had a very bad experience in one investment in India. We thought we were in control and we were not. It is easy to take the English legal system for granted: when the contract says you're a majority shareholder you are. But it doesn't quite work like that there.

"Even as a person who was born in India, but runs my business from the UK, I was disappointed in the way that legal system operates there."

Go local

"It is almost impossible to do it without local partners. Start with finding distributors or advertise for some local hires through word of mouth. Then you can use them to figure out who are the best local partners. This doesn't just mean businesses, suppliers and clients. It means lawyers as well. You need to understand the system."

Learn to adapt

"You have to localise everything. In China for example, you cannot promote your web services through Google. Everything has to be converted into the Chinese language and you have to sell through Baidu.

"Different work cultures are receptive to different types of management, so find local managers. The best way to learn the local ecosystem is through your employees, so that’s why it’s so important to get feet on the ground."

Further reading

10 years ago, Levon Antonian expanded his St Alban’s based IT company to the Middle East, now the region accounts for 90% of its revenue. He shares his 5 top tips to expanding abroad. Here the British-born global CEO of Hitachi Rail reveals what he's learned about cross-cultural leadership. Finally, WeWork’s European MD explains the secret to international expansion.

Image credits: anyaberkut/Gettyimages


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