Foreign Businesses in India: A Tale of Success and Failure

Foreign Businesses in India: A Tale of Success and Failure

Despite challenges, some foreign companies are thriving in the Indian market while others struggle to make their mark.

The allure of India’s fast-growing emerging market has attracted numerous multinational companies in recent years. However, the country’s history of foreign business ventures has been marked by both successes and failures. While some companies have thrived and expanded their presence in India, others have faced practical challenges, legal obstacles, and fierce competition from local rivals. This article explores the factors that contribute to the success or failure of foreign businesses in India and sheds light on the strategies employed by companies that have managed to persevere.

Aligning with Indian Priorities

One group of foreign companies that have found success in India are those whose business aligns with the priorities of the Indian state. For example, Apple has moved some of its iPhone production to contract manufacturers in India, supporting the country’s export-oriented manufacturing goals. Similarly, Vestas and Senvion have set up wind turbine production facilities to cater to the growing demand for renewable energy solutions. Tesla is also negotiating lower import tariffs in exchange for establishing an electric car factory in India. By aligning their business strategies with India’s economic ambitions, these companies have managed to thrive in the Indian market.

Indigenizing the Indian Business

Foreign companies that make an effort to indigenize their Indian operations have also found success. Some have formed strategic partnerships with well-connected local companies, such as Google and Meta’s investments in Reliance Industries, India’s largest conglomerate. These partnerships have enabled foreign companies to tap into the vast Indian market and leverage the local expertise and networks of their Indian partners. Additionally, foreign companies have strengthened their Indian presence through acquisitions, as seen with Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart, a leading Indian e-commerce platform. By adapting their business models to suit the Indian market and collaborating with local players, these companies have gained a competitive edge.

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Staying Power of Established Players

Many foreign companies that have been in India for decades have managed to establish themselves as major players in the market. These companies often replace informal provision of goods and services and earn better returns from their Indian subsidiaries. Hindustan Unilever, Maruti Suzuki, and other long-standing companies are considered homegrown by many Indians. Despite facing initial challenges and regulatory hurdles, companies like Amazon have stood firm and invested heavily in the Indian market. Amazon’s commitment to India has paid off, as the company’s logistical expertise and substantial investments have garnered support from government officials. By staying the course and demonstrating their long-term commitment, established players have solidified their position in India.


While many multinational companies have exited the Indian market in recent years, some foreign businesses have thrived by aligning their strategies with India’s priorities, indigenizing their operations, and demonstrating staying power. These success stories offer valuable insights into what it takes to succeed in India as a foreign enterprise. As India continues to attract global businesses, understanding the challenges and opportunities in this diverse and dynamic market will be key to achieving long-term success.