“There Are a Plethora of Opportunities for German Startups to Leverage the Strengths of India”

Written by German Accelerator

An Interview with Dr. Sumedha Chouthe, Program Director, and Shivi Jain, Program Manager, India Market Discovery Program


“There are a plethora of opportunities for German startups to leverage the strengths of India, including its 1.3 billion people.” Our Program Director, Dr. Sumedha Chouthe and Program Manager, Shivi Jain for the India Market Discovery program know the Indian startup ecosystem inside out, including its challenges and opportunities. India not only has a huge consumer market that is hungry for quality products and services, it’s also home to the second-largest startup ecosystem in the world. In our interview, Sumedha and Shivi give insights into the current industry trends in India and share advice for German startups who want to explore this thriving market.

Please tell us about your role at German Accelerator.

Sumedha: I am driving the India Market Discovery program at German Accelerator as the Program Director. We support high-potential German startups to explore opportunities of expanding their business to India and develop their go-to-market strategy. We curate customized program content for German startups that enable them to gain first-hand market insights, explore individual business opportunities within the local ecosystem, and directly connect with potential customers and partners on the ground.

Shivi: I am Program Manager for the India Market Discovery program. My job is to ensure the smooth execution of the program throughout the year. This includes finding the right mentors and partners, guiding the startups, understanding their objectives and pain points when entering a new market, and helping them discover the right strategy and approach to make their expansion to India successful.

What do you enjoy most about your role at German Accelerator?

Sumedha: Many things! From working with and learning from competent people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, ushering the German founders into the Indian business culture, to deciding which technologies and products should be introduced to the Indian market.

Shivi: I really enjoy working with a diverse and dedicated team. The best part of my job is interacting with highly motivated and energetic startup founders working on innovative and disruptive technologies. Every day I learn something new and connect with like-minded people.

What role do you think the German Accelerator’s Market Discovery program plays in the Indian startup ecosystem?

Sumedha: Through our program, we bring the latest innovations and technologies from Germany to India. These can effectively solve problems faced by consumers, businesses, or other entities in various sectors in India. We see ourselves as enablers in connecting the businesses and industry ecosystems between the two countries, fostering possibilities of collaboration and mutual growth. While the India Market Discovery program currently focuses on supporting German startups to enter the Indian market, we strive to further embrace our role as the official partner of the German government to advance innovation and trade by creating an exchange and bringing Indian startups to Germany as well.

Shivi: The significant innovations that we bring from Germany to the Indian market helps many organizations achieve their business goals, thus making India a global Innovation Hub. With the right technologies and ideas, we create sustainable competition within the ecosystem, leading to improvements and upgrades in current technology.

What trends in India should German startups take note of?

Sumedha: There are a plethora of opportunities for German startups to leverage the strengths of India, including its 1.3 billion people. The Indian consumer market is diverse yet large and aspirational, with growing demand for quality products and services. The World Economic Forum estimates that India’s total consumption expenditure will increase to $6 trillion by 2030.

The three massive sectors contributing to the country’s overall GDP of $2.8 trillion are the service sector (construction, retail, software, IT, communications, hospitality, infrastructure, education, healthcare, banking, insurance), the industrial sector (manufacturing, textile, pharmaceuticals, chemical, automobile), and the agriculture sector (crops, horticulture, animal husbandry, aquaculture, etc.). Furthermore, India is the only country in the world with billion-plus bank accounts, biometrics, and cellphones. It has gone digital in a big way; it is the 2nd largest and fastest-growing market for digital consumers, with over 780 million internet subscribers in 2021. India is data-rich and uses the data for innovation, with the unique Aadhaar infrastructure, the India Stack, and the Unique Payment Interface. All of the above present immense opportunities for German startups in sectors such as FinTech, Industrial Automation, Clean Energy Tech, Enterprise Tech, HealthTech, and AgriTech.

Shivi: With the current onset of COVID-19, the whole world is pushed to new ways of working. In India, this has had a significant impact on the digitalization of small, medium, and even large businesses. The marketing strategies have completely changed for most B2C brands. We can see a lot of action in FinTech, Electric Vehicle, Healthcare, EdTech, and Agriculture domains. India has seen significant investments amidst the pandemic, resulting in multiple startups entering the Unicorn club. With some relaxation in regulations and compliance policies, FinTech and Electric Vehicles are must-watch trends in India.

What advice would you give to German startups who are keen to expand into India?

Sumedha: To successfully unlock the market opportunities that India has to offer, German founders must have some understanding of the social, economic, and political fabric of the country. What are the challenges and pain points experienced by Indian customers (end-users, corporates, industries, etc.)? How much can the culture and mindset of people differ in different regions and social and economic strata? How does it ultimately influence customer preferences? This will help founders successfully develop unique selling points for their products or services to solve the problems of Indian customers. Directly connecting with potential customers and the right stakeholders is key in hedging potential risks and developing a winning go-to-market strategy for India.

Shivi: I advise startups to do thorough market research to understand the competition and opportunities. There are 1300+ Global Capacity Centers (GCCs) operating in India, and with a population of 1.3 billion, it is a market of immense potential for both B2B and B2C sectors. Explore the market and get feedback from people on the ground to see if your solution can derive value for them. It is important you understand the legal nuances and regulatory frameworks as well.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Sumedha: I am a glutton for food and good shows!

Shivi: I like to cook, travel, and watch series in my free time. I also enjoy interacting with young entrepreneurs and guiding them in any way possible.

What book are you reading currently?

Sumedha: “Let my people go surfing” by Yvon Chouinard.

Shivi: I am reading “Stop worrying and start living” by Dale Carnegie again

What motivates you?

Sumedha: Connecting the Indian and German cultures and ecosystems – two countries that are so different and exciting in their own ways – is a challenge and a privilege that I thoroughly enjoy.

Shivi: I am very passionate about innovative and disruptive technologies which are focused on solving customer problems. Interacting with startup founders working on such technologies and helping them create a bigger impact socially and economically gives me a sense of accomplishment and motivates me to do more.

Are you ready to discover India?

The Indian market can seem daunting at first due to its sheer size, diversity, and cultural differences. But this is also what makes it so exciting – a growing and changing market that German startups have the chance to shape with their technology and innovations. If you are curious about what this thriving ecosystem has to offer and want to find out if it’s the right fit for your business, apply to the India Market Discovery program. Find more information here.