Pawlenty impresses Indian business leadersby Gita Sitaramiah, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Tim Pawlenty wowed a lunch crowd Wednesday in Bangalore with a speech selling Minnesota. Apparently, the speech worked.
Bangalore, India — Retired IBM executive Gul Iqbal of Bangalore stood up, told the crowd that Pawlenty reminded him of Bill Clinton when he was a governor, and asked Pawlenty when he planned to run for president. Pawlenty deflected the question, and instead talked about how he and Clinton both share a common concern about education.
A Bangalore-based consultant, Mohit Agarwal, said he didn't know much about Minnesota before the governor's speech, but believes Pawlenty is forward-thinking and his attitude may help attract Indian companies to Minnesota.
"He was spectacular," Agarwal said.
Pawlenty talked up Minnesota's workforce, quality of life and the business interest of mutually beneficial partnerships.
On their first full day in Bangalore, often dubbed India's Silicon Valley, the business delegation heard many dos and don'ts about the Indian marketplace. Pawlenty also appeared to be doing his homework, taking a front-row seat during presentations and participating in an afternoon tour of IBM's Bangalore office building.
From floor wipes to how to market flour, speakers about doing business in India said to be successful, Minnesota companies need to adapt products for the Indian customer. Simply selling the same items that are on Twin Cities shelves won't work.
"The needs of India are so specific, so unique," said Ashish Khandpur, who heads 3M India Limited, and moved to Bangalore last year after 17 years at the company's Maplewood headquarters.
Khandpur told the delegation he's researching products lines that meet the needs of Indian consumers.
A version of a dust-free sander that goes for $4,000 in the United States was developed for sale at $100 in India.
"In the process of doing this, we haven't compromised our values, our principles," Khandpur said.
General Mills also had to be strategic in considering how to enter the Indian market 11 years ago, said Gayatri Yadav, managing director of General Mills, India.
The Minnesota-based company decided to sell whole wheat flour to make roti, which is the bread eaten daily in many parts of India.
Most Indian women don't have ovens, so baked products were out of the question. Convenience foods wouldn't work either, because most Indian women don't work outside the home and pride themselves on home-cooked meals for their families.
General Mills settled on whole wheat flour because it was an alternative that could save women time, versus buying grain and having it milled.
"Our brand mission is empowering moms," Yadav said. "With this we really believe we're reducing drudgery."