What you need to know about doing business in India

The EU is India’s main trading partner. India is one of the few countries from which the Netherlands imports more than it exports. In addition to crude oil, Dutch imports of medicines and clothing from India have increased in recent years. There are opportunities in India for Dutch exporters, especially in agriculture, water management, and Life Sciences & Health.

In this article, you will find out more about business opportunities in India and what rules apply to importing and exporting goods and services. The following topics are covered:

Bilateral trade

Dutch exports to India grew by 25.5% to €5.9 billion in 2022 compared to 2021 (source: CBS). Main export products are metal ores and metal waste, plastics in primary form, and organic chemical products.

Imports of products from India also rose 20.8% to €6.4 billion in 2022, compared with 2021. Main imports include crude oil and petroleum products, metals such as aluminium and zinc, clothing and accessories. Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO cites more developments in mutual trade between the Netherlands and India (in Dutch).

Promising industries

India is located in South Asia between Pakistan and Bangladesh. Below China and Nepal. With a population of 1.4 billion, the country has a huge consumer market. India has a lot of focus on its domestic economy. And protecting it. Internationally, India is known for its highly developed IT services sector and drug industry. This is due to its young population, which is highly educated. 

For Dutch businesses with knowledge of agriculture, horticulture and fisheries, India offers opportunities. Opportunities also exist if you know a lot about water, energy and Life Science & Health (LSH). RVO has market reports (in Dutch) on these and other industries.

Making contacts

Check in advance whether the Indian business you want to do business with is registered in the Business Register. This way, you will know whether the business is registered according to the law and really exists. In India, the Registrar of Companies of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs maintains the Business Register. Unable to find out here? Then ask the Dutch embassy (in Dutch) in India for help.

Visiting or taking part in a trade fair

The trade fair calendar at Tradeindia.com is a great resource for looking up trade fairs in India. You can also visit general trade fair websites such as AUMA or 10times.

Support

There are various organisations that can help you find suitable partners, some of which provide their services for free and some of which charge a fee.

  • The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) provides access to a professional network of 600 organisations in more than 60 countries, including India. This makes it an easy way to meet new partners, including distributors, commercial agents, producers, or technological development partners. EEN’s digital database is a good place to go looking for a suitable business partner.
  • The overseas network of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO,  in Dutch) can help you find suitable business partners, such as distributors, production partners, and international organisations.
  • Via the International Entrepreneurship Network (NIO) (in Dutch), you get in touch with local authorities and commercial parties who can find business partners on your behalf.
Subsidy

Under the Support International Business(SIB) scheme, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO will reimburse part of the costs incurred for entering into a new export country. Consider taking part in trade missions or fairs or bringing in a coach.

Business culture

There are major differences between the 29 states of India. Not only are there differences in culture, food habits and climate zones, but India’s population also speaks 447 languages, 23 of which are officially recognised. Many Indian people speak English. With all these differences in mind, approach India as you would Europe, treating each state as its own entity.

Generally speaking, Indian people are proud, nationalistic, and religious. They are also flexible and enterprising, making it easy to do business with them.

India is well-known for its caste system. In companies, the decision-makers usually come from a higher caste. You can always negotiate with someone from a lower caste. But they will usually have been given clear instructions from their manager, who will generally come from a higher caste. This can slow down negotiations, because the person you are negotiating with will ultimately have to pass on all decisions to their superior. There are more do’s and don’ts (in Dutch) when it comes to doing business in India.

Payments

The currency in India is the Indian Rupee (INR), or Rs. for short. You often come across the term lakh. This means 100,000 rupees. On an invoice, for instance, you will see an amount of Rs 5 lakh. This is 500,000 rupees. Important: Indians use a different system for decimal notation, which can be confusing. In India, an amount of 500,000 rupees is written as 5,00,000 rupees, with an extra comma.

Payments with Indian business partners are usually made through a Letter of Credit (L/C). An L/C is the most reliable and the most expensive payment method. Documentary Collection is also common in India. It is similar to an L/C, but offers less certainty to the exporter. Sometimes, for example, your customer refuses the documents or there is insufficient money in the account.

Putting contracts in writing

Document all agreements with your Indian business partner if possible. Have your contract (in Dutch) reviewed by a lawyer who knows the Indian legal system. To avoid having to draw up a contract from scratch, consider using one of these model contracts. The Netherlands does not have an execution treaty with India. This means that Indian judges can disregard verdicts issued by Dutch courts. Instead of going through the courts, you can resolve an international trade dispute through arbitration.

Incoterms®

Make clear arrangements with your Indian supplier about how they will ship the goods by agreeing on an Incoterm® in the contract. With an Incoterm®, you make agreements about:

  • who will arranges the transport and to where.
  • who bears the risk of loss or damage to the goods during transit from which point on.
  • who is responsible for arranging documents.

Exporting goods

You have done all the preparatory work and are about to ship your order to India. You will always need an invoice, transport document, and packing slip. But you may also need additional export documents, such as a health certificate and Certificate of Origin (Certificaat van Oorsprong, CvO). Look up which documents you need to import your goods into India in Access2Markets.  You can also find who is responsible for requesting these documents. You or the Indian importer. RVO (in Dutch) has drawn up guidance to help you look up information in Access2Markets.

VAT and import duties

On your invoice you  charge your customers 0% Dutch VAT. You do need to have records proving that the goods have left the EU. This could be an export declaration, transport document, or proof of payment, for instance. Your customer makes an import declaration in India. They also pay VAT and any import duties and other taxes in India. There is only one situation when the exporter has to pay Indian VAT and duties: when you use the Incoterm® Delivered Duty Paid (DDP). It is preferable to have your customer arrange customs clearance in India.

You can find the import duty rates for specific products in Access2Markets. To look up the rates, all you need is a commodity code, also known as a HS code.

Product requirements

Your products have to meet Indian product requirements (in Dutch). These requirements depend on the type of product you are exporting. Several products require certification to  Indian standards. These include electrical appliances, foodstuffs, and steel. In some cases, medical devices and tyres for motor vehicles also have to be certified. Ask your Indian importer or agent in advance about the requirements for your product.

Importing goods

Do you import products from India into the EU? Then you have to make an electronic import declaration (aangifte ten invoer) with Dutch Customs. You pay import duties and VAT on the customs value. Import duty rates depend on the commodity code of the product. You can find how much import duty, VAT and other levies such as excise duty are charged on a product in the Tariff Manual (in Dutch) of the Dutch Tax Administration.

Import duty relief

India is part of a trade agreement, the generalised system of preferences. As a result, you pay less or even no import duty for many products from India. The condition is that these products are of preferential Indian origin. In other words, products qualify for import duty relief if they were wholly obtained in India or if they were sufficiently processed in India. Wholly obtained means that the product was harvested, extracted, or born in India.

You can demonstrate Indian preferential origin with an invoice declaration, or a Certificate of Origin. Ask your Indian exporter to put this declaration on their sales invoice. For more information about the preferential rules of origin for India, visit Access2Markets.

Documents

In addition to standard import documents such as an invoice, transport document, and packing slip, you may also need additional export documents. For example, for goods that pose a risk to public safety, health, the economy, and the environment, VGEM. Some imports are even restricted or banned. Check in advance with your customs broker Access2Markets which documents you need to import your product from India.

Product requirements and product liability

Products imported from India have to meet European and national product requirements. Products must be safe and usable. As an importer, you are liablefor injuries and damage caused by a faulty product. If you import risky products, consider taking out product liability insurance.

Services

India is also full of opportunities for business service providers. Dutch expertise in agriculture, horticulture, water and environmental management, and healthcare is highly regarded.

Visa

You need a visa in order to work in India. The Indian Embassy provides information on how to apply for a visa.

Social security

The Netherlands has signed a treaty on social security with India. This treaty provides that employees who are working in India temporarily retain coverage under the Dutch social security system. You can prove this with the A1 Certificate of Coverage form. If you are an entrepreneur and are working in India temporarily, reach out to the International Posting department of the Social Insurance Bank to get your Certificate or Coverage.

Check your health insurance

Be sure to check your health insurance before leaving for India. Indian hospitals do not recognise all international insurance companies.

VAT

If you provide services to India, you will have to pay and charge VAT (value added tax). Use the Overseas services (in Dutch) tool to check where your services are taxed: in India or the Netherlands. You can also contact the Tax Information Line for assistance. If you are providing a service locally, find out whether it is also subject to other local taxes. It is best to consult a tax specialist in advance.