Britain’s brightest business leaders take on India

By Kitty Knowles 11 December 2017
British entrepreneurs join Mayor Sadiq Kahn on this year's Trade Mission to Bangalore. Image: Twitter/@MayorofLondon

We catch up with leaders from Baby2Body, Onfido and Winnow to see what they learned.

There are more than 4,000 miles between us.

Britain and India aren’t just far apart in distance, our different histories, economies and cultures mean we approach business differently.

But there’s also much that unites us, and we can learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Leading Indian tech businesses including LatentView, Square Yards, Curadev, Vas data Services – and now Waypro – have all successfully expanded to the UK.

Indeed India remains the second largest foreign investor into London, with Indian firms creating over 4,500 jobs in London over the last decade – more than China, Japan and second only to the US.

And many rising British businesses have their eye on India.

All this is why 18 London-based entrepreneurs went to Bangalore last week, as part of the Mayor of London’s International Business Programme – to learn from India’s unique startup ecosystem.

We caught up with three of them to find out what they learned from life in India:

Kavita Kapoor, Adviser at Tido Music (and COO at Micro:Bit Educational Foundation)


Tido Music is a digital piano sheet resource for students, teachers and advanced musicians, while Micro:bit Educational Foundation is behind the BBC’s make-your-own computer kit for kids. 

What surprised you the most about Indian business culture?

There are no differences when it comes to ambition, drive and motivation. However, there’s a noticeable gulf between London and Mumbai when it comes to transport infrastructure.

Travelling around London is easy thanks to its public transport system and the investment in it – all of which aids growth and productivity in the city and beyond.

What lessons did you learn?

What was eye-opening for me was the genuine interest in British people living and working in London specifically. The city has a great reputation amongst Mumbaikars, so building a bridge between the two cities through investment seems feasible.

There’s no doubt that the trade mission has made us all the more committed to further developing and honing our international business strategy.

What are your top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Asian culture has played an important role in forming Britain’s history and identity, and this is something that could be leveraged commercially.

Put simply, Asian businesses are seeking investment: there are new markets and new users to be found for those willing to reach out to them.

Melinda Nicci, CEO at Baby2Body


Baby2Body is an online platform “for every woman who has a baby on her mind” – whether she’s planning for pregnancy, already pregnant, or a new mum.

What surprised you the most about Indian business culture?

The Indian ecosystem of startups and scaleups is growing at a rapid pace and there is a lot of enthusiasm for collaboration and partnerships – perhaps more than in the UK.

Salaries and rent are also a lot cheaper here so startups don’t have to raise the same amount of money, and the market is a lot bigger so the returns can be quicker.

What lessons did you learn?

There is a massive market in India and a very engaged millennial population, who just like their counterparts in the UK, get all they need from their smartphones.

India is a massive new market for us – there are 24 million babies born in India every year, and just 850K in the UK. We only need 3-5% of the market to increase our user base by over 400%.

I have also had fruitful conversations with a potential new partner in Bangalore, but also with a big global company who have 250k employees and are interested in using Baby2body as their communication platform for their pregnant employees and employee’s partners.

This deal could mean massive growth for my business, so its an exciting time for us.

What are your top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Go there and take it all in!

But be warned: you need the right advice and people you can trust to help you to enter any new market – especially this one.

Read more: Baby2Body puts “outdated” apps to shame

Nikhil Saigal, Head of International Growth at Onfido


Onfido is a leader in digital identify verification. 

What surprised you the most about Indian business culture?

One of the most striking differences is the way in which the communities are structured. In the UK, we typically see a vast majority of tech startups being based in London, where the community is strongest.

In India, there’s not just one hub – communities of entrepreneurs and tech startups have sprung up in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.

What lessons did you learn?

In Indian business, being English breaks down so many barriers. It’s difficult to expand a UK businesses into new geographies, as they all have different regulatory landscapes, working cultures and challenges.

In India, it’s been simpler and faster for us to launch as we aren’t being blocked by a language barrier as well.

What are your top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Our experience on the trade mission has only strengthened Onfido’s intention to have a strong presence in India … there’s a lot of energy and activity across the technology and finance sectors in India.

Persevere, find local partners, and collaborate with other technology entrepreneurs and startups looking at new markets.

Combining efforts and sharing learnings makes the whole process much easier.

Read more: Onfido – How do you know who anyone is anymore?

Mark Zornes, co-founder Winnow


Winnow is a platform that helps chefs measure, monitor and reduce kitchen food waste – it announced a new partnership with Diversey on the trade mission. 

What surprised you the most about Indian business culture?

What’s exciting about the UK startup culture right now is that it’s really growing quickly with a significant amount of investment available in the UK for high-growth firms.

While I do see some of this in India, my feedback from local entrepreneurs is that the Indian market is that access to capital is more challenging.

That said, the Indian entrepreneurs face an enormous local market compared to the UK.  Bangalore (India’s 3rd largest city), for example has a population of 8.5m compared to greater Manchester which is 2.5m.

What lessons did you learn?

A constant feedback I received from prospective clients was that they wanted to see it working in India. It didn’t matter that we were already live in 30 countries, local examples are key.

This helped me prioritise on a few clients that we know and who are willing to take the initial steps with us to build proof in the market.

What are your top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?

It seems obvious but you need to spend time in the market.  It’s such a dynamic and diverse population that you really have to be in the market (much longer than I alone spent there!) to really make a difference.

James Hardcastle, Head of Business Development, Colwiz


Colwiz is a software startup that’s spun out of the University of Oxford to streamline scientific referencing and research. 

What surprised you the most about Indian business culture?

India is huge a varied market, each state and city has a different culture and ways of doing business.

What lessons did you learn?

Face-to-face meetings are important at least initially, doing everything remotely with no one the ground is very difficult.

What are your top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t try to tackle India as one homogeneous market, it’s not.

You need to do your research properly.