Creating new opportunities in India

Building on the success of Websummit in Europe – which has grown from 400 to 45,000 attendees in the space of five years – Websummit launched their India event, Surge, in 2016. The event will return to Bangalore in February 2018. Following their interactive session at IIBA’s Autumn Networking Event, Surge’s Uzma Sufi and Lobna Hassan took time to share with us the story behind Websummit’s expansion to India, and the challenges they face along the way.

Firstly, why did Web Summit look to expanding to India?

"Web Summit identified a gap in Indian market for a technology conference like Surge. We also identified a big appetite for our conference in Indian market. We would witness a substantial amount of footfall from India at our conferences in Europe and US. We have a good percentage of speakers, exhibitors, investors and startups from India that attend our events."

What opportunities did India, specifically Bangalore, present to you when exploring expansion for Web Summit?

"The people were very approachable and collaborative in India. We arranged a series of meet-ups in various cities to network with the local community and build connections especially within the startup ecosystem. It was our first event in India and we received good attendance. The audience was very engaging and the floor was always buzzing with energy."

What specific challenges did you face that others would benefit to learn from?

"The biggest challenge was linguistic barrier for our production team to deal with printing agencies, electricals, logistical queries. The processes are slow. From sales perspective, the sales cycles are longer and face to face meetings are important to get a deal over the line."

What perspectives and insights would you like to share about the Indian startup ecosystem

"India is a continent of its own. With 3,100 startups, and 800 more every year, India’s positioning  as a startup country is at par with startup scenes in US, Israel, Singapore."

What advice would you have for those wanting to grow their business in India?

"India provides a good balance between a fast-growing economy and one that happens to be relatively open and transparent. India is a market filled with opportunities. You need to understand the market and cultural differences before entering this market. Having connections with local community or local partners will make processes simpler. As a society, India is very relationship focused, so integrating with community helps. There is lot of hierarchy involved in decision making, so patience and perseverance is the key to sustain."