Marvin Hough, Executive in Residence at Telfer and University of Alberta (BCom and MBA) graduate has spent a significant part of his career promoting Canada-India trade relations. He is also President of MIRA, an international consulting firm. 

Marvin served 30 years at Export Development Canada (EDC) where he supported many Canadian firms selling to or investing in India through the provision of financing and insurance services. During his EDC career, he also undertook a four year assignment in India with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development as a Trade Commissioner in India to gain on the ground experience.

Since retiring from EDC, Marvin has continued to support the effort by teaching in the EMBA and undergraduate programs at Telfer (where he has developed courses on doing business in India and organizing the annual India Forum). He has also been active in supporting Indo-Canadian trade, through his work as a Director of the Canada–India Business Council (C-IBC) and member of the Indo-Canadian Ottawa Business Chamber (ICOBC). Marvin's long term efforts in supporting Indo-Canadian trade have recently earned him an Award of Excellence from the ICOBC.

According to Marvin, since his assignment in India 25 years ago, there have been some very positive developments in both the Indian business environment and the relations between Canada and India. He believes that, in many ways, the timing for Indo-Canadian commercial collaboration has never been better and the Indian market never more exciting.

The recent election in India offers great promise that economic reform will ramp up and that some of the red tape will be removed. Further, according to Marvin, government to government relations are also poised to bring us a free trade agreement as we move forward. 

From Marvin's perspective, the big question is whether Canadian firms will get serious about India and make a commitment to the market. The modest level of two way trade between Canada and India ($6 billion) can be attributed to a considerable degree to the lack of commitment by Canadian firms. Canadian executives must understand that they not only need to commit time and money to penetrate the market, they need to adapt their approach from that used in the US and other developed markets.

In India, Canadian firms need a more flexible agenda, they need to connect and build trust and really focus on relationships. They need to understand that an effective presence in the market is crucial and adapt to the local business culture. They also need to be well prepared for tough negotiation and very price conscious buyers.

Marvin intends to continue his efforts to support the cause through his teaching at Telfer, his work at the C-IBC and his consulting advice to Canadian firms looking to penetrate the Indian market. "Above all, to realize the potential, we need to demonstrate that Canadians are committed to long term relationships with India and that we are willing and able to adapt to the market".

Photo: Indian High Commissioner Admiral (Retd) Nirmal Verma with Marvin Hough