‘Facilitating Business Matchmaking between India & Finland’

Helsinki Business Hub is privileged to facilitate business between India and Finnish companies, says Sandeep Shah of Helsinki Business Hub in an exclusive interview with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet.

In today’s evolving times, going global is a very important mantra for every SME. There are several avenues for such SMEs who wish to do business at a global level, but a guided and well-defined approach is needed. With such vision, Mr. Sandeep Shah, Senior Business Advisor, Helsinki Business Hub unleashed some insightful for SMEs who wish to do business with Finland. In a candid interview with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet, Sandeep Shah explained some key insights regarding how to do business with Finland.

Faiz Askari: How do you take delegations of Indian businesses to Finland? 

Sandeep Shah: Helsinki Business Hub is privileged to have a very close relationship with the Embassy of India for Finland and Estonia, and with the honourable ambassador Ms. Vani Rao. In close cooperation with the embassy, last year we hosted 2 delegations from NASSCOM and CII where both brought with them several prominent Indian IT companies.

The visit programs include matchmaking events where advanced technology areas of Finland are well represented by experts and the number of local Finnish companies. The visits also include handholding and relevant meetings with key officials, value-add intermediaries, universities, ecosystem orchestrators, accelerators and investors. Timing the visits alongside valuable industry events such as one of the largest Startup, investor and startup-corporate collaboration event, SLUSH, brings additional gravitas and impact to the experiences of the executives of Indian companies hosted here in Helsinki, Finland. In addition to industry association delegation, Helsinki Business Hub hosts several Indian client companies with customized visit programs.

Faiz Askari: What kind of incentives does the government offer to encourage businesses to come and invest there?

Sandeep Shah:Finland and India have traditionally enjoyed a warm and friendly relation. In recent years, bilateral relations have acquired diversity with collaboration in research, innovation, and investments by both sides. The Indian community in Finland is vibrant and well-placed. Work in Finland is well-organised, flexible and stress-free. Finland government support business by providing free education (in Finnish) and healthcare benefits. Benefits provided to women are even higher.

BusinessFinland is a government agency that promotes foreign direct investment (FDI) in Finland. It provides information, funding and consulting services focused on services and promoting research, development, and innovation (R&D&I) in Environmental Technologies, Energy & Mining, Health Technologies, and Information & Communication. They offer funding for research, product development, and many kinds of business development needs, especially for small and medium-sized companies. There is also funding to accelerate the global growth of the most ambitious, rapidly growing startups in Finland. Large companies and research organizations can receive funding for joint projects with smaller companies.

Companies also benefit from preferential trade arrangements through Finland’s membership in the EU and WTO, in addition to the protection offered by Finland’s bilateral investment treaties with more than sixty-five countries.

Faiz Askari: Can you name some prominent businesses who have established a presence there? What services do HBH and PrEver provide to ease businesses’ journey to Helsinki?

Sandeep Shah: Indian software and IT consultancy sector has been active in Finland for many years. All major players such as TCS, WIPRO, Infosys, L&T InfoTech, Tech-Mahindra, HCL Technologies have their presence here. They are notable examples of a brands that have left remarkable imprints in Finland.

About our services, we customise scaling approaches for technology companies depending on their requirements and growth stage –

  • Access to innovation platforms – In collaboration with the public sector, academia and local business, we provide piloting open innovative platforms for new solutions.
  • Matchmaking –
  • R&D&I partner search – We provide support in identifying Finnish R&D&I partners who can make a difference to a company’s innovation initiatives
  • M&A target scan– We help identify and evaluate strategic M&A targets relevant for a company
  • Strategic sales partner/pilot cases scan– We aid identification and evaluation of strategic partnerships in the Finnish business ecosystem
  • Start-up partners – We help break the ice with domain experts, VCs, accelerators, incubators, and industry associations
  • Business Information – We ensure that our customers are updated with latest statistics and figures required to get access to market opportunities. Any foreign company intending to set-up R&D, regional headquarters or high-value manufacturing in Finland will benefit from this. Our focused expertise lies in ICT, Smart & Clean technologies and Health tech & Life sciences domains
  • Access to financing – We intermediate a company’s contact with relevant public financing entities such as Business Finland, Finnvera, Finnish Industry Investment Ltd and Sitra. The financing instruments provided by these organisations are suitable for foreign companies looking to establish operations in Helsinki
  • Access to deal flow – We work with international investors and help them identify and gain access to deal flows from Helsinki and Finland. We curate leads based on investor profiles, make introductions to relevant growth companies, and encourage visibility opportunities through positioning of the brand at key events. This service is relevant for ones active in Europe, with the ability to invest in Finland and are in their growth stage.

Faiz Askari: What all growth opportunities are there in today’s market ecosystem for India technology start-ups/companies?

Sandeep Shah:Helsinki is a bedrock for innovation and companies operational here have been making rapid progress in AI, gaming, ICT, health, life sciences, etc. This has, in-turn, accelerated the product ecosystem’s evolution to the extent that Helsinki today has some of the most advanced platforms and technologies available.  The conducive ecosystem along with pro-development legislation, local-connectedness and availability of skilled talent has made the region a sought-after destination for technology companies across the globe.

India being one of the fastest growing start-up hubs is home to some of the most disruptive ventures. Helsinki Business Hub’s aim is to help interested technology companies find the right-services, investors and platforms to mobilise their offering to the right target market.

Faiz Askari: What are the major challenges for companies who are looking to establish a business in EU?

Sandeep Shah: Companies intending to scale to EU must have a strong and clear vision of what they have set-out to achieve. Before choosing a certain market, ensure that your product is relevant. A company should also be careful and considerate about whether the product and innovation ecosystem are conducive to the product’s development. Understanding of the new locale with an aim to build an organisation that encourages cultural diversity is critical. To achieve global success, a company needs to localize while pushing for the end objective.

In terms of regulations, a company needs to partner with local advisories and companies to ensure compliance across. In addition to hiring locally, a plan needs to be implemented for transferring certain key personnel from India and accompanying it with a smart immigration process strategy to ensure growth and smooth operations.

One of our focus areas at Helsinki Business Hub is bringing synergies between client ask and services and opportunities available in the Finnish ecosystem. We work very closely with Team Finland and other partners, including Business Finland – innovation funding, trade, and investment promotion organization, Espoo Innovation Garden, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Aalto University, and the University of Helsinki, to provide prospective customers with the most comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem’s potential.

A few of the cultural knick-knacks one must follow in Finland are –

  • Finns are modest but take pride in their history and culture, including technological and athletic achievements. They value trust and honesty and appreciate punctuality and being on time
  • Finns value their reputation of living in an egalitarian country and hence, discriminatory jokes are not looked upon favorably.

Faiz Askari: What is happening on the IT/IT services front?

Sandeep Shah: According to Gartner, the global IT spending is projected to be at $3.79 trillion in 2019. There is huge push in developing the digitalisation and especially AI capabilities and that cuts across multiple, if not all verticals, and the whole society.

Helsinki has been witness to the ICT industry’s boom and is home to over 116,000 ICT talent experts. We at Helsinki Business hub have been focusing on software development, industrial internet and digital infrastructure. Our work involves closely working with the companies to understand their requirements and provide the right mix of services to ensure their businesses avails the best of the ecosystem and legislative support.

Faiz Askari: As a start-up trend, how do you witness Fintech as an area for potential synergy between India and Finland? 

Sandeep Shah: Finland is home to almost 160 fintech start-ups operating in payments, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, insurance, security&compliance, APIs&platforms, data&analytics, customerservices&acquisition, financial software, wealth management, investing, financing and personal finance management, etc. The ready availability of scientists and engineers also has been a big determinant of the start-up proliferation witnessed in Helsinki.

We, in collaboration with Fintech Finland, have launched a new program to boost the industry’s competencies and highlight the country’s provisions for development and innovation. The idea is to create a tightly-knitted ecosystem while offering foreign companies’ growth and partnership opportunities. The two-year program will focus on the ecosystem’s evolution, skilled-set talent and open avenues in the fast-developing fin-tech industry.

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