What are some successful ways in which U.S. schools have, can, and should approach India as they seek to enhance the efficiency of their current India-related marketing and enrollment strategies? Based on the findings of our ongoing IndiaTALK study, here’s an I.N.D.I.A approach that sums up what we’ve learned thus far.

Integrate. An integrated approach can prove even more rewarding when dealing with a large, culturally complex, fluid market located halfway across the globe. Invest in—and integrate into your thinking—data from the trenches about the shifting perceptions, decision-making behaviors, and return on investment (ROI) expectations of Indian families considering overseas education choices. There’s good reason why so many overseas players here regularly do—from the province of British Columbia, to individual universities and other higher education entities from Australia, New Zealand, U.K., and, yes, America. Also, consider ways to integrate your India connections, campus-wide, into your recruiting efforts. You’ll be surprised by what you can achieve through current students or faculty of Indian origin or via your institution’s current India-related academic or professional initiatives. Finally, take a long, hard look at how well your current India-related efforts are integrated into your overall funnel, timelines, and tactics.

Nuance. Are you communicating value in ways that matter (reputation/rankings, outcomes/salaries, OPT opportunities/residency requirements post-graduation, etc.) to Indian prospects? Are you using language (“placements” to refer to jobs; “packages” to refer to salaries, or “PG programs” to refer to graduate programs, for example) they can relate to? Are you emphasizing the right (STEM, business, etc.) programs? Do you have a separate space/site online to interact with them in culturally relevant ways? Does your funnel include a hefty “prestige” print piece they can use to convince their parents of the value (and status) you offer? An immediate, rewarding payoff to gathering in-depth data is your ability to more successfully nuance your marketing and your message, particularly to boost the number of your Indian applicants, shape the applicant pool, or improve yield in the short-term.

Develop. It is one thing to attend education fairs a couple of times a year, or to work with “agents” who represent you (and dozens of other schools) in India. It’s a very different thing to transform Indian high school counselors into passionate advocates for your institution—as one of our clients has recently started to do—by hosting them on campus so they may experience it for themselves. Overseas institutions determined to thrive in India in the long-term are developing their new market in ways that yield better returns with every passing year. They are addressing the credibility deficit of overseas education agents in India by also building direct relationships with high schools. They are going beyond education fairs to develop their own brands using a non-conventional, India-specific mix of media. They are customizing offerings and options for different audience segments (traditional campus experience, to twinning, to online programs) in response to India’s specific higher education needs.

Innovate. Ever think of delivering information, or even academic courses, on USB “flash” drives to counter widespread bandwidth issues? What about a tie-up with a cell-phone provider to “push” text messaging about your school in a market that’s among the world’s fastest adopters of mobile technologies? Ever considered a recruiting strategy that concentrates resources exclusively on regions or schools that fit you best—North India versus the South, “metros” versus suburban and rural towns, international schools versus faith-based schools, for example? What about an online campaign across such platforms as Facebook, LinkedIn, and… Flipkart? It’s the kind of culture-specific innovation enabling education providers to capture market share in India today.

Accelerate. Finally, for American schools serious about becoming players in India, the time to act, and accelerate, on each of these fronts is now. While India’s estimated 80-billion dollar education sector is, still, a veritable “Wild West” of opportunity, it also continues to be rapidly saturated with offerings from education providers of every kind—both domestic and international. And, while the opportunities are extraordinary, so are the challenges. Of establishing academic and business relationships you can trust. Of navigating breathtaking bureaucracy. Of negotiating cultural complexity. All of which call for innovative, flexible solutions implemented with urgency. It’s no coincidence that, as of 2010, some 630 foreign universities—many, American—were already operating in India in one form or another.

In the next few articles within the Stamats Asia series, we examine, in-depth, each of the five aspects of our I.N.D.I.A. approach. Meanwhile, to arrange a free consultation on more effective ways to tap into one of the world’s fastest growing, most exciting higher education markets, or a daylong India strategy workshop on campus (including access to all of the data we’ve gathered through our comprehensive IndiaTALK study) please contact vinu.warrier@StamatsAsia.com.

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