Gary Cutress, International Sales Director

India’s march towards trade digitisation has been steady and impressive, stimulated not only by various government measures, but also by a more expansive outlook among the country’s many exporters

Expansive not just in terms of wanting to export to more locations, but also in wanting to embrace digital technologies that will make their operations and processes far more efficient.

Trade digitisation has certainly become a buzzword in the subcontinent. Our recent visit to the major GTR Asia Trade & Treasury Conference in Mumbai only confirmed this.  After meeting up with our many existing clients, partners and contacts, we had some keen inquiries from companies ranging from white goods exporters to tyre manufacturers.  All proof of the head of steam that digitisation is building up as more banks and corporates realise that ditching paper-based processes and switching to cloud-based digital platforms will deliver immense gains in the speed, security and efficiency with which they can obtain finance and conclude trade transactions.

One factor that remains constant in these discussions is that although India exports around the globe, its corporates have many counterparties that are closer to home in countries such as Sri Lanka, Taiwan or China. When the complex paper documents supporting these relatively short shipments are delayed and arrive several days after the cargo, the inefficiencies of conventional trade processes are strikingly obvious. It shouldn’t surprise us that Bolero’s high-profile partnership with HSBC and Reliance Industries continues to stimulate interest among exporters after we slashed the time it took to complete a major deal from two weeks to a single day.

The conference itself was alive with discussions about India’s aim is to make business easier to conduct. There were export briefings, trade forecasts, examinations of monetary and fiscal policy and trends in infrastructure investment. Digitisation was more obviously evident in debates about how tech solutions can bring together finance and logistics, and overviews of paperless import payments.

These were all fascinating discussions, but some of the hot trends in trade finance come and go and leave no trace. Establishing any digital solution that eliminates paper and all its drawbacks is not just a matter of clever software-design. It requires a genuine, hands-on understanding of trade processes and widespread acceptance among regulators and industry bodies, which takes a great deal of time to achieve.

Fortunately, the level of enthusiasm for digitisation among Indian exporters is matched by plenty of real-world savvy and common sense. It means that the transformation of trade processes will continue, but on the basis of what actually delivers, as opposed to what might work with a wing and a prayer.