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The Art of Business Networking

Networking guru Ivan Misner sees India as one of its most important growth markets.

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Known as the ‘Father of Modern Networking’, Ivan Misner, Founder & Chief Visionary Officer, Business Network International (BNI), has reasserted that in an entrepreneur’s life, networking is akin to creating business opportunities. BNI’s very role is to bring together entrepreneurs across the world and generate business through referrals. On a recent India visit, Misner addressed over 1,500 entrepreneurs.

Business of Networking

“Referral marketing works when an associate, friend, client or supplier has a need that can be met by someone you know and trust. We must learn how to listen for referrals. For example, a friend is impressed with your brochure and mentions he is looking for a good printer too, and you connect him with your printer — that is a referral. Business is more likely to happen in this manner, as there is a transfer of trust,” Misner explains.

On the flip side though, business networking of this fashion can go wrong when people don’t understand the ‘VCP’ (visibility, credibility and profitability) process. A meaningful referral begins with being visible. “People have to know who you are. Then you must establish credibility. Only after that, you can get to profitability. It’s a chronological process that takes time. A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately.”

Misner elaborates that the core BNI philosophy is “givers gain”. Every member is urged and coached to give business first to their fellow members to ultimately gain business by virtue of this philosophy. This BNI agenda is designed to propel members to bond with each other, develop trust and support each other in their growth and development.

The organisation has grown over the years with India being one of its major growth drivers. The average business transacted per member in BNI India is Rs 40 lakh per annum. Total business transacted amongst BNI members in India over the last 12 months is Rs 11,568 crore. 

India Key for Future Growth

“India is the most exciting growth story for us and especially Mumbai. Not only has the region seen tremendous growth in terms of members and business generated over the last two years, we see Mumbai as leading the world in the innovations it has effected, which will directly impact the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector in the country,” Misner observes.

The growth of digital in India is an added attraction, despite the inherent need for the physical or the face-to-face element in networking. 

“We have more followers from India than any other country in the world including the United States,” states Misner, adding, “In the first 11 years of BNI, we went from one chapter to 500 chapters. With the rise of the web, from 1997 to 2008, we opened another 5,000 chapters. The internet has helped networking and hence BNI in a positive way. Digital has given us new powers today, but it has not taken away from face-to-face networking. Both continue to be great tools to build businesses today.”