B.C. needs a business strategy for India

17 Oct

The global economy is drastically evolving and it is a well established fact that the economic powers of the world are shifting toward the east. It is estimated that China and India will have the No. 1 and three economies in the world by the year 2050, which will collectively be larger than the entire G7. India’s economy in particular has been growing at an average rate of 7.3 per cent in the past 10 years and is predicted to jump to about 9.5 per cent in the coming years. Furthermore, 66 per cent of India’s population is under the age of 35 and the country is poised for economic and social prosperity similar to that of industrializing European countries at their peak. With these figures in mind, Canada, and in particular British Columbia, will have an unprecedented opportunity to form mutually beneficial partnerships with India to expand trade and investment.

Year over year, India continues to make headway in world affairs. India-specific conferences are being organized around the globe and Indian-focused Centres in Canada are being established at universities to develop opportunities in science, technology, trade, innovation, higher education, and research. B.C. has been striving to develop its own trading initiatives with India but our trade volume has been declining.

According to 2010 Stats B.C., over 75 per cent of Canadian exports to India originate in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec while B.C. only accounts for seven per cent ($135 million) and ranks behind New Brunswick. This is significantly lower than B.C.’s 2006 trade volume of $345 million. Despite the potential that one would surmise from various opportunities, the trade numbers relating to the current level of interaction between B.C. and India are quite low. Projected trade volumes between Canada and India by 2015 range from $4 to $15 billion. This can only be achieved through strategic understanding of India’s diversity and needs. This is where B.C. can undertake a sustained multi-layered interaction based on its strengths.

In recognizing India’s vast linguistic and cultural diversity, B.C. must be prudent in establishing regional relationships accordingly. For example, many of Canada’s business successes can be found in Gujarat, India’s fastest growing state, where Bombardier and McCain Foods have set up facilities. While all Indian states may not have the same economic vision of Gujarat, most of them have the desire to grow their trade base and consequently economic well being of their citizens. A quick look at India’s four corners would yield four examples of diversity: Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in the northwest; Orissa and Bihar in the east and Tamil Nadu in the south, and not to mention the great urban cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

With distinct state and regional needs in mind, B.C. can grow its exports in several areas including clean energy alternatives, forest products, agriculture, water treatment, health delivery systems in rural areas, and shale gas technology. All of these exports will be needed to support the rapid urbanization of India, its ever growing middle-class seeking a higher standard of living, and the consequent infrastructure demands as well as food security.

Since the 2009 visit to India by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there have been delegations to India at the provincial level from Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan and at the city level from Toronto, Surrey and a few others. The upcoming visit by B.C. Premier Christy Clark to India in November is sure to put the province in the thoughts of Indian business leaders. The most important asset that B.C. has to fulfil its long term trade objectives with India is its sizable and highly successful community of Indo-Canadians, who combine strong entrepreneurial skills and connectivity with India. Premier Clark has stated that Canada Starts Here in B.C., and the province now has a unique opportunity to take the lead in developing economic opportunities that exist with India.

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