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Indian diplomat woos B.C. businesses

Improving ties with Canada make India a good place to invest, high commissioner says

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun

  India's chief diplomat to Canada implored B.C. businesses on Tuesday to explore ways to invest or otherwise enter the Indian market, citing both India's recent rise in international profile and rapidly warming Ottawa-New Delhi relations.

  Vishnu Prakash, high commissioner of India to Canada, spoke at a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade event in Vancouver.

  He highlighted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious plan to build 100 "smart cities" in the next 20 years, boasting high-tech and sustainable urban environments. The combined spending is $1.3 trillion.

  It will create a massive market that Prakash said Canadians have the perfect opportunity to seize.

  "We are adding 200 million people to our cities in the next 20 years," Prakash said. "That's like seven Canadas being established inside of India, and these people, they will need everything. They will need roads, networks, housing, transportation, green tech, education, communication, you name it."


  India is the among the top 10 largest economies by total GDP. It the fastest-growing major economy in the world, with annualized growth of 7.3 per cent in the last three months of 2015, sharply bucking trends among other major high-growth markets like China, Russia and Brazil. It has a population of 1.2 billion, second only to China.

  But Canadian exports to India, while doubling to $4.5 billion in 2015 from 2010, remain far behind exports to China ($21.5 billion), Japan ($10.1 billion) and the United Kingdom ($16.6 billion). Canada's exports to India are at about the same level as this country's exports to South Korea and Hong Kong.

  Rick Jeffery, CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association, told the Board of Trade panel that the fact India is much farther away than the East-Asian economies is a major reason preventing more Canada-India trade links.

  "What we are faced with now is the logistics," said Jeffery as he compared B.C.'s forest industry's small foothold in India to the trade with China and Japan. "It's not easy to ship there; it's halfway around the world. It's not on the route we normally make when shipping to Japan or China. That's our challenge today: How we can build a better supply chain for our customers? We need friends, and we need lots of friends, not just one."

  Joanne Curry, Simon Fraser University's vice-president of external relations, said her school is leveraging Metro's South Asian community heavily in its forays into India, noting the establishment of a Surrey campus a few years ago was a key turning point in gaining access to the market.

  Curry added that, from SFU's experience, potential Canadian investors should approach the Indian market by focusing on specific, well-defined areas of business and focusing on a region or two in India to avoid spreading one's resources too thin in a market so far from home base.

  Persistence is also key, she said.

  first five, maybe even 10 years. We are just now starting to see the traction in the market. But we were very aware of the rising status of India, and the opening of the Surrey campus really opened some bridges to further that relationship."

Address: High Commission of India, 10, Springfield Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1M 1C9

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