NZ mission to India 2020:

I was honored to be part of the business delegation that visited India from 25 Feb to 28 Feb 2020.

India Mission 2020 started on 25 Feb 2020 at New Delhi with homage paid to the father of Indian nation Mahatma Gandhi. Rt Hon Winston Peters and Hon David Parker laid wreaths at Gandhi memorial to kick off NZ Ministerial Trade delegation to India.

Delegates came from a range of Industries starting with Aviation, Fintech, F & B and onwards to Forestry. Industries represented both goods and services exporters.

Bharat Joshi, Author of “Navigating India, $18 trillion opportunity” provided an overview of the huge opportunity that India is. Bharat outlined the economic environment and stressed on how India has jumped up the ladder (from 140 to 77) in Ease of doing business Index. The conditions on the ground are changing and despite challenges, small steps are being taken to reform the economy by what he called “Cumulative incrementalism”.

Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Aayog (Think tank for Government of India) said that he is an ambassador of NZ to India as he likes NZ, particularly when NZ is number 1 on Ease of doing business (EODB) Index. Mr Kant stressed on the structural reforms done so far with GST, Insolvency & Bankruptcy laws, Real estate laws and Direct benefit transfer being the top. He said that there are 1200 Million bio metrics completed and the same number of accounts opened. He highlighted how MNCs were setting up their R& D centres in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. He further said that clean-up of different sectors is over and is optimistic about future.

Mr Ramanan, Mission director for AIM (Atal Innovation mission) talked about the innovation and how they are starting at the school level and are transforming students to problem solvers. There are 5000 incubators in the country. He said that Aim can partner with NZ for innovation like they have done with Sweden, France, Germany and Australia.

There was an early morning start to the day with a visit to Azadpur Mandi, which is a national distribution centre and Asia’s largest wholesale market for Fruits and vegetables. It was an opportunity to see how NZ kiwifruit and apples are handled and auctioned in the market.

A meeting was held at the Iconic BSE (formerly Bombay Stock Exchange), where the ministers started with a lamp lighting ceremony followed by ringing the bell, to start the day’s trading. The ministers spoke about the need to have closer business to business interactions.

The delegation then was hosted by Mahindra and Mahindra group (USD25 billion global enterprise) at their headquarters in Mumbai. Tech Mahindra and Mahindra Agri presented their businesses. Tech Mahindra has about 250 people on the ground in NZ and raised the issue of business visas taking too long for their employees.

Gateway House, a think tank headed by Neelam Deu, gave us very valuable insights into the working of the government. Mrs Deu stressed on the need to give Indo-Pacific, the prominence it deserves. She sighted the case of Australia, who are looking at India as the major player in Indo-Pacific.

The last session was hosted by Peter Chrisp, CEO of NZTE with Minister David Parker in attendance. In this session, business delegates shared the insights, learning, opportunities and risks from the visit.

Surinder Ogra, General Secretary NZITA, presented the below:

  1. Structural reforms completed by India in the last few years in Banking, Insolvency and Bankruptcy laws, Real Estate laws, Infrastructure, Transparency and Direct benefit schemes were once in a lifetime missions, that have been completed in a short time. The clean up has been completed and India can look towards future with a new enthusiasm. It is all the more important that NZ is there when Indian juggernaut takes off.
  2. NZ Inc needs to articulate “WHY NZ” in a more compelling way to resonate with the Indians.
  3. According to a McKinsey report, world trade in physical goods has consistently dropped in the last 20 years, while as world trade in Services has grown multiple times. This trend is evident in NZ India trade flows too. While we keep hammering for a bilateral FTA (which does not look very promising at the moment), Services exports have a better future in India.
  4. Innovation pact with India, as proposed by Mr Ramanan, Mission director for AIM (Atal Innovation mission) should be grabbed without any delays. Sweden, France, Germany and Australia have already taken the lead in this. Here is another great opportunity to work with India and put intangible value ahead of the tangibles which may follow from the pact.

While all delegates thanked the India Mission 2020 for the valuable learning, almost everyone made a point that we need to be in the market regularly to make our presence felt.

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