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Not enough TT investments

By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, April 4 2013

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INDIA’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Malay Mishra, says a lack of awareness is the main reason why this country’s business community has yet to make any investments in his homeland.

“India is one of the emerging economic powers, we are leaders in information and communication technology (ICT), yet it seems people in Trinidad and Tobago still don’t know that much about India. They know a little bit about China but that’s it.”

Speaking with Business Day following the 2013 India Business Forum, held at the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) in Westmoorings on March 20, the High Commissioner lamented the disparity between the interest shown at these functions and the lack of actual investment.

“There is absolutely no investment in India from TT. Why not?...People who attend these trade forum get an understanding of the opportunities for direct investments, for joint-ventures but so far, nothing happens after they leave.”

Mishra cited the need for a change in people’s perceptions if TT truly intends to expand its exports to India beyond the sale of liquified natural gas (LNG), which accounted for approximately 90 percent of the total value of exports in 2011.

“There is a certain mindset,” Mishra stated, “in which people think India is still in that primitive age but we have become one of the leading economies in the world. Investors from all over come to India, even as our people are seeking out new export markets.

“So whether they enter a joint-venture here, export to India or open a business there, TT’s business community needs to realise now is the time to act.”

When asked if perhaps advertisements in the local media would help change this mindset of India as an undeveloped nation with few investment opportunities, Mishra said this tactic was tried late last year as part of the High Commission’s promotional activities for the 2013 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD). The event was held this January in the south-western Indian state of Kerala.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar attended the 2012 edition of PBD, accompanied by a large business delegation, is a three-day celebration aimed at forging greater ties between members of the Indian diaspora.

“So many people accompanied the Prime Minister. 160 people went, of which about 100 were from the trade sector but what did they do? They just moved along with the Government delegation, they had nothing on their own. Otherwise there could have been some follow-up. They could have gone back to India or they could have invited their Indian counterparts to visit Trinidad.”

Mishra pointed out that the Indian investors who are coming here are doing so on their own, not at the invitation of someone who’s interested in going into a joint-venture with an Indian company. “The Prime Minister herself was doing a lot of business pitching for TT during that trip,” Mishra recalled. “There was a lot of interest in coming here. People were asking us and the TT High Commission in Delhi about visiting Trinidad but somehow that idea ran out of steam and we have to now renew that momentum.”

Hence the theme of this year’s India Business Forum was “India - Trinidad and Tobago: Building a New Partnership.” Jointly hosted by the High Commission of India, the TTCIC, and InvesTT; a State agency under the purview of the Trade Ministry, the focus this year was on agricultural processing or agro-processing, ICT, business processing outsourcing (BPO) and clean (renewable) technology.

Mishra noted the reason for choosing these particular sectors was the result of an interest shown Indian business persons following the PM’s January 2012 visit. He also said the High Commission wanted to use the 2023 India Business Forum to determine how many local businesses are serious about setting up shop in India.

“TT has a well-established relationship with India, we have several MoUs (Memoranda of Understanding), we already export to one another, so I see no reason for the lack of investment by entrepreneurs in India,” Mishra stated.

Noting that most TT nationals who visit India do so as tourists, the High Commissioner told Business Day anyone interested in learning more about business opportunities in his country should plan on attending the India International Trade Fair (IITF).

Held every November in New Delhi, the IITF “is where you can see, in one place, our entire gamut of industries. Interested persons should contact us by June/July for the latest,” Mishra said, “so we can assist them in planning their trip.”

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