By Ashok Kumar
Australia India Business Council (AIBC) in partnership with Australian Financial Review (AFR) organised a conference on 16th and 17th May 2016. In opening the conference,Mr. Dipen Rughani, National Chairman, AIBC welcomed the delegates and remarked that ‘the conference is being held at a very crucial time.’
The High Commissioner Of India to Australia, HE Mr. Navdeep Suri delivered the Keynote address while Mr. Michael Stutchbury, Editor-in Chief, Australian Financial Review welcomed the participants and invitees.
The conference was spread into two days where experts from India and Australia put forward their views on how to expand trade relations between the two nations and identify the areas of growth. There is variety of opportunities to expand trade between the two countries. There is a tremendous scope for expansion in Education, tourism and Defence sectors besides immigration. However, Consul General of India Mr. B. Vanlalvawna said there is more interest by India in Australia than the other way round.
According to Australian Government’s official website, the imports from India stand at $ 5,301 million while exports to India are $ 12,667 million. According to DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), increased trade will create more Australian jobs and opportunities for Australian businesses.
Several speakers from different industries said Australia is ready for the new opportunities India offers. Australia may not be a manufacturing nation but it can help India in various field such as developing skills and Smart Cities.
According to Ted Baillieu, former Victorian Premier, Victoria has an historical relationship with India. He said India is big, getting bigger, democratic, young, eager, hungry, thirsty, constrained, impatient and amazing. He could see inevitably changes in India that include, liberalisation in trade, political engagement, coming up of new cities, changes in infrastructure, consumption, economy and services. But he said there are constrains as well, like sectarianism, provincial difference and resources. Victoria has business offices in Bangalore and Mumbai. Victoria focus is on long term relationship, education, leadership development and digital technology.
New areas of cooperation identified include, smart cities and skill development while a speaker pointed out there is tremendous scope for aged care facilities. But it may be noted that families in villages and small towns live in a joint family where everybody takes care of elders and even the neighbours help each other. With shift in lifestyles nucleus families are emerging in the cities, there is a growing demand for old age homes.
The day also saw cricketers Glen McGrath and Michael Kasprowicz representing Cricket Australia took part in a lively panel discussion on cricketing ties with India and their experiences. Both the fast bowlers were of the opinion that IPL has played greater role in cementing Australia, India ties with more player from Australia playing for different teams.
But a different sport emerged as the key between India and Australia relations and that is Hockey. Hockey Australia and Hockey India have signed an MoU under which both the countries will have bilateral tours. In November this year Indian men and women hockey teams will play a test series in Australia. There will be a return series in India; this was disclosed by Mr, Cam Vale, Chief Executive, Hockey Australia.
On the second day, focus was on skill development and smart cities. But before that the Consul General of India Mr. B. Vanlalvawna remarked that there has been more interest in India for Australia as compared to Australia for India. This stems from the fact that he has taken over just three months back and while checking registers, he found out that only 1,000 business houses have applied for assistance. Giving an insight into working of the Consulate, he revealed that it is one of their roles to facilitate companies who want to do business with India.
Lisa McAuley, CEO of Export Council of Australia cited language as a major problem in establishing good trade relationship. Someone in the audience pointed out that trade existed with different countries without language problem, she clarified that this is the “Australian perception.” India was number 9 as far as trade with Australia is concerned but now has progressed to number five in the last two years. But there are several other barriers while trading with India.
Talking about skills development, Anuradha Guru, Director in Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, spelled out the initiatives being taken by the Indian Government, including a national policy on skills development and providing vocational training, National Skill Development Mission and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna. The aim is to train 500 million people in different skills by 2022. Megan Lily, Head of Workforce Development said most countries have a unique way of describing their occupations, skills and vocational qualifications.
Smart Cities, is an initiative of Indian Government with an aim to driving economic growth and improving quality of life of people by enabling local area development. India is aiming to build 100 smart cities within a decade and 20 have been identified so far. Michael Moignard, Director of EastWest Academy spoke about his plans for the smart cities that will include water facilities, electricity supply, sanitation, affordable housing and robust IT connectivity.
Australia and India have mutual interest in developing trade via food, energy and resources but a better connectivity is needed between the two nations. The Indian community is a rising force in Sydney and Melbourne already impacting knowledge industry.
As Sheba Nandkeolar, AIBC National Vice Chair called upon Australian businesses to take the plunge as the time was just right.