Indian enterprises, financial institutions and government agencies must invest in the acquisition and analysis of knowledge and information on target markets
Knowledge is power. To effectively promote Indian prosperity through trade in goods, services and technology in the next decade, we need to adopt a ‘whole of society’ approach. India’s new trade policy must ensure the promotion of sunrise and new-age manufacturing, technology absorption and application, creation of value in goods and services for domestic use or exports, ensure imports of capital goods and machinery as well as inputs, spare parts and ancillaries required for energy output, manufactures, agriculture, infrastructure, ecology and processing, etc., for local use or to integrate into international supply and value chains.
It must examine and eliminate “inverted pyramid” import duty structures, simplify procedures and processes to ensure seamless integration of imported inputs into production processes, discourage the import of finished products that can be made in India, or undercut Indian manufactures, whether industrial or traditional. It must protect artisanal and traditional rural industry and products while encouraging steady modernization of the economy. It must reduce our dependence on imported energy. It must not discourage potential entrepreneurs of investors but encourage foreign direct investment in all sectors to bring in modern processing techniques and technology while protecting intellectual property rights.
Overall, it must contribute significantly to the realization of Atmanirbhar Bharat and propel us steadily and strongly towards achieving a USD five trillion economy to lift our deprived millions out of poverty, hunger, unemployment, disease and low access to healthcare, education, financial and social services.
GDP growth is the only means of multiplying per capita income and enabling India to become a middle-income country in the next decade, upgrading our housing, utilities, infrastructure and facilities to realize Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a self-sufficient village economy, much like those that exist in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Our exporters, entrepreneurs and potential investors must be equipped with deep, accurate and current knowledge of the target markets that they plan to enter, penetrate, establish themselves and eventually become significant players in.
This requires investment in study and analysis of each territory and further action by all stakeholders so that a concerted push can be made by civil society, enterprise and state agencies to facilitate Indian economic engagement, market development, risk mitigation and value realization to maximize the realization of revenues by India in exports of goods & services as well as investment in the territories as well as the creation of/ entry into value and supply chains which ensure steady and incremental business with BIMSTEC and ASEAN, both as collective entities as well as with their member states individually.
Studies must be done and kept continually updated, both of the collective trade and investment regimes of each bloc as well as of India’s export potential to each member state, to identify opportunities in the near, medium and long terms for increasing Indian revenue realization from these target markets. These studies must identify not just the revenue potential but also the cost/liability profiles for investment, the risk levels and the means for their mitigation.
A deep understanding of the countries concerned and their operational motives, modes and systems are necessary, which requires investment in the acquisition of knowledge, languages, social mores and practices, in which process our educational institutions and travel promoters can play a significant role in developing cultural and business mediators. These mediators can help our entrepreneurs, service providers and investors engage more easily and effectively with their overseas counterparts to create lasting business partnerships between eastern India and the Southeast Asian and Himalayan neighbors.
Hence, Indian enterprises, financial institutions and government agencies must invest in the acquisition and analysis of knowledge and information on target markets by competent, independent and impartial organizations in both state and private sectors and promote detailed market research both on the potential for increasing Indian exports as well as our capabilities and capacities for realizing it effectively and increasing our national income thereby. It is not the business of the government to take market risks to facilitate exports but to know and take measures to mitigate the risks which must be borne by the entrepreneurs, not the taxpayers.
Therefore, I propose the following Action Plan for consideration, discussion, acceptance and implementation by the states and the union government to take India’s trade in goods, services and technology to the next level. This Action Plan is a Government-led PPP model for identifying goods and services with export potential and promoting their sale to any target export market, like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), European Union (EU), Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), etc. It requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders, with some initial funding by the government, to enable think tanks or consultants to develop feasibility reports.
If acceptable, the government may involve other stakeholders and task them appropriately. Action points for each stakeholder are given below. The list may not be exhaustive.
Action points for stakeholders in promoting exports:
Liaise with Indian Missions and trade offices to promote Indian brands and goods
Create database and advisories on export opportunities and compliance needs for exporters
Ensure equivalence of product/service standards and quality assurance with import markets
Examine Customs and import rules to ensure the elimination of inverted pyramids in duty structures
Facilitate input imports to enable re-exports as well as to participate in international supply and value chains.
Facilitate financial services and access to credit and insurance of trading operations
Analyze upgrading needs of Indian facilities for processing, packing & labeling exportable goods
Establish technical, financial and infrastructure requirements for upgrading facilities
Create proposals for sustainable private sector investment in such upgradation
Establish air cargo hubs and encourage freight services
Group export warehousing, processing, packaging labeling and shipment facilities through airport
pre-shipment inspection services to ensure compliance with importer standards
Publicity and marketing of Indian exportables in ASEAN etc markets
Ease export of educational services by State and private universities
Facilitate full utilization of foreign student quota
Ensure upkeep of foreign student facilities at acceptable international standards
Ensure international standards of hospitality services
Provide trade and tourism information
Ensure safety and security of travelers with dedicated and effective distress response services
2. Think tanks
Analyze target market import basket data by sector, country and value
Analyze target market import standards - compare with BIS standards
Analyze target market import price data
Identify strength areas in India
Establish a list of Indian exportables by sector and HS Codes
Establish relative competitiveness of Indian goods on CIF ASEAN ports basis
Develop a cadre of Interpreters & translators of target languages in Kolkata
Analyze discussions and reports emanating from target market fora and disseminate emerging opportunities
Promote the teaching of Area studies and languages
Disseminate opportunities in placement and career counseling
Develop and utilize institutional links with foreign universities
Promote research about target countries in all possible disciplines
Develop systems to broadcast MOOC and other courses to the target region
4. Chambers of Commerce, trade associations and EPCs
Establish active relationships with target counterparts
Support Indian Missions and trade offices to disseminate our export capabilities
Analyze upgrading needs of competitive items to meet import standards at competitive rates
Analyze import packaging types and standards for bulk imports, wholesale and retail sale
Develop sector-wise database for exporters
Develop/modify goods according to target market traditions and cultural norms
Train exporters in target market business culture & practices
Develop e-commerce aimed at target countries
Develop non-traditional exports such as in education, skill development, art, floriculture
Collective trade promotion in ASEAN trade fairs through ITPO/FICCI etc.
Develop/activate institutional links with ASEAN counterparts
Establish Eastern CEOs Forum with ASEAN
5. Legal and Consultancy services
Promote business advisory services for ASEAN markets
Establish model contracts for different business operations based on bilateral compliance needs
Establish and publicize financial services available & requirements for dealing with each country
Establish inter-operable accounting practices and standards
Optimize effective dissemination and use of Lines of Credit & international project financing
Develop SOPs, marketable studies and handholding systems
Speedy Arbitration & dispute resolution mechanisms
Promote engineering & technical service exports, particularly to CMLV
Establish & publicize regional multimodal transport & shipping services & operators from WB ports
Create air cargo and passenger services including air ambulance
Create a packaging and palletizing services to international standards
7. Tourism & Hospitality
Tourism and hospitality promotion- Buddhist Heritage Tours, etc
Art & Cultural promotion to create Indian brand awareness
Sponsor ASEAN cultural events in India and vice versa
Carry stories of market opportunities and market developments
Develop weblogs and sites
9. IT, cable and TV services
Subtitle films in target languages for export
Translate web content into target languages and upload
Carry foreign TV Channels on cable networks
Promote carriage of Indian broadcasting on foreign networks
(The writer is a former Indian ambassador. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)