AIBC’s annual address gave insights into doing business with India

By Neena Badhwar

Australia India Business Council held its Australia India Address 2019 on December 11 at Four Seasons Hotel with Senator, Hon. Bridget McKenzie, Deputy Leader of the National Party as she represented Hon. Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, as the chief guest along with guests that comprised of businesses, members of the Council and the local media.

Official welcome by Sameer Arora, AIBC NSW President, was followed by the address delivered by Jim Varghese AM, National Chairman, AIBC. There was interesting panel discussion by two stalwarts and experts on economic ties between India and Australia, namely, Peter Varghese AO who wrote a report on India Economic Strategy and his counterpart in India, Anil Wadhwa who has recently come up with Australia Economic Strategy from the Indian side.

The discussion was moderated by Jim Varghese who fielded questions to both the experts in relation to economic ties between the two countries and how to take them forward. According to Wadhwa ”˜there is a lot of potential’ though the investment is lopsided which needs to be broadened as still there is a lot of unawareness. Peter Varghese said that India is a relevant partner and a useful one to do trade with and develop economic ties and with the geo-political importance that India now holds he can see there is a bit more momentum, “Traditionally not much has changed from Coal, Gold and Copper but I can see there is more movement and Australian Superannuation Fund is beginning to look at the Indian market and have a plan to invest about one billion into India.”

While Peter’s report relied on McKenzie, Anil’s was based on KPMG. They both agreed that broad strokes were more or less similar in both the reports. Peter’s report had outlined ten focus areas whereas Wadha said they had defined 12 focus sectors and 10 emerging sectors where both countries could focus, both Wadhwa and Peter agreeing that together the reports make  a comprehensive and complimentary picture. Peter said that his report had looked into 20 year structure in how the trends ”˜will play out in the future’. “For example the export of Hydrogen to India is a new sector to be looked into.”

According to Wadhwa  one only needs two or three success stories which then can inspire others whereas Peter was a bit cautious in his view when he said, “One needs to keep on plugging away. It will take time as well as energy before things start to happen.”

When asked what are the three sharp messages that one could take, Wadhwa said ”˜Focus on sectors identified, more active business forums and perhaps try taking advantage of the geopolitical importance that India holds from Australian point of view’. Peter stressed on three Ps ”“ Perseverance, Perseverance and Perseverance. He elaborated on his three Ps: Preparation, building reliable, trustworthy Partnerships and looking into the good ways to enter the Indian market.

Senator Bridget McKenzie gave the Keynote address in which she said being the Minister of Sport earlier and having met cricketer Virat Kohli and having had a picture taken with him had made her famous on social media. “Now while doing business it means making runs when we can and hitting the sixes whenever possible to help forward the successful relationship.”

At the moment Australia is focussing a lot on Agriculture as the key sector for ongoing collaborations between governments and the industry, “Australia can provide clean, green and safe production in agriculture and is looking at building partnerships.”  

Consul General of India, Sydney, Mr. Manish Gupta praised the work of both Peter Varghese and Anil  Wadhwa for having outlined focus areas where great confluence on economic front could be achieved by developing people to people contacts, he felt that ”˜India is changing at a very fast pace, with all those structural reforms, the national one tax policy, it is difficult to keep up with the pace even for us diplomats.”

He added that from way down in the table ”˜of ease of doing business’ India had moved up to place 64 and hopes to to make it in the top 50. He praised the work AIBC is doing with its team of volunteers who spend enormous time of theirs in to the Council mentioning the valuable work by Jim Varghese, Sheba Nandkeolyar, Dipen Rughani, Sameer Arora and others.

At the end of the program Sheba Nandkeolyar was honoured with a certificate of ”˜Life Time Achievement’ by Senator McKenzie for all the hard work she has put in, in to AIBC. Said Sheba, “I love AIBC and was inducted into it very early when I had been in Australia for just two weeks by Neville Roach and encouraged by Dipen Rughani when I was made the Vice President. I always looked for people with a passion and commitment to help AIBC in its goals to strengthen Australia-India economic ties.”

She was very appreciative of Jim Varghese and his support as National Vice Chair when she was the AIBC Chair,  now she loved working with Jim and Sanushka the present Chair and Vice Chair along with Sameer Arora the current NSW President and Sam Dutt  from the Secretariat, both of whom she had a long working relationship with. She remembered, “AIBC was run by volunteers who were passionate about the bilateral relationship and that’s what makes the difference,” reminding that India will in time become the 2nd largest economy and using the analogy of the train, urged Australian businesses to board the train before it is too late. 

It was well summed up by the MC of the night Kartik Mohandas, “With produce from Australia and recipes from India, we can do wonders.”

Prime Scott Morrison is on his way to India next month, his first visit to meet Prime Minister Modi, we hope that both India and Australia develop stronger economic ties on the basis of the two reports as well as collaborations in Agri business where Australia can truly help India and its rising need to do with food.

Pics by: Harmohan Singh Walia and Neena Badhwar

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