WBJ met with Ambassador Ajay Bisaria in India’s new Embassy in Warsaw to discuss economic and cultural bonds between the two nations
Interview by Matthew Czaja
WBJ Observer: Mr. Ambassador, we’ve had quite a few news stories regarding possible new trade deals between Polish and Indian partners. What is the state of bilateral trade between India and Poland?
Ajay Bisaria: The current bilateral trade level is around $2.3 billion. Our bilateral Joint Commission that met in June has set a target of $5 billion for 2018. This means that we expect our bilateral trade to grow at more than 20 percent on an annual basis.
Currently, India’s exports to Poland are about $1.7 billion, including cotton, textiles, pharmaceuticals and appliances. Poland exports goods worth around $550 million to India, mainly electro-mechanical appliances, mineral and chemical products.
Our investments are also healthy. Indian investments in Poland are over $3 billion, including global Indian investors like ArcelorMittal. Polish investments in India are currently less than $1 billion, and we hope to attract significantly increased investments in the coming years.
With the dynamic initiative of Prime Minister Modi and the new Make in India program, which industry sectors are appropriate for Polish business to invest in/create joint ventures in?
Our Make in India program has achieved a great deal of traction in Poland. We launched the program here in March this year. The program aims to transform India into a major global manufacturing hub. We are delighted that Poland has responded by an announcement in April of the Go-India Program, which will facilitate and incentivize Polish companies to engage with India.
Our Joint Commission identified several areas of promise. We have working groups looking into three specific broad sectors: coal and mining; food processing and agriculture; and information technology.
Recently, a delegation from the Indian State of Punjab identified some excellent Polish technologies in fruit and vegetable processing, dairy processing and flower cultivation. Similarly, we have a great demand for Polish environmental technologies: particularly waste water management and solid waste management, which will be of immense interest to our cities.
Defense technologies are also of great interest under our Make in India program. Several Polish companies, both in the public and private sectors, are in talks with Indian companies, to make defense products in India. We have also identified sunrise areas such as medical products and renewable energy, (solar, wind, bio-energy and bio-fuel) as areas of promise. We hope to collaborate in research and science so that we could convert Polish technologies into products that could be used in the vast Indian market.
Is Poland an attractive investment destination for Indian business? What more can be done by the Polish side to promote and attract Indian firms?
Poland provides a gateway to Europe for Indian business and has a huge cost advantage, skilled manpower and a friendly business climate to attract our investors.
We already have companies like Indorama, Uflex in sectors like plastics and packaging, Escorts in tractors and Videocon in TV picture tubes, not to mention the global player ArcelorMittal in steel products.
We also have some 11 Indian companies in the IT sector. Infosys has a center in Łódź, which employs 3,000 people, Wipro, based in Wrocław and Gdańsk, has recently signed a big deal with T-Mobile. These Indian IT companies are making use of the friendly near-shoring opportunities in Poland to cater to European markets.
Are organizations promoting trade and business between the countries active in doing their part?
We are fortunate to have three India-dedicated Chambers of Commerce in Poland. We are closely working with all of them. The Indo-Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry based in Warsaw, headed by J.J. Singh, is particularly active in collaborating with the Embassy and in providing guidance both to Indian and Polish businessmen and investors. The Embassy has worked out several events with this chamber and we have a heavy agenda in the coming months for delegations going both ways.
What would you advise a Polish business which is on threshold of a decision to do business in India?
I would say that the sky is the limit for business with India. In the last year, the investment climate in India has improved dramatically. Indian States are actually competing with each other to provide friendly business conditions and opportunities for foreign business. Several Polish companies have already taken advantage of this situation.
We at the Embassy are meeting potential investors and putting them in direct contact with Indian States, authorities and potential joint-venture partners. I feel that there is a window of opportunity for Polish business to access the vast Indian market, which is the size of Europe and North America put together. The Indian adventure is now less risky, more profitable and will be more satisfying for Polish business.
Warsaw and New Delhi are over 5,000 km away from each other, but the two countries have cultural threads that link them. Will these prove to be key in establishing quality relationships?
Indeed, culture, relationships and business are all interwoven. Of course, the cultural connections you speak of create an environment that’s conducive to cooperation. We can see that our two countries have some meaningful commonalities. When two peoples know each other, they are more eager to work with one another. The Jagiellonian University established a Sanskrit chair in the 1890s and to this day, students in Kraków are studying at the Department of Languages and Cultures of India and South Asia.
Furthermore, when India was in its development phase, Polish engineers were present in our country, sharing relevant knowhow and helping to build up our infrastructure. Cooperation through academic institutions was in place in Warsaw, Wrocław and Kraków, among others. The mathematical prowess of Poles is appreciated in India.
On the other hand, Indian traditions are very popular in Poland today. Recently, thousands of people took part in the International Yoga Day celebration in the Pole Mokotowskie park in Warsaw, and in 21 cities all over Poland. Poles are also taking to Ayurvedic medicine.
Our independence day gift to Poland was an e-visa system that allows Polish tourists to obtain a visa online, without the need to visit the embassy. Our bilateral relationship with Poland is important for India; evidence of this is our large new embassy complex in Warsaw.