Opportunities for Indian Industry in Fiji Future of Work: New-Age Business Models & Skills
Fiji, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, located north of the Tropic of Capricorn, has a tropical climate with a hot humid and rainy season from December to April, and a cooler season from June to October. Fiji comprises more than 332 islands, about one-third of which are inhabited, comprising a total land area of 18,333 sq km in a vast marine Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.6 million sq km.
Fiji offers many opportunities to the Indian industry. Fiji, which has US$5 billion economy (with US$2.25 billion trade), remains to be relatively unexplored by the Indian industry due to mainly two reasons, distance and low volumes of trade. A major deterrent that we often hear from Indian business entities for not entering into Fijian market is that the volumes of trade are low due to small size of the market (Fiji population is 884,887 as per September 2017 census). However, I would like to argue that there is huge untapped potential in several areas which can be explored by Indian businesses not only to export products to Fiji but also to make Fiji a base to manufacture/assemble/store their products to cater to the entire South Pacific region. As it is, Fiji [English, iTaukei (Fijian) and Hindi are official languages] is the transport hub for the other smaller Pacific Island countries and serves as a central point for businesses in the entire region. There are opportunities in all sectors of Fijian economy but following areas merit special mention:
There is tremendous scope for Indian industry in the field of agriculture, especially in the sugar industry. Not only there is scope for Indian entities to come and do plantation at large scale there is also scope for agricultural vehicles, equipment and implements. India has extended US$50.4 million Line of Credit in July 2005 for up-gradation of sugar mills in Fiji. Further two Lines of Credit (LOCs) of US$5.38 million for up-gradation of sugar industry in Fiji and US$70 million for revival of sugar industry and upgradation of the Fijian Railway Cogeneration of Power Plant in Fiji were extended in 2015. India has provided a grant of US$1.06 million to the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) for purchase of five Tata lorries, five mechanical cane planters, and five Mahindra tractors along with several agriculture-related equipment from India in December 2017. Ten senior engineers of the FSC completed 30 weeks training (10 weeks each year since 2015) at Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), Pune, Maharashtra in January 2018. VSI also conduct training in Fiji also. This cooperation in the field of sugar industry opens up many possibilities for the Indian business in this sector. Possibility for Indian entities to acquire leasehold land in Fiji for
largescale plantation of sugarcane, coconut and other crops is immense. There is scope for food-processing business, especially SMEs in coconut and coir industry. Despite production of coconut at large scale, Fiji does not have any significant food processing facilities to utilise all parts of a coconut. Indian coconut industry can definitely find many lucrative opportunities in Fiji.
There is a lot of demand for irrigation facilities and related equipment and technology in Fiji. Indian entities should explore this in Fiji and they will find many opportunities in this field.
Infrastructure Projects, Flood Control and Waterways:
Recurrent cyclones and extreme weather events mean Fiji and the PICs are continually engaged in infrastructure projects. I would like to encourage large Indian infrastructure companies to look at Fiji and other PICs seriously and bid in the international tenders floated by local governments and international donors and development partners regularly. There is huge scope for Indian industry to tap the flood control and waterways sector in Fiji as it is prone to frequent cyclones/floods. There is, therefore, huge demand for flood control, waterways equipment, irrigation pumps and agriculture implements.
Fiji imports a large number of pharmaceuticals from India, however, much of it is routed through Australia or New Zealand. Time and again, we received interest from the Fijian stakeholders to establish a manufacturing facility in Fiji for pharma products. Again, Indian entities can look at Fiji not only for export but local production to cater to the entire region.
Readymade Garments/Apparel Exports/Imitation Jewellery/Leather products:
Fiji has a strong Indian diaspora since arrival of Indians from 1879 onwards. Indian clothing, traditional wear, jewellery, and leather products have huge market in Fiji.
Scope for Sustainable Development/Social Entrepreneurs/Solar Projects:
Climate Change is a matter of national concern and indeed an existential threat not only to Fiji but all the Pacific Island Countries. There is, therefore, tremendous scope for environment-friendly technologies and products in Fiji and other PICs. Especially, for social entrepreneurs in the field of solar products such as solar stoves, solar lighting, solar boats, pumps, solar desalination plants and solar micro-grids, there is tremendous scope.
Mahindra vehicles have been successful in making inroads in the Fijian market. Tatas have also entered in the market. There is certainly scope for other Indian automakers also to consider Fiji as well as other PICs to introduce their vehicles. Currently, the local market in Fiji is over-dependent on the used cars. Indian affordable vehicles will certainly find a lot of takers in Fiji.
ICT/Education Sector/ Consultancy:
The facilities and infrastructure for higher education is lacking in Fiji and in all the neighbouring PICs. There is tremendous scope for our entities in private education sector to explore Fiji to not only establish their educational institutions but also to collaborate with existing players in Fiji especially in the field of higher education and IT courses.
India is the most preferred destination for medical tourism for all Fijians and for citizens of neighouring PICs. There is huge demand for affordable quality treatment in Fiji. A possibility for collaboration with local private hospitals is also there and is already being explored by some players like Madras Institute of Orthopedic and Traumatology (MIOT), which has invested in Fiji in 2017. There is, however, tremendous scope for others also to look at Fiji and other PICs in this sector.
Every year, over 850,000 tourists visit Fiji. Therefore, the scope for Indian business in this field cannot be over-emphasized. There is investment opportunity to acquire assets in hotels and tourism sectors as well as possibility for partnership and joint ventures abound for Indian entities to explore Fijian tourism sector. I would like to conclude by saying that Fijian market is a gateway to the Pacific, which would certainly, make the cut for many Indian businesses to consider it as a central location from where one could cover the larger region. With cheaper labour and resources available in Fiji, it presents excellent opportunity to cater to larger economies such as Australia and New Zealand from here. It goes without saying that the Indian Mission in Suva is at the disposal of Indian industry at all times to provide any support that might be needed to do so. Vishvas Sapkal Indian High Commissioner to Fiji
Vishvas Sapkal, Indian High Commissioner to Fiji