Busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties are ripe in In­dia’s mar­itime, marine and en­ergy sec­tors. Nor­way’s Con­sul Gen­eral in Mumbai is ready to help.

She was Am­bas­sador to In­dia and Bhutan from 2007-2012. Now, she’s back af­ter serv­ing in Myan­mar as Am­bas­sador.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - ANRIKE VISSER

What is the im­por­tance of In­dia for Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies and what has changed in the years she was abroad? Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Re­view catches up with the Con­sul Gen­eral to Mumbai, In­dia, Ms Ann Ollestad.

“I think the next cen­tury would be­long to Asia and In­dia will play an even big­ger role in geopol­i­tics. In­dia is one of the fastest grow­ing large economies in the world and I see it as a place with plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly for Nor­we­gian busi­nesses,” says Ms Ollestad. With that, the stage has been set for the im­por­tance of In­dia for Nor­way and other coun­tries for that mat­ter.

Within In­dia, the states of Ma­ha­rash­tra, Gu­jarat and Goa make up the ju­ris­dic­tion of her con­sulate. To­gether these states also bring in 22% of In­dia’s GDP with Ma­ha­rash­tra be­ing the fi­nan­cial and busi­ness cen­tre of the coun­try. Over half of Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies in In­dia are head­quar­tered in the state.

Ac­cord­ing to Ms Ollestad, busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties are specif­i­cally ripe in the mar­itime, marine and en­ergy sec­tors in both re­new­ables and oil and gas. Most Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies in the ju­ris­dic­tion are ac­tive in these ar­eas, but new op­por­tu­ni­ties in other sec­tors also dawn.

“There is a rev­o­lu­tion tak­ing place in mar­itime in­fra­struc­ture at the mo­ment”, says Ms Ollestad. Ports and in­land wa­ter­ways are be­ing built or about to be built very soon. “The In­dian gov­ern­ment is fo­cussing more on In­dia as a mar­itime na­tion. Prime Min­is­ter Modi met with the Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg in Stock­holm and sug­gested that we strengthen our co­op­er­a­tion and work to­gether on ocean is­sues.”

And digi­ti­sa­tion also cre­ates new op­por­tu­ni­ties in mar­itime like in other sec­tors. One op­por­tu­nity aris­ing fast is green ship­ping.

On 6 De­cem­ber 2017, the Nor­we­gian em­bassy or­gan­ised a sem­i­nar ad­dress­ing green trans­porta­tion. The Nor­we­gian Am­bas­sador to In­dia, Mr Nils Rag­nar Kamsvåg re­cently stated on the em­bassy’s web­site that over one-third of all new cars sold in Nor­way are elec­tric ve­hi­cles. Valu­able lessons for In­dia and In­dian com­pa­nies may be drawn from un­der­stand­ing cus­tomer be­hav­iour in such a mar­ket. We also have state of the

art tech­nol­ogy in green ship­ping with the world’s first bat­tery-driven ferry in op­er­a­tion and the world’s largest fleet of LNG ships. What we don’t have, are the or­ders of mag­ni­tude. The num­bers that may com­pletely trans­form the mar­ket for green trans­port so­lu­tions, and usher in a new age of zero-emis­sion trans­porta­tion”.

Mr Kamsvåg also states that “the tar­get of 100 per­cent [Elec­tronic Ve­hi­cles] by 2030 set by the In­dian gov­ern­ment is both am­bi­tious and in­spir­ing. We be­lieve In­dia should set a sim­i­lar tar­get for their ship­ping fleet. The switch from fos­sil fuels to elec­tric power will be ben­e­fi­cial for In­dia’s en­ergy se­cu­rity, In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ing, lo­cal air pol­lu­tion and the re­duc­tion of green­house gases. Right now, In­dia has the op­por­tu­nity to leapfrog trans­port in­fra­struc­ture based on fos­sil fuels and choose to de­velop green trans­port so­lu­tions.”

In the ju­ris­dic­tion of Ms Ollestad there are also “op­por­tu­ni­ties in mar­itime de­fence, IT, higher education, solid waste man­age­ment and waste­water treat­ment to name a few,” states Ms Ollestad.

Eco­nom­i­cally speak­ing In­dia is be­com­ing mas­sively more im­por­tant for the rest of the world. Ac­cord­ing to The World in 2050 by PWC, In­dia is on track to be­come the sec­ond big­gest econ­omy on the planet af­ter China.

The World Bank’s Global Eco­nomic Prospects states that “Af­ter con­ced­ing its po­si­tion as the fastest grow­ing ma­jor econ­omy to China for a year in 2017, In­dia is likely to re­claim the po­si­tion in 2018, with growth ex­pected to ac­cel­er­ate to 7.3% in the year.”

For that to hap­pen though, the World Bank states that re­form and a more bal­anced growth across sec­tors are needed. So far, “In­dia’s growth has been well di­ver­si­fied, but the pace of growth ac­cel­er­a­tion has dif­fered across sec­tors. The ac­cel­er­a­tion of value added has been fastest in ser­vices, fol­lowed by in­dus­try, and there has been no ev­i­dent pat­tern of ac­cel­er­a­tion in agri­cul­ture.”

Mr Ju­naid Ah­mad, World Bank Coun­try Di­rec­tor in In­dia, re­cently stated on World Bank’s web­site that “In­dia’s long-term growth has be­come more steady, sta­ble, di­ver­si­fied and re­silient. In the long-run, for higher growth to be sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive, In­dia needs to use land and wa­ter, which are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing scarce re­sources, more pro­duc­tively, make growth more in­clu­sive, and strengthen its pub­lic sec­tor to meet the chal­lenges of a fast grow­ing, glob­al­iz­ing and in­creas­ingly mid­dle-class econ­omy.”

Ms Ollestad agrees with the World Bank’s as­sess­ment of in­clu­sion as an im­por­tant fac­tor for long-term de­vel­op­ment. “In In­dia, I have seen some of the most in­tel­li­gent women with many of them in higher po­si­tions, both in the gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate. How­ever, what is still sur­pris­ing is that over­all women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the work­force re­mains low. In fact, women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in In­dia’s work­force is lower than that of Pak­istan and Bangladesh.”

One way to achieve gen­der par­tic­i­pa­tion and main­tain growth num­bers year af­ter year is tech­nol­ogy. Ac­cord­ing to PWC in the re­port Fu­ture of In­dia - the Win­ning Leap, tech­nol­ogy can be a ma­jor booster for de­vel­op­ment. It al­lows for leapfrog­ging ear­lier stages and jump right to the lat­est in tech­nol­ogy.

“PWC’s anal­y­sis of key sec­tors such as education, health­care, agri­cul­ture, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, power, man­u­fac­tur­ing, retail, ur­ban­i­sa­tion, digital and phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity sug­gests that new so­lu­tions are nec­es­sary in each sec­tor. These Win­ning Leap so­lu­tions will en­able sec­toral growth with a frac­tion of the re­sources to at­tain de­sired out­comes,” PWC finds.

If In­dia is able to har­ness leapfrog­ging tech­nolo­gies, PWC says that, “a sixth of hu­man­ity, with the in­tel­lect, en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity of a young na­tion is poised to grow rapidly”.

Ms Ollestad re­cently saw this first hand when vis­it­ing SEWA, the Self Em­ployed Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion in Ahmed­abad. “SEWA is a well-known NGO, work­ing for women’s wel­fare in the un­or­gan­ised sec­tors. I was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with the women as­so­ci­ated with the NGO, em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy to man­age their busi­nesses.”

The chal­lenge of a coun­try like In­dia, Ms Ollestad finds, is its com­plex­ity and sheer size. “In­dia is a huge coun­try and you need the right con­tacts, so it helps that I have been here be­fore,” Ms Ollestad adds.

The Con­sulate Gen­eral in Mumbai was es­tab­lished in 2015 to strengthen Indo-Nor­we­gian co­op­er­a­tion. “Our pri­mary goal is to sup­port these in­ter­ests, par­tic­u­larly within the seafood, mar­itime and oil & gas sec­tors,” says Ms Ollestad.

An ex­am­ple of such ef­forts is an up­com­ing meet­ing in Gu­jarat. “Gu­jarat is an im­por­tant state for Nor­we­gian busi­nesses, es­pe­cially in mar­itime and oil and gas sec­tors. The state’s new port pol­icy along with Cen­tre’s Sa­gar­mala’s ini­tia­tives, Gu­jarat of­fers sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties in ship­build­ing, mar­itime skilling, naval de­fence and LNG in­fra­struc­ture.”

“Work­ing with state gov­ern­ments and other agen­cies within our ju­ris­dic­tion has been pos­i­tive,” says Ms Ollestad. “The fo­cus of the Con­sulate Gen­eral in Mumbai, which is In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cen­tre, is on busi­ness mat­ters. Kolkata and Chen­nai have Honorary Con­sul Gen­er­als and they pro­mote Nor­we­gian in­ter­ests in their patch. We as­sist the con­sulates on is­sues re­gard­ing sea­men af­fairs. It is rel­e­vant to men­tion that In­di­ans con­sti­tute the sec­ond largest group of sea­far­ers on Nor­we­gian ships.”

Ba­si­cally, “we are here to open doors and use all tra­di­tional diplo­matic tools to as­sist big­ger and smaller com­pa­nies,” says Ms Ollestad. Mumbai specif­i­cally is of in­ter­est for many Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies since many banks and pri­vate oil & gas com­pa­nies are based there.

Ms Ollestad speaks highly of the city that houses so many Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies. “Mumbai is a vi­brant, open and lib­eral city. It’s re­ally a pro­gres­sive hub. If any­thing has changed in the time I have been away is that there is now an even more as­sertive mid­dle class. Re­cently, many peo­ple at­tended the clean-up of Versova beach in Mumbai. I see the grow­ing mid­dle class in In­dia be­com­ing more as­sertive. Is­sues around smart cities, en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion, clean tech­nolo­gies and green ini­tia­tives are get­ting cen­tre space in pub­lic dis­course.”

PHOTO: GEIR FALKENBERG

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