The success of the fifth India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) annual summit in Auckland on September 28 has amply highlighted the strong will in both nations to take their trade and investment relationship up several notches, riding on India’s fast growing economy.
Themed on Aviation, Tourism and Technology, the one-day summit heard substantively from some of the most successful businesspeople and policy influencers in these sectors both from India and New Zealand and from New Zealand’s Members of Parliament across the main political parties – Labour, NZ First and National.
In a video message from New Delhi, India’s Minister for Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu welcomed the summit and invited New Zealand businesses to join India’s unfolding growth story tipped to go from $5trillion to $10trillion in the next 15 years. Two-way trade between the countries, however, stands at a comparatively modest $2.7billion, with India being New Zealand’s tenth largest trading partner in 2017.
While trade agreements were touched upon, presenters were emphatic and unanimous in their opinion that strengthening better air links – especially direct flights – between the two countries was key to not only boosting tourism numbers but also growing the education sector, trade and investment exponentially. Representatives of major airlines like Jet Airways and Air Asia said they would work determinedly toward a solution, seen by many as long overdue.
Growth in Indian tourist numbers into New Zealand has been encouraging over the past few years but the potential was great, said Suresh Nair, Air Asia’s India-based General Manager. Air Asia had developed expertise in creating and marketing new tourist destinations with robust and frequent air links in Asia and India, working with the hospitality industry. New Zealand could similarly tailor its own destinations to suit preferences of the growing and increasingly mobile Indian tourist industry, he said.
India is the fastest growing aviation market and with 1000 passenger aircraft joining the fleet in the next few years, the demand for pilots is expected to skyrocket. New Zealand, which has earned a solid reputation in aviation-related training, has great potential to help the Indian aviation sector meet this growing demand.
New Zealand’s aviation industry has much to offer India beyond pilot training, as Mahindra Aerospace CEO Arvind Mehra pointed out. New Zealand’s rich experience in regulatory mechanisms and general aviation (using aircraft for other applications than just transport – such as crop dusting, rescue operations, surveillance) could greatly benefit the fast-developing Indian aviation environment, he said.
Mahindra makes single engine planes in Australia and quite a few are already flying in New Zealand and around the South Pacific region connecting smaller communities with a range of roles from tourism to freight and even medical evacuations.
While aviation, tourism and technology was the theme of the summit, ministers included infrastructure, housing and other business sectors into the mix in the course of their speeches.
Housing Minister Hon Jenny Salesa invited Indian construction companies to participate in the KiwiBuild programme and so did New Zealand First Deputy Leader Fletcher Tabuteau, who spoke about collaborating on developing apartment complexes, in which Indian infrastructure companies had considerable experience.
National Party leader Hon Simon Bridges and senior Labour Party minister Hon Andrew Little also addressed the summit.
New Zealand companies already operating in India like Sir Ken Stevens’ Glidepath and Jo Pennycuick’s Redesign Group showcased their success stories working and growing impressively in the Indian marketplace, while Indian business leaders outlined areas in which the two countries could collaborate successfully, building on their commonalities of language, legal systems and a can-do attitude.
INZBC Treasurer Bhav Dhillon said the thirty-year-old council has been hosting sector-focused summits that deliver value and practical takeaways to participants from both countries. Earlier summits in the annual series have been on IT, agritech and education.
The INZBC also signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with Aviation New Zealand and the The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), for promotion of trade ties with India and to work towards taking business delegations to India.
Another announcement made was the tie-up with Mr. Lakshman Jayasekara [Project Director & Team leader of Western Region Megapolis Planning Project (WRMPP), Sri Lanka] as he will be working as a brand ambassador, for INZBC in Sri Lanka, helping promote kiwi businesses in the country.