India is an alternative for investment in the future. That is how clearly Gour Saraff sees it, Director of the Europe Chamber of Commerce (EICC) in Spain. In his opinion, there is a series of advantages with respect to the country which can benefit a broad range of sectors. In India, they are looking for partners and with the new government of Narendra Modi, the trend is towards this situation being consolidated. Today, we have had the chance to talk to Saraff himself and he has explained which factors any investor should take into account.
IN GENERAL TERMS, DOES INDIA REPRESENT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SPANISH COMPANIES?
Without a doubt. The companies that have the greatest opportunities to invest in India are those in sectors such as infrastructures, alternative energies, water management, etc. However, I would also highlight the advantages that are to be found in processing agricultural products. This could be an extremely interesting area for Spanish companies: we have raw materials and a huge market. As such, production is easy and so is selling. The problem is getting there and that is becoming increasingly complicated, as this industry is opening up to the foreign market.
IS THERE A GOOD BALANCE BETWEEN BUSINESS DRAWBACKS AND BENEFITS IN YOUR COUNTRY?
Yes, of course. It is really necessary to have a good appreciation of India’s culture: connecting with good people. In my opinion, the most important factor is finding a suitable partner who can help you to avoid many of the drawbacks that can arise in the country. Going alone to such an enormous country with such a huge population is a challenge that not everybody is ready for. There are plenty of people who give up after a few months, I can assure you. There are two aspects to bear in mind: thinking long term, as not all of the benefits can be obtained immediately, and finding a local partner.
A PERSON YOU TRUST, OR SOMEBODY LIKE THAT?
Exactly, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical person. It could also be a company. For investments in infrastructures, perhaps the foreign company needs an Indian partner company with experience in the sector. This can be really handy when it comes to submitting tenders. It all depends on the need of the investor.
THERE ARE MANY INVESTORS WHO BELIEVE THAT CHINA IS A BETTER COUNTRY TO INVEST IN THAN INDIA. HOW WOULD YOU CONVINCE ANY BUSINESSPEOPLE THAT ARE UNDECIDED?
I don’t think there is any need to change their minds. There are lots of good things going for China, such as in terms of importing goods. It is still a strong market, but not for exports. There are also problems in terms of licences and rights for patents. Any person or company that invests in China cannot avoid being exposed to this risk. In India, our legislation is legally controlled by the system and this gives a measure of protection to any company.
WHAT DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS CURRENTLY EXIST BETWEEN INDIA AND SPAIN? ARE THEY GOOD?
They are extremely good. They are gradually improving and several visits have already been made by the Indian Government to Spain. We should also remember the steps that Juan Carlos I took a while ago that helped to converge mutual markets. It remains a country that has significant cultural differences from Spain, but we believe that we can build good bridges of understanding. Let’s not forget that, if a company is saturated and wants to improve its portfolio of projects around the world, India is a good option.
YOU ARE ALSO A LECTURER IN PROJECT MANAGEMENTAT EAE. WHAT COMPETENCES DO YOU THINK YOUR STUDENTS ARE ACQUIRING?
I am honestly bringing all of my experience to the table. I have run various projects in several different countries: Ukraine, Russia, Spain, the United States, England and, of course, India. My students, who are really great, show a lot of interest in finding out about projects around the world. Managing multicultural projects is a topic that they need to know well. We cannot just focus on hard skills, but also soft skills, like how to work in a different culture.
WHY WOULD YOU RECOMMEND EAE TO ANYBODY INTERESTING IN COMPANY MANAGEMENT?
The essential factor for any executive is being prepared to deal with problems that arise at an international level. To have this type of background, the value that EAE lecturers contribute is tremendous in this respect. They have great vision in terms of finding solutions. They help all of the students, like in a kid’s drawing book, to join the dots to see the bigger picture.