Indian and Dutch companies have signed about 40 business-to-business (B2B) pacts worth €650 million in areas of water, agriculture, and health, on the sidelines of a visit by the Dutch royal couple King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to India. Dutch companies see India as a favourable investment destination and are encouraged by steps taken by the Indian government such as the recent reduction in corporate taxes, said Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink, the vice president of European employers’ organization, Ceemet, which represents 200,000 companies. Hamming-Bluemink is leading the 150-member Dutch business delegation visiting India. Edited excerpts from an interview.
What is your opinion of the investment climate in India?
I would say that we have had a very successful visit. We have 250 participants in the trade delegation in the field of water issues, in the field of health, and in the field of agriculture and also in the field of high tech(nology). Those really are the issues, the requirements of India of today. If you look at the sustainable development goals and (the aim of) trying to uplift the citizens of India, you will need a lot of technological solutions. Technology will make the world better. The Netherlands is well placed for that because we are number four in the world in innovation. We are number four in the global innovation index and the number one country in terms of competitiveness in Europe. Our secret is—and that is what we would like to share with India—that we work closely together in innovation, with the business community, with the knowledge institutes, and with the government. We call them the triangle because working in this kind of an ecosystem will accelerate innovation. The two days we have spent so far in India have been inspiring. Now, if we could really link our knowledge of innovation and ecosystems to the scale of India with the requirements of today and we did during the last two days and it was a wonderful match. So actually, one of the reasons to come here was also the Tech Summit and the Tech Summit has got co-creation as a theme and this is also what we have experienced—how we can co-create and help each other achieve more.
India recently reduced corporate tax rates for companies. What do you think of the move?
I think that makes India a very attractive destination for investments. I am really very positive about that.
You have been in India for several days now. Has the trade delegation had any success with clinching any business agreements on this trip?
Yes, the agreements we signed total to €650 million of contracts. So, that is quite a lot. More importantly, we are here not for a quick win but for a kind of roadmap for the future. So what we took is an initiative and we call it the “WAH” initiative. In Hindi “WAH” stands for great. But I find it not really a coincidence that it also stands for the abbreviation “Water, Agriculture and Health”, so that is the new name for an initiative that we took for the next few years to work together on this issue. If you look at the sustainable development goals, of course you talk about affordable health for everyone, water management for everyone, anti flooding actions but also clean water and sanitation and for agriculture, doubling the wages of farmers by means of more clever agriculture. We are the second largest exporter in the world in the field of agriculture and horticulture. So we can actually share our knowledge. If you look at how you do business nowadays it is like sharing knowledge, then you can achieve more.
So all the agreements that have been signed are in these three areas, water, agriculture and health?
Yes and also in high tech. There is one huge contract with a Dutch company called NXP. NXP is a chip (semiconductors) maker. It has now found a partner in India with the name HCL with government help to bring the top product because NXP is world leader in this. Together they will bring new chips with new sensors. It is an example of the great success of this mission. This is an example of the great success of this business delegation. I also spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to President Ram Nath Kovind and what we have offered is to join your missions like Make in India, Smart Cities.
India and Netherlands don’t have a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement. Is that an impediment for inflow of investment into India from your country?
I can’t really answer this question right now. What we have discussed with Indian ministers is “ease of doing business” and we would want this relationship to flourish. Of course, there are obstacles but I am sure we can work that out. That is what is also on our agenda.The obstacles are on the regulatory side so we will work on that. Our business community is really very eager to work with Indian companies.