The business relationship between India and Australia has had many false starts.
But a growing population of Indian-Australians, and a greater understanding of the potential of the world’s largest democracy, is prompting Australian business to try harder.
A conference of young entrepreneurs from the two nations has been looking for ways to supercharge the relationship in the next decade, attempting to make India a trading partner on the scale of China and Japan.
Speaking at the Australia India Youth Dialogue, former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese urged local entrepreneurs to embrace the chaos and diversity of India.
“There is no other single market in the world that has more growth opportunities for Australia than India,” he said.
“So if you work backwards from that headline, the question is, how do we best position ourselves strategically?”
Mr Varghese was commissioned by the Federal Government to report on our business relationship and develop a strategy to improve it.
To him, the 700,000 Indians now calling Australia home — a number that has spiked since 2006 — are a good place to start.
“In the long-term they’ll prove to be a very important connecting thread between Australia and India and that will feed back into the business trade and investment relationship,” he said.
“Because the diaspora will play a role in helping navigate Indian business culture, in terms of expanding contacts, in terms of finding partners — all of the things that are grist to the mill of a successful business strategy in India.”
Australia’s current top trading partners are China ($195 billion), Japan ($78 billion), the US ($70 billion), South Korea ($52 billion) and, then, India ($29 billion).
The report recommends an ambitious target: to make India one of our top three export destinations by 2035.
It is not an impossible goal. India’s population is more than 1.3 billion people, but just a year before the 2017-18 figures above, Australia did more trade with our near neighbour New Zealand, and it has a smaller population than Melbourne.