Indian Expat Honcho Advocates SME Joint-Venture Model for Indo-Russia Trade

© AP Photo / Felipe DanaRussia's President Vladimir Putin, left, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi chat during the BRICS Summit at the Itamaraty Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi chat during the BRICS Summit at the Itamaraty Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - Sputnik International
Sammy Kotwani, the Honorary President of the Indian Business Alliance, say this is the best time for Indian and Russian small and medium enterprises to forge joint ventures to lend the required thrust to build bilateral trade, especially given the backdrop of unilateral US sanctions.

The Indian Business Alliance (IBA), which represents over 100 small and medium Indian enterprises, acts as a single point contact for Indian investors willing to explore Russian markets. Sputnik Spoke to Sammy Kotwani, Honorary president of IBA, who was in India recently to attend the Indo-Russia Business Summit. Sammy lives with his wife and three daughters in Moscow. He claims to be the first Indian to get a Russian passport without being married to a Russian national.

Sputnik: You were part of the first-ever Annual Business Summit between India and Russia, recently held in New Delhi. Do you think engagements like this will go a long way in lending the much-needed thrust to bilateral trade? 

Sammy Kotwani: This Bilateral Summit was of very high importance in the context of the ongoing global trade war and geopolitical inconsistency. We have been making considerable progress in bilateral trade, which exceeds $10 billion and is soon planned to reach $15 billion. I foresee a steady growth in trade between India and Russia although the pace is slow.

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The full potential of India-Russia trade can be reached when the Indian and Russian Public Sector Units (PSUs) come together, using each other's resources on a common platform like in the case of BrahMos, which is a brilliant example of combining resources and skills to produce world-class products. We need to make more such joint ventures, to explore new horizons.

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Indian oil companies and Russian oil companies should work together in common markets like Venezuela, Vietnam, and Iran for sharing the resources and expertise, which can provide good dividends to both.

Sputnik: In the annual summit, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between National Small Industries Corporation Ltd. (NSIC) of India and Russian Small and Medium Business Corporation (RSMB) was signed. Many experts rue the lack of small and medium-sized enterprises in Russia. Do you think that due to US sanctions there is a surge in the small and medium businesses in Russia: How do you see this MoU helping the growth of bilateral trade and commerce?

Sammy Kotwani: Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the US account for more than 80% of the national economy. In India, it is less than 60%, while in Russia, it's less than 20%. This is an area which has the potential for explosive growth. SMEs are not affected by sanctions or financial market turmoil.

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A small forestry company, which owns a timber processing unit in Russia and sells wood to a furniture manufacturer in India for local currency can be a pragmatic business model insulated from unilateral sanctions, as they have a sustainable business model on a long-term basis. 

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Sputnik:  You have been working for a long time in Russia now. What are the changes you have seen in the business environment of Russia over the years?

Sammy Kotwani: Believe me, the country is very civilized, transparent and investor-friendly. In the table ranking the ease of setting up and running a business in the world with 100% foreign ownership, Russia has moved up more than 50 places from where it stood earlier, making it one of the easiest places for foreign investors to set up a business. We are sure that within the next five years, Russia will be in the list of the top 10 investment destinations in the world.

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Sputnik:  Would you like to give a message to the Indian investors who are keen to explore investment opportunities in Russia?

Sammy Kotwani: My message is very clear — 'Vini, Vidi, Vici' (I came, I saw and I conquered), these great words should be the right motto for our Indian business people. We are losing opportunities thinking of risk. While the Chinese are making the most of such opportunities. So we need to hurry as the window of opportunity is limited. We may not get another chance to enter the Russian market.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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