India presents massive opportunity as Ottawa trade mission nears

Tom Pechloff
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There’s a good feeling about Canada in India, according a venture capitalist with experience in both countries.

That's why the timing of the mayor's upcoming trade mission to India couldn't be better.

“We should cash in on it,” says Jaswinder Kaur, whose career includes a stint as vice-president of cleantech for TaraSpan, where she worked with international companies, helping them expand into the Indian market. Ms. Kaur was also a founding partner of Ottawa-based Venture Partners before moving to Delhi where she was executive director of the Indian Venture Capital Association.

In 2014 the Indian people elected a majority government for the first time in 30 years, and Ms. Kaur says the political landscape is now more favourable than ever.

Invest Ottawa CEO Bruce Lazenby, who will be on the trip April 18 to April 22, agrees that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has created a business-friendly environment.

“The new prime minister has put a big emphasis on economic development,” he says. “For the first time in a generation, there’s a government that has the sufficient support to actually get legislation done.”

India is currently the world’s fourth largest economy, and with the World Bank forecasting growth of 7.5 per cent to 8.3 per cent in 2015-16, it could crack the top three by next decade.

That’s one of the reasons this trip is for Ottawa companies that are really ready to do business, Mr. Lazenby says.

“This is the kind of trip that’s not for tire kickers, but people who are serious about looking at massive opportunities.”

Mr. Modi has committed US$150 billion to creating smart cities, an area of excellence for many Ottawa tech companies. Reliance Industries, a Mumbai-based conglomerate, has already laid 250,000 km of fibre, Mr. Lazenby says, to create a “4G LT fibre backbone” that would connect the vast majority of the country.

“That kind of accessibility will be huge for Ottawa companies,” he says.

Mr. Lazenby says the Ottawa mission was already planned before Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne led her own trip earlier in the year. Mr. Lazenby was there as well to sow some seeds he hopes to cultivate in April.

The mission, which will have stops in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Bangalore, intends to showcase the capital’s strengths in economic development while identifying collaboration opportunities in business, education in tourism.

Kivuto is one of the companies confirmed for the mission and the opportunity is incredible for the company that already provides digital course materials to 60,000 academic institutions. According to Ms. Kaur, by 2020 India will be educating 500 million people in 1,000 universities and 50,000 colleges.

Mr. Lazenby says his target is “as many as possible” when it comes to deals or memorandums of understanding.

“If we can get a dozen signings, that would be great,” he says, adding that this trip could be the beginning of much bigger things for the companies involved.

“The real benefit of this trip will start to hit a year or two years down the road,” he says.







Organizations: Venture Partners, Indian Venture Capital Association, World Bank Reliance Industries

Geographic location: Ottawa, India, New Delhi Ontario Mumbai Bangalore

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