New global mining rush brings India and Australia together

When Australia and India signed a strategic partnership in June, we knew it was “about China” but we did not know was just how much it was about China.

Now we find that the strategic partnership allows for Australia to supply “rare earth” resources to India.

Why is this so strategically important?

Your phone, camera or electric car are completely dependent on key “rare earth” minerals that are processed only in China.

Only a year or so ago, this dependence on China seemed to be OK. Now nations are not so sure, and the Japan, India and Australia collaboration on supply chains is just one of many responses.

Here is how vital these “rare earth” minerals are – there are 0.15 grams of palladium in an iPhone, 472 kilograms of combined rare earths in an F35 fighter jet and four tonnes in a Virginia-class submarine.

But the big one in this group is graphite – it is a key for the lithium-ion batteries in phones, laptops, military and medical equipment and electric cars.

China provides 70 per cent of the world’s exports of graphite and has declared it a “strategic material”.

Graphite illustrates the scale of the world’s dependence on China and you can see how global concerns have now become a mix of commerce and defence. Graphite is in demand because it is the most electrically conductive mineral known.

Australian Resources Minister Keith Pitt expressed the global concerns this way: “It does not matter if you are importing loaves of bread or anything else, if you only have one supply line, that is an increased risk.”

Graphite and other “rare earth” minerals are far from being loaves of bread, for they hold the key to making most of our digital economies and defences work. Australia has lots of graphite – there is one graphite reserve in South Australia of 200 million tonnes.

In addition to the deal with India, Australia has recently announced several deals in the US and there could be more to come.

No wonder the world is keeping an eye on Australia for “rare earth’ minerals, and no wonder India and Australia have firmed up their strategic partnership.

It is easy to see how Australia’s deals on “rare earth” minerals work in conjunction with strategic arrangements – therefore the deals are with the US, Japan, India and parts of Europe.

Everyone is now making a priority of having a diverse source of materials – not just China – and this whole new “minerals rush” is bringing India and Australia closer together.

Which 3 Indian states are the best for startup ecosystems?

The Results of the second edition of Ranking of States on Support to Start-up Ecosystems were released by Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways Shri Piyush Goyal this week.

The “top 3” might surprise you?

The States’ Start-up Ranking Framework 2019 has 7 broad reform areas, consisting of 30 action points ranging from Institutional Support, Easing Compliance, Relaxation in Public Procurement norms, Incubation support, Seed Funding Support, Venture Funding Support, and Awareness & Outreach.

The top 3 states – in order – Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala.

Why did Australia-India-Japan Economic Ministers’ reach an historic agreement on a Supply Chains Resilience Program?

September 1 saw an important move by Japan bear fruit with India and Australia – the three are fast tracking supply chain cooperation and have given their bureaucrats just a few months to work out the details.

While Japan led the deal, in recent times India has growing concerns about supply chain dependence on China combined with Chinese border stoushes, while Australia is being hit by Chinese trade restrictions.

All three countries are very “China trade dependent”. They also have a vested interest in a stable Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

The Joint Ministerial Conference was held by video and involved Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator the Honourable Simon Birmingham, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, His Excellency Piyush Goyal, and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, His Excellency Kajiyama Hiroshi.

What does Supply Chain Resilience mean?

In the context of international trade, supply chain resilience is an approach that helps a country to ensure that it has diversified its supply risk across a clutch of supplying nations instead of being dependent on just one or a few – in this case, dependent on China.

Why is Japan taking the lead?

While Japan exported $135 billion worth of goods to China in 2019, it also imported $169 billion worth from the world’s second-largest economy, accounting for 24% of its total imports, according to data from tradingeconomics.com. Electrical and electronic gear, and machinery, nuclear reactors and boilers were sectors that clocked up significant imports into Japan. So, if China stops production (as it did during Covid19) then economic activity in Japan is heavily impacted.

As part of the country’s economic stimulus package, the Japanese government recently earmarked $2.2 billion to incentivise its companies to move their manufacturing out of China – much of it likely to go back to Japan.

Why was Japan keen to have India in there?

Japan is the fourth-largest investor in India with cumulative foreign direct investments touching $33.5 billion in the 2000-2020 period accounting for 7.2% of inflows in that period, according to quasi government agency India Invest.

Imports from Japan into India more than doubled over 12 years to $12.8 billion in FY19. Exports from India to the world’s third-largest economy stood at $4.9 billion that year, data from the agency showed.

What motivated Australia?

Australia, Japan and India are already part of another informal grouping, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, which includes the U.S.

China has been Australia’s largest trading partner and that it counts for 32.6% of Australia’s exports, with iron ore, coal and gas dominating the products shipped to Asia’s largest economy. Education is the leading part of Australia’s services exports. But relations including trade ties between the two have been deteriorating for a while now – kind of a flow on from the US-China trade war.

What does India stand to gain, or lose?

While the US recently became India’s biggest trading partner, close behind is China – the two economies are close – maybe too close for India’s liking. China’s share of imports into India in 2018 (considering the top 20 items supplied by China) stood at 14.5%, according to an impact analysis by the Confederation of Indian Industry in February 2020. In areas such as Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients for medicines such as paracetamol, India is fully dependent on China. In electronics, China accounts for 45% of India’s imports, the analysis showed.

Chinese supplies dominate segments of the Indian economy. Sectors that have been impacted by supply chain issues arising out of the pandemic include pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, electronics, shipping, chemicals and textiles.

India trade policies and “self reliance” focus could be bad news for Australia

As China continues a trade war with Australia, news from India would be a concern to those who see India as an alternative market to China.

In his India Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched “Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” (Indian self-reliance). This would have set the alarm bells ringing in Austrade and the Government.

It sounds like protectionism, looks like protectionism and seems impossible to achieve without protectionism – but everyone in India is busy telling us it is not protectionism.

Even so, the speech by PM Modi gave a call for reducing imports and pushing exports of finished products in place of raw material, saying the country will have to move forward with the mantra of ‘Make in India’ as well as ‘Make for World’.

External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar later clarified, saying that Atma Nirbhar Bharat merges domestic production and consumption with global supply chains. He added that it’s not about being self-contained or being closed to the world rather being self-sustaining and self-generating.

China has imposed an 80 percent tariff on barley imports from Australia in retaliation for Canberra’s demand for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will cost Australian farmers AU$500 million annually. It has also hit imports of Australian wines.

Can Australia turn to India as an alternative? For wines, probably not – Australia is seen as a source of non-premium cheap wines in India so our premium sales to China would not appeal there – at least not without a lot of marketing.

Here’s what I think Atma Nirbhar Bharat means India will do:

  1. Reduce its over-dependence on other countries for trade by focusing on inward manufacturing.
  2. Promote Indian products, brands and services by becoming “VOCAL FOR LOCAL”; and
  3. Continue to trade with other countries but aim to eliminate trade imbalances and, where possible, adopt a mercantilist approach to international trade.

So, Australia and other potential trading partners with India will have to make up their own minds. For for now, Atma Nirbhar Bharat does not look like good news for them.

India and Australia are perfectly placed to become closer allies in the post-Covid19 world

The relationship between India should flourish in strategic and defence areas plus trade and investment.

Both Australia and India are significant powers in the Indian Ocean region.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is a major power.

The trade relationship

India was Australia’s eighth-largest trading partner and fifth-largest export market in 2018-19, driven by coal and international education. Two-way goods and services trade with India was $30.3 billion in 2018-19, and the level of two-way investment was $30.7 billion in 2018.

Strategic relations much closer now

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has worked hard on the India relationship and his personal connection with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

On 4 June 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, participated in the Australia-India Leaders’ Virtual Summit. At this meeting, the two Prime Ministers elevated the bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).

The CSP is based on mutual understanding, trust, common interests and the shared values of democracy and rule of law. Through the CSP, both countries have committed to work together across a range of areas.

The CSP also marks a step forward in the two countries’ ambitious agenda to expand our trade and economic relationship, as outlined in the India Economic Strategy (IES), which was released in July 2018 and endorsed by the Australian Government in November 2018.

India’s growing economy and young population need Australian goods and services

Over the next 20 years, a growing India will need many of Australia’s goods and services, including agriculture, education and skills training, and healthcare. There will of course be growth across most areas – but these are the standouts.

Since 2000, India’s GDP has grown seven-fold to reach USD3 trillion. India’s economy is forecast to become the third largest by 2030 (currently seventh) in market exchange rate terms. India already has the third largest economy in PPP terms and is set to maintain this ranking. The two-way stock of investment was valued at AUD30.7 billion in 2018. In 2018, Australia’s investment in India was valued at AUD15.6 billion and India’s investment in Australia was valued at AUD15.1 billion. India was Australia’s 18th largest investment destination.

The Aussie “India Economic Strategy”

Australia’s economic engagement with India is underpinned by the India Economic Strategy (IES), which was commissioned by the Australian Government in 2017 and led by Mr Peter Varghese, former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2012-2016) and High Commissioner to India (2009-2012). This document is the guide for future growth.

Education is huge but facing challenges

Education is Australia’s largest service export to India, valued at AUD5.5 billion and accounting for around 85 per cent of the total. Indian students in Australia number almost 110, 000 (year to date September 2019), which marks a 33 per cent increase over the previous year. These students made 132,079 enrolments in Australia, comprising 15 per cent of international enrolments. As an education export market, India is second only to China, with exports valued at AUD12.1 billion in 2018-19 and 246,454 enrolments in Australia. Adapting to post-Covid19 education market changes will be a challenge for Australian universities.

Austrade is showing and creating the way

The Australia-India Business Exchange (AIB-X) is a new, Austrade-led, Australia-India business marketing platform that will build on the success of Australian Business Week in India, last held in 2017. This multi-month campaign included a coordinated program of activities and events. Minister Birmingham led a business mission to India in late February as part of AIB-X, with sectoral events and workshops to be held in five cities.

This will provide an opportunity to deepen trade and investment ties, focusing on small and medium across the IES’ priority sectors. Further information can be found on the Austrade website.

Plus Austrade has set up The Australian Store at Amazon India – primed to take off over the next few years.

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People-to-people links

Australia and India are building strong and lasting ties through our people-to-people links.

The Indian diaspora (comprising both Australians of Indian origin and Indians resident in Australia) is now Australia’s fastest growing large diaspora. According to the most recent (2016) Census, the number of people born in India amounts to 592,000, representing 2.4 per cent of the Australian population, or 1 in 50 people. Around 700,000 people claim Indian ancestry.

India remains Australia’s largest source of skilled migrants and the second largest source of international students. Hinduism is our fastest growing religion and Punjabi is our fastest growing language.

The Australia India Council

The Australia-India Council is also advancing Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests with India. Each year it provides grants for programs linking the two countries. I was fortunate to support the Genesis Horticulture Services research mission to India in November – part funded by AIC.

(Thanks to DFAT for lots of the above information)

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India’s Reliance second to Apple in “FutureBrand Index”

Who said India could not produce strong brands?

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries has been ranked second biggest brand after Apple on the FutureBrand Index 2020.

“This year’s highest entrant at number two, Reliance Industries excels on every attribute,” FutureBrand said, releasing its 2020 Index.

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“One of the most profitable companies in India, Reliance is, very well respected and is seen as behaving ethically as well as being associated with growth, innovative products and great customer service. People have a strong emotional connection with the organisation,” it added.

FutureBrand, a global brand transformation company, said part of Reliance’s success could be attributed to Mukesh Ambani’s recasting of the firm as a one-stop-shop for Indians.

“The chairman built on the existing petrochemicals business, transforming it into a digital behemoth designed to meet every customer need. Today, this company is engaged in several sectors including energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, and telecommunications. Now that Google and Facebook are taking equity stakes in the firm, we may see Reliance jostling for the top spot in the next Index,” it said.

India attracting investment during the pandemic and USA is the largest trading partner for a second year

Since March, India has received over $20 billion of new investment from Western companies despite the pandemic.

Thanks to John Bell, Client Relations, Amritt, Inc, Malibu California for this information.

Here are  four examples of significant improvement in bilateral trade between the two countries (India and USA) during the pandemic:

Dozens of large and small organizations depend on Amritt as their trusted advisor to succeed in India, whether selling, sourcing or leveraging talent.

You can Email John Bell at johnb@amritt.com

 

Covid19 could lead us to a cleaner more innovative world – if we rethink what we do

About seven million people are killed by air pollution every year. The current model of modern society is unsustainable.

Two leading Professors say that looking through a COVID-19 lens provides us an amazing picture outside and shows some innovative pathways on living in harmony with nature, i.e. new-modern society.

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They are Professor Suresh Bhargava, RMIT University, Australia (pictured above) and Professor Seeram Ramakrishnan, National University of Singapore (below).

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Here are some points from their recent paper on the topic:

Contrary to devastating effects, the COVID19 had positive outcomes in terms of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of natural resources, and climate change.  Satellite imageries confirm the reduction of NOx, SOx and other pollutants in all cities of the world.

COVID19 provides an opportunity to rethink everything humans do. The current model of modern society is unsustainable. Reversing the clock and going back to pre-modern society built on fulfilling just the needs of humans is not realistic.

Pollution

Sustaining the modern society built on fulfilling the needs and wants of humans requires out of the box thinking. In the current climate of COVID, companies are struggling to survive on top of challenges in industry 4.0 or digitalization of products and services. How will they be able to think about sustainability while their worry is about resilience, and make the necessary adjustments to their business for the long term?

Sustainability has tended to be a secondary priority for many industries and especially SME businesses. Now faced with business survival and viability concerns, what is the status of existing sustainability initiatives in companies and across industries? How has the pandemic affected existing initiatives and longer-term targets, plans and ambitions on the sustainability front?  How can organisations get back on track with regard to their sustainability ambitions e.g. are there synergistic business-led propositions that can serve these aims? What countries can do in terms of sustainability, circular economy and Paris agreement to decarbonize while growing shrink economies and rising employment opportunities?

Using a COVID19 lens, there are opportunities for decarbonisation while not compromising the modern ways of living and economic growth.

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Countries and companies will shorten the supply chains and value chains.  Globalization will take newer form relying more on digital technologies and internet.  This will be facilitated by yet to emerge innovations in finance and commerce.

COVID19 has unexpected effect on food industry. Clean meat is touted as a solution to zoonotic diseases associated with current methods of producing meat from the animals.  Clean meat is made from plant based, cultivated cells.  Hence the carbon footprint is lower than animal sourced meat.

Critics will argue for slow and careful introduction of clean meat to the mass population.  Therein lies huge opportunities for innovations, technologies, new jobs and new pathways of economic growth while caring for the Earth.

Importance of safe water and its adequate supply is highlighted by the COVID19.  Sustainable future lies in the zero-waste water innovations and technologies.

The single use plastic wastes have been identified for their pollution of the marine ecology and subsequent negative effects on the food chain and human health.  Science, business, standards, and policy innovations are needed to replace the petrochemical derived plastics with degradable bioplastics derived from the renewable sources.  Designing products with end-of-life considerations and life cycle engineering opens up opportunities for economy growth and new jobs creation while improving the quality of environment.

The Energy sector is also affected by the COVID19.  Oil futures went into negative. It is an opportune time for the governments to eliminate the fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewable energy infrastructure as long-term nation building.

Perhaps, governments and companies should together accelerate the electrification of transportation.  New jobs and new economic growth to happen in vehicle design and manufacturing, digitization, as well as charging infrastructure.

COVID19 transformed shopping and brought almost the whole of humanity to on-line shopping.  The on-line shopping for groceries and food deliveries are on par with electronic goods and accessories.

Similarly, work has moved to telework, and the Education moved to on-line learning and assessment.

Digital services for virtual meetings, online learning, telemedical diagnostics, government services, ecommerce, grocery delivery, e-banking, and entertainment all experienced unprecedented growth in demand. The hyper scale data centres with their 24x7x365 resilient operation, are the heart of digital transformation.

Looking to the coming decade, the introduction of 5G will further accelerate the digital transformation era with its clear alignment with Industrial 4.0, in which real time data and automation will power more of the industrial world.

Clear messages emerged from the COVID19 pandemic include, the digital transformation is a necessity to keep society running; mental health is important for the general well-being and productivity of a person; and a healthy living environment is a basic human right.

The circular economy vision, decarbonisation and sustainability efforts mitigate climate change thus create opportunities for sustained economic growth and new jobs creation. 

Amazing research work by the two and continues the innovative and collaborative approaches of my friend Professor Suresh Bhargava – well done!

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Start your India journey with Chennai – and start your India outsourcing with Sundaram

Tamil Nadu has the second-largest economy in India and by area is the fourth largest state of India. The capital is Chennai and over 60% of the state is urbanised.

Chennai is one of my personal favourites – doing business there is good and there is plenty of tourism and activity to keep life interesting.

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One of the leading firms is the Sundaram Finance group, led by Managing Director TT Srinivasaraghavan. The firm has a code of ethics and behaviour which it calls “The Sundaram Way” – an inspiring document worth looking up.

Within the Sundaram group is an outsourcing and business consulting arm, Sundaram Business Services (SBS).

SBS is strong in Australia and provides services to many leading brands, including a major superannuation outsourcing practice.

SBS is led here by Harish Rao who pioneered Australia’s superannuation outsourcing to India (pictured below, Harish Rao has won several awards in Australia).

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As a southern India state, it is highly courteous, very friendly, conservative in approach to business and a good starting place to find a trusted business partner.

Tamil Nadu has a diversified manufacturing sector and features among the leaders in several industries like automobiles and auto components, engineering, pharmaceuticals, garments, textile products, leather products, chemicals, plastics, etc.

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It has a well-developed infrastructure with an excellent road and rail network, three major ports, 15 minor ports, and seven airports across the state providing excellent connectivity.

As of February 2020, the state had 54 formally approved Special Economic Zone (SEZs), 50 notified SEZs and four with in- principle approval SEZs and has total 40 exporting SEZs.

For most of you, Chennai and the state of Tamil Nadu make a good starting point on your India journey.

How India is different from China – insights from Asialink Business

Asialink Business has a wonderful Asian Market Update Series and a recent one focused on India.

One of the speakers was Mary Manning – Portfolio Manager at Ellerston Capital.

Dr Manning manages the Ellerston India Fund among other Asian investments.

She detailed why India is unique and not the next China. For example, the structures of the two economies are very different and beyond coal, exporting bulk commodities is not going to be the bedrock of Australia’s relationship with India.

India is also at a very different stage of economic development to China, with different consumer preferences, price points and distribution channels. These factors give rise to a completely different set of sectoral opportunities, that will most likely require capital investment on the ground – but one size does not fit all when it comes allocating capital in India.

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Dr Manning cited several examples of successful investment in India by multi-national corporations that cut across geographies, sectors, time frames and business models, such as majority stakes in listed companies, through to unlisted joint ventures and distribution agreements. These companies include household names in Unilever, Suzuki, Prudential, Macquarie, Facebook, Alibaba, McDonalds, Walmart, and QBE.

Dr Manning said the higher returns on equity that could be achieved in India were a major reason why Australian companies should be considering investment opportunities there.

She said there was currently an investor scramble for ‘new economy’ assets in India in key areas such as healthcare and infrastructure and while good buying opportunities could present over the next six to 12 months for equity investors – with the Indian economy weakened by COVID-19 – a long-term view was needed.

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