For Indian friends – what makes Australians so different?

My Indian friends and colleagues often talk about our Aussie cricketers – skills so good but sledging so bad, very blunt yet charming as well. Some go on to talk about how casual we Aussies are, even when meeting the elite.

I think we Australians remain something of a mystery to most Indians.

So, here is my take on what is in our hearts (or what are our values) – yes, we have time to reflect in this era of Covid-19.

I like to outline four characteristics of Australians:

  1. Give everyone a “fair go”
  2. All should be treated equally, and have equal opportunity
  3. Be casual and friendly and say “G’day mate” to complete strangers
  4. Be confident that “we’ll be right” – we have always found a way to bounce back

These four – the casual friendliness, the fair go, egalitarianism and resilience – have defined what it is to become Australians, and in these concepts is the heart of what has attracted so many to our shores.

Of course, we do not always stick by these values.

Look how the arrival of a few desperate families in leaking boats led many to abandon the fair go, as if it never existed.

In the face of wars, bushfires, floods, droughts, financial depressions and more, we have unpacked our casual bravado (she’ll be right mate) and found a way through.

You might not know Australia was founded by the British to house their convicts. Not a great start – but out of this has come a free and open society with sophisticated cities, world leading agribusinesses and services the envy of many.

Out of the humble beginning of convicts came a society that strives to be all inclusive – whether you are thousands of miles from anyone, you should still have a phone, an education and so on.

As the convicts would have understood, freedom is more than the right to vote. These values have made Australia a genuinely free society – for they underpin that greatest of freedoms, to be whoever you are and whoever you want to be.

Now, if only we could bring ourselves to truly understand the minds of Indians.

Will Australia’s vision swing to the Indian Ocean rim after Covid-19?

Australia is torn between two worlds – it has an unchanging alliance with the USA, but it is placed in the middle of a massively changing region, the Indian Ocean. The two can make life uncomfortable.

We are all expecting life to be somehow different after Covid-19. Perhaps one of the differences will be Australia looking more to the west – to the Indian Ocean.

If so, there will be a lot of diplomatic wriggling to be done, with China and the USA looking on.

Why does the Indian Ocean matter so much?

One third of the world’s population (2.5 billion) live around the Indian ocean rim. Their average age is below 30, making it the youngest region on earth.

This ocean is critical to global trade and food and energy security.

There are a dizzying array of global strategic and regional military and security interests.

It is at the crossroads of how the world works. Global trade and economic growth flow in and through it.

But it is also a region where instability and conflict can quickly arise – badly drawn borders create disputes, internal conflicts are rife and competing national interests make for a volatile region.

Why is the Indian Ocean so important for Australia?

First, it’s our neighbourhood.

Second, we are starting from way behind for we have long ignored this region and only recently have been building solid bridges.

Third, one-third of Australia’s coastline borders the Indian Ocean.

Fourth, our future depends on security of lines of trade and the development of both on-shore and off-shore assets – these hold the key to our economy and development.

Fifth, when you look at this Wikipedia map of the “western world” you might wonder why we have not looked to the Indian Ocean before.

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Best of both worlds?

Looking west to the Indian Ocean does not mean we have to ignore our powerful friends – China to the north and USA to the east.

Changing our view while keeping our old friends will take diplomatic skill.

And probably it also takes time.

 

India’s pharmaceutical industry shows how we are all connected today

India plans to set up a US$ 1.3 billion fund to boost the manufacture of pharmaceutical ingredients domestically.

How so, since India is already a big pharma player? For example, India supplies about 20% of the world’s generic drugs and is the world’s largest exporter.

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Well, in pharma as in everything else in life, all things are connected.

You see, India’s supply chain was disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic – exposing the country’s dependence on China.

Here’s where “we are all connected” comes in – India is indeed a global leader in pharma but it imports almost 70 per cent of its active pharmaceutical ingredients, the chemicals that make a finished drug work, from China.

Which part of China provides the ingredients? Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak has been major source of these ingredients.

The new program consists of spending on infrastructure for drug manufacturing centers and financial incentives of up to 20 per cent of incremental sales value over the next eight years, according to a government statement.

 

India’s airlines are really hurting during this Coronavirus pandemic

SpiceJet’s chairman Ajay Singh is spending a lot of time in Delhi in front of civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola.

The coronavirus has rattled India’s airlines, a big change from their New Year optimism. Many of them do not have deep pockets so are vulnerable.

In January, the industry was happy with fare discipline, controlled capacity addition, the absence of rival Jet Airways, and a slow but gradual demand recovery.

On Wednesday, IndiGo told the stock market that its earnings would be materially impacted because of the disruption, and domestic bookings had fallen 15%-20%.

The airlines’ anxiety comes from their weak balance sheets.

Those in the know say Singh is lobbying with the government to bring jet fuel under GST – such a reform could bring a windfall in reduced taxation of jet fuel.

Perhaps also on the cards is flexibility in payments to oil companies.

IndiGo has a fleet of 255 planes and money in the bank. The Tata Group backs Vistara and AirAsia India, while the Wadia Group owns Britannia and Bombay Dyeing, runs GoAir.

Government help or not, Indian airline execs are preparing for the worst – and some without money in the bank or big owners. Changes ahead?

These India numbers will boggle your mind but the future is more exciting

Here are some India and Australia numbers to contemplate:

(Thanks to Bill Cole, Partner International, BDO, pictured below, for some of this data)

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AUSTRALIA

  • Population: 24.6 million
  • GDP: USD 1.3 trillion
  • Top 5 Imports: Personal travel services, motor vehicles, refined petroleum and ships
  • Top 5 Exports: Iron ore, Coal, Education travel services, natural gas and personal travel services

INDIA

  • Population: 1.339 billion
  • GDP: USD 2.5 trillion
  • Top 5 Imports: Petroleum products, gems, electronics, chemicals and machinery
  • Top 5 Exports: Textiles, Gems, Chemicals, Products and Agricultural products

Top Trading Partners

Australia’s top 3 trading partners are China, Japan and the USA.

India comes in at number 7.

India’s top trading partners are China, USA and UAE, with Australia coming in at number 20.

So, what about the future?

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Australia’s India Economic Strategy to 2035 Report:

  • Recommends that by 2035 Australia lift India into our top three export markets, make India the third largest destination in Asia for Australian outward investment and bring India into the inner circle of Australia’s strategic partnerships
  • Identifies 10 sectors where strengths of Australian businesses match India’s needs:
    • Education (flagship)
    • Agribusiness, resources and tourism (lead)
    • Energy, health, infrastructure, financial services, sport, science and innovation (promising)

It is sure a “big picture” report – but with the right approach it can be achieved.

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Seems PM Modi and PM Morrison are getting on well – so time for business, investment and education to pick up the baton and run with India. Ready?

“Namaste Trump” good diplomacy for India but differences with USA remain

Can India make the most out of US President Donald Trump’s visit?

“Namaste Trump” this week been a great visit for India and looks to have been celebrated across the nation. Two leaders of great democracies.

But differences still exist, and the question is can India and PM Modi build on President Trump’s historic visit which took place this week?

PM Modi will drive the relationship, but he is not alone.

One man in South Block — Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India’s foreign secretary – will make a big contribution to the outcome.

India’s foreign secretary is seen as a calm and composed officer, and he has handled bilateral ties even during turbulent times as the Indian ambassador to the US.

It was he who dreamed up and led the “Howdy, Modi!” event in Houston.

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Now he has a lot of the responsibility of making “Namaste Trump” a success.

What will be the big issues? Top of the list is a free-trade agreement and disagreements on intellectual property rights. Plus how both countries feel about and react to China.

But clearly Namaste Trump is a big win for India and PM Modi and a mark of the increasing respect India has on the global stage.

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Indian PM Modi and US President Trump – two men who enjoy centre stage and get on well

Trump to open Indian cricket stadium bigger than the MCG – not “fake news” – it will happen next week

Trump and Modi are good at surprises.

How about this? US President Trump will make his first visit to India next week and will open a new cricket stadium set to “dislodge the Melbourne Cricket Ground” as the world’s biggest cricket stadium. The Motera Stadium in Gujarat can take 110,000 spectators.

Interesting combination – look forward to seeing the Indians explaining the game of cricket to President Trump.

But sometimes these two are also predictable.

Australia knows very well the difficulty of getting a free trade deal with India – and so do the Americans (although their “America first” attitude makes negotiation difficult).

Nisha Biswal, president of the U.S.-India Business Council, said hopes were fading for the two sides to quickly bridge gaps in their efforts to restore some U.S. trade preferences for India and improve access for selected U.S. agriculture products and medical devices to India’s 1.3 billion consumers.

Still, PM Modi is good at using charm and relationship as a part of diplomacy so you can expect him to pull out all the stops for the visit of President Trump.