New “Business Champions” group to provide much needed top level links between India and Australia

Indian Commerce Minister Mr Piyush Goyal

A new “Business Champions” group will lead top level business engagement between India and Australia – and it was launched last week in India.

INTO INDIA welcomes this move to bring the “top end” of both countries together. Business engagement at this level has not worked well in the past. Most of the business councils and chambers have provided lower level SME engagement – important as this is.

“Supply chains” is behind the enthusiasm of India for the new Australia-India Business Champions Group’s role. Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Textiles, Government of India said this when addressing the Inaugural Meeting of the Australia India Business Champions.

The Minister is co-chairing the group with Australian Trade Minister, the Hon Dan Tehan.

“The Australia-India Business Champions Group’s key aim is to liberalise and deepen bilateral trade between both the nations and pave the way for collaborative economic growth.” stated Mr. Dan Tehan MP, Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment, Government of Australia.

Major business organisations leading the group are the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA). Both represent almost all the major business corporations in both countries.

Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII, pointed to areas such as mining, education, defence, space and emerging sectors which the group can take forward.

Ms. Jennifer Westacott AO, CEO, BCA, highlighted that we must strengthen and reform regional and global institutions, so they deliver for our citizens.  She said the Business Champions would engage directly with the top tier of Australian and Indian Governments on matters critical to business. 

Other panelists at the meeting included H E Mr. Manpreet Vohra, High Commissioner of India to Australia, H E Mr. Barry O’ Farrell AO, High Commissioner of Australia to India, Dr. Anish Shah, MD & CEO, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, Ms. Julie Shuttleworth, CEO, FFI, Mr. Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Vice Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, Mr. Mike Cannon-Brookes, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Atlassian, Mr. Nitish Jain, President, SP Jain School of Global Management, Ms. Verena Lim, Asia CEO, Macquarie Group, Mr. Girish Ramachandran, President, Tata Consultancy Services Asia Pacific, Professor Duncan Maskell, Vice Chancellor, University of Melbourne.

Australia: home to 48 of the world’s top 50 most innovative companies

Bosch and Monash University team up on “smart agriculture”

When you think Australia you might call to mind minerals, vast fields of agriculture or cricket.

But there is another reality about Australia – it’s a smart place.

International companies are leveraging Australia’s talent, government support and research to boost productivity, competitiveness and growth – according to data from Austrade and Boston Consulting Group.

Forty-eight out of Boston Consulting Group’s top 50 most innovative companies operate in Australia. These companies have partnered with Australian organisations to research additive manufacturing, renewable hydrogen technology and cloud supercomputing, among other areas.

Advanced manufacturing: General Electric

GE subsidiary GE Additive and the University of Sydney are establishing a high-tech manufacturing hub. The Sydney Manufacturing Hub will advance Australia’s capability in metal additive manufacturing technology.

Agricultural technology: Bosch

Bosch Australia and Monash University are co-developing Australia’s first smart agriculture research facility. The facility will contain a prototypical ‘smart farm’ to test: artificial intelligence; automation; robotic and advanced sensor technology solutions

Energy: Hyundai

Hyundai, Fortescue and CSIRO are working together to develop renewable hydrogen technology. The group seeks to:

  • develop new hydrogen technologies with the potential for bulk transport
  • build a renewable hydrogen refuelling facility, to deploy hydrogen fuel cell coaches
  • build the first combined hydrogen production and refuelling facility in Western Australia. 

Healthcare: Johnson & Johnson

The Johnson & Johnson Innovation Partnering Office @ Monash is a hub for researchers and early-stage companies. The facility allows them to develop novel pharmaceutical, medical devices, and consumer healthcare solutions.

Technology: Amazon Web Services and Intel

Amazon Web Services, Intel and AARNET established Australia’s first cloud supercomputing facility. Based at RMIT University, the facility focuses on advanced data processing and computing.

So, from the land of minerals, farming and cricket – there is also an advanced technology reason to team up with the Aussies.

Australian critical minerals, infrastructure, energy, technology, agribusiness, education and space – step up to the table for FTA talks with India

The Australian Trade Minister, The Hon Dan Tehan MP, last week pointed to Indian FTA priority areas such as critical minerals, infrastructure, energy, technology, agribusiness, education and space.

He announced a speeding up of talks with India last week and chose the launch of the Canberra chapter of the Australia India Chamber of Commerce to also announce an update of the India Economic Strategy.

This is a great time for business to step forward. You can have a say. You can be at the FTA discussion table.

The Minister said he had asked former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to visit India for meetings around the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (which is an FTA).

He announced to the AICC that both countries were hopeful of concluding negotiations this year – a dramatic ramping up of the pace.

The AICC has the Hon. Ted Baillieu AO as its Founding Patron.

India speeding up solar power across Africa

Indian PM Narendra Modi meets with African leaders during the International Solar Alliance meeting – an initiative created by India.

India is taking a leading role in supporting the spread of solar power across Africa – where nearly 600 million Africans still do not have access to modern sources of electricity.

India created and leads the International Solar Alliance, which has 86 member countries including Australia – and is now attracting strong participation from Africa.

With drastically falling technology costs, renewable energy has become a cost-effective option of generating clean power all over the world.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was conceived as a coalition of solar-resource-rich countries (which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn) to address their special energy needs.

The ISA will provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar-resource-rich countries, through which the global community, including governments, bilateral and multilateral organizations, corporates, industry, and other stakeholders, can contribute to help achieve the common goal of increasing the use and quality of solar energy in meeting energy needs of prospective ISA member countries in a safe, convenient, affordable, equitable and sustainable manner.

ISA has been conceived as be an action-oriented, member-driven, collaborative platform for increased deployment of solar energy technologies to enhance energy security and sustainable development, and to improve access to energy in developing member countries. The ISA has 122 sun-belt countries that lie between the two tropics as its prospective member countries and currently boasts a membership of 86 countries globally.

India great agritech market but an insider advises “find local partners”

Agritech booming in India but be careful about market entry

A recent story in EVOKE, an agritech site, really caught my eye with a piece of sound advice.

It was so good to read the Managing Partner of Omnivore, Mark Kahn, with his greatest piece of advice to those not already there: do not to move to India immediately. Omnivore is the largest and oldest player in the Indian agritech venture scene

“I’ve never seen a foreign startup succeed in India that was selling directly. Sometimes we have very well-meaning people that relocate their lives here and think they’re going to be able to build an organisation from the ground up and the reality is it’s just very difficult.

“The best thing you could do is get some Indian members on your team, co-create solutions that bridge the gap between whatever you’ve developed earlier and whatever our local farmers actually need and find local partners.

“You should be manufacturing in Australia or maybe India, but you don’t want to build a distribution system yourself and even if you try, you’re not very likely to succeed.”

He pointed to agritech related to water and drought resistance as two high priority opportunity areas.

The agritech opportunities are huge, but INTO INDIA has been advising for a long time that you need partners and a collaborative mindset to really succeed in India.

Adani takes giant steps towards becoming the world’s leading renewables company

Adani Group taking giant steps towards becoming the world’s largest solar power player by 2025.

Adani is taking a massive lead in India into green energy renewables.

But in Australia it is still seen as “the Indian coal company” because of its activities in Queensland – in this market the Adani reputation has taken a hit as a result.

The reality is Adani is a leader in green energy and just got a lot bigger!

Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), this week signed share purchase agreements for the acquisition of 100% interest in SB Energy India from SBG (80%) and Bharti Group (20%). 

SB Energy India has a total renewable portfolio of 4,954 MW spread across four states in India.

Adani is super serious about renewables – the transaction marks the largest acquisition in the renewable energy sector in India. The transaction values SB Energy India at an enterprise valuation of approximately USD 3.5 billion.

The target portfolio consists large scale utility assets with 84% solar capacity (4,180 MW), 9% wind-solar hybrid capacity (450 MW) and 7% wind capacity (324 MW).

With this acquisition, AGEL will achieve total renewable capacity of 24.3 GW (1) and operating renewable capacity of 4.9 GW.

You’ve got to hand it to Gautam Adani who has the vision to be the leader in sustainable energy transition globally and makes it one of the largest renewable energy platforms in the world.

Mr Adani created a vision in January 2020, wherein he laid out our plans to become the world’s largest solar player by 2025 and thereafter the world’s largest renewable company by 2030.

India releases its first ever “Australia Economic Strategy” as the two countries move closer

The launch by India on 18 December of its Australia Economic Strategy (AES) – the first of its kind for India – could be an exciting step along the way to increased trade. As KPMG has expressed it: “It demonstrates India’s intent to fast-track the relationship with Australia in a post-pandemic world.” Exciting.

My view is that as Australia and India move closer together, opportunities will emerge for the two to create and lead an “Indian Ocean Countries Group” – a pathway to peace and prosperity in our region.

India and Australia could lead a prosperous and peaceful Indian Ocean Region

The AES is India’s response to Australia’s An India Economic Strategy to 2035 (IES), launched two years ago.

The AES adds to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) announced by Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi in June 2020 – and both are real evidence that India and Australia are moving closer together.

Three pillars of India’s strategy

The AES is based on three pillars: resources; technology & services; and research & innovations.

Five key sectors

According to KPMG there are five key sectors:

The first is Indian investment in Australia’s mining and resources sector, especially lithium, cobalt and nickel, important for a rapidly growing e-vehicle market.

Second is Indian investment in renewable energy both in the establishment & operation of solar farms as well as the supply of EPC services with Sterling Wilson Solar Limited being a case in point.

Third is health and pharmaceuticals. Collaboration in clinical trials, cancer research, medical & health-tech and training, knowledge transfer and sharing of Australian best practices in hospital administration and patient care.

Fourth is investment in Australia’s agribusiness sector including farmlands and Australian food processing capabilities. There is also significant potential for knowledge sharing and collaboration in best practices for dairy processing.

The fifth is software & information technology. India’s tech giants already have sizeable operations in Australia with further organic and inorganic growth on the cards and an opportunity to extend their business portfolio into government accounts. Further, as Australia looks to build up internal capability and capacity, there is opportunity for the tech giants to set-up centres of excellence or innovation hubs in strategically important areas such as cyber security, cloud and digital, for Australia and the wider ASPAC region.

Make in India program

The new AES, and IES and the wider strategic partnership, all serve to complement India’s flagship Make in India program, which makes India a credible alternative for lower cost manufacturing for Australian companies as they look to diversify business and supply chain risk in a post pandemic world.

Conclusion

Close relations have historically been built on a combination of defence/strategic alliances, mutual investment and trade.

For Australia and India, the future is looking bright in all three areas.

Blinken as new US Secretary of State to push India UN role and closer ties

Antony Blinken, US President-elect Joe Biden’s closest foreign policy adviser, has been nominated for Secretary of State.

What will be the Biden-Blinken approach to India?

India a “High priority relationship”

On July 9, Blinken spoke at the Hudson Institute, Washington DC. “Strengthening and deepening the relationship with India is going to be a very high priority.”

Biden role

“During the Bush administration, then Senator Biden partnered with that administration to help get the peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement, the 123 agreement through the United States Senate, usually important to solidifying our relationship,” Blinken said.

Defence Cooperation

Blinken talked about the Biden administration making India a “major defence partner”. This is a major new statement on defence.

Paris Climate Change Pact

“Having sort of set that foundation and made the relationship stronger, guess what? We then worked hard to persuade India that it would be more prosperous and more secure if it’s signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement. We succeeded… It was a challenging effort but Vice President Biden was one of the leaders of the effort to convince our partners in India and they did. I think that’s a reflection, again, of the fact that we cannot solve common global challenges without India as part of the deal,” Blinken said. 

Kashmir & CAA

Blinken flagged concerns on the human rights situation in Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

India leading role in UN

On August 15, Blinken again participated in a panel discussion on Indo-US ties and flagged the issue of UN reforms. “In a Biden administration, we would be an advocate for India to play a leading role in international institutions and that includes helping India get a seat on a United Nations Security Council,” he said.

China challenge

“We have a common challenge which has to deal with an increasingly assertive China across the board, including its aggression toward India…I think you’d see Joe Biden as president investing in ourselves, renewing our democracy, working with our close partners like India, asserting our values and engaging China from a position of strength. India has to be a key partner in that effort,” he said.

Cross-border terrorism

Blinken also addressed New Delhi’s concern of cross-border terrorism, without naming Pakistan. “We would work together to strengthen India’s defence and also I might add its capabilities as a counterterrorism partner.”

Biden’s vision 2020

Blinken quoted Biden from 2006 — just before he was going to take charge as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007-2009 — “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.”

Is your city like Melbourne – optimistic for a “better normal” post Covid19?

Australians’ practical response to a problem –“She’ll be right mate” – remains true of Melburnians, despite months of COVID lockdowns. This was a key finding of an international “Better Normal” survey conducted this month by the Melbourne-based global thinktank, the Centre for Optimism.

The “Better Normal” Survey asked 3000 people from 37 countries whether they made positive changes to their lives during lock-down and what were their expectations for the future.  Two-thirds of respondents and two-thirds of Melburnians said: Yes! They want a better normal, not a return to old ways of working.

With most businesses still awaiting a full return to work, the Centre found considerable change in people’s attitudes to work, with the majority seeking more co-operation and productivity, a greater balance between work, life and home and a greater focus on wellbeing.

“The results show the need for all businesses and agencies to ask their workforce, customers and other stakeholders about the improvements they have made and what they expect,” said Victor Perton, Founder of the Centre for Optimism. “It is a change that management needs to be aware of and to address because the expectations are now considerably different to a year ago.

“We have a people – young and old – changed and strengthened by the pandemic and the lockdown state of disaster!  Government and business would be crazy not to understand it better and respond.”

The Centre’s Chairman, Robert Masters said the change highlights that organisations need to be prepared for the unexpected.

“The pandemic has been a global societal shock,” he said. “Through the collective conversations in the survey, the greatest damage to an organisation lies in unsuccessful management of the new expectations of stakeholders. This can be achieved only by complete and accurate data and insights.”

Check out the Centre for Optimism – highly recommended:

https://www.centreforoptimism.com/

India’s Adfactors PR chief sets out a post Covid-19 reputation strategy

Madan Bahal, Managing Director, Adfactors PR, (pictured above) has said that both startups and mature companies have to navigate the post-COVID-19 world through effective communication and reputation management.

I would agree, and add that when you join climate change, Industry 4.0 and the generation gap into this equation you have uncharted territory that demands immediate action to protect and enhance reputations.

His view: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where customers may not blindly trust a new product, service, or business. As a result, reputation management and effective communication strategies for businesses have become increasingly important.”

So, how do you start?

Madan Bahal advises that with new market realities emerging in the post-pandemic world, a strong line of communication between a business and its customers can instil positivity and reliability around the brand.

“The post-pandemic business environment will be one represented by growing geopolitical complexity, a more polarised society, and the chance for backlash if the popular sentiment is hurt.”

His advice works for startups and mature companies alike, saying they have to navigate these challenges through effective communication and reputation management.

Despite the rising popularity of public relations (PR) services for business communications and crisis management, some fledgeling companies are still reluctant to give PR a serious thought.

According to Madan, there is often temperamental incompatibility between young startup founders and PR firms due to a mismatch in expectations. However, founders eventually realise the importance of public communication for attracting talent, announcing fundraises, and dealing with crises, he added.

Madan has been an entrepreneur since 1981, co-founded Adfactors PR in 1997. Adfactors PR is India’s largest PR firm, serving over 300 retained clients across 40 cities in the country.

Madan compares startups to fragile organisms vulnerable to risks in a complex environment.

“For these startups, public relations and reputation management add a ring of protection, trust, and credibility. This gives them a competitive advantage across the board,” he said.

Madan highlighted the positive and negative perceptions the media held about the young startup founders. “Startups were perceived to be transformational and big contributors to economic growth, however, they suffered from insensitive hire-and-fire policies or toxic work culture,” he said.

Now, getting down to what you do when facing all these challenges – here is his list of seven actions which can protect and build reputations:

  1. startups should view every action from the lens of public interest
  2. invest time in maintaining healthy media relations
  3. establish listening posts to guide and alert potential reputation risks
  4. place CXOs, CFOs, or CHROs as reputation leads
  5. build crisis protocols to enable rapid responses
  6. make the purpose of sustainability, diversity, and inclusion the guiding principles for actions and communications
  7. realise a sincere apology goes a long way in reputation management

It is hard to imagine any organisation which would not greatly benefit from his advice.

(Thanks to YourStory India and “TechSparks 2020” for much of the above content)