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.

Why do westerners sweat so much over plans and deals? It’s all about “culture”

Why do westerners fret so much over contracts and project plans? Why do they become angry and agitated if things have to change? And why do their relationships end when the other side has a different view of planning? Why do westerners and Asians struggle to understand each other?

The answer can be found in one word – culture.

In writing about cultural differences, I do not mean to give offence, criticise, imply one is better or create division – my aim is understanding.

For Asia and the west, culture can be “make or break” in business, yet most of us are not even aware that the way we think is largely determined by our culture. This lack of awareness is poor preparation for global business and trade, where knowing culture is king.

With Asia, culture becomes complicated for westerners and many give up on it.

With India, cultural understanding becomes even more complicated, because it is a land of many cultures, different ways of seeing the world and is rich in diversity. For me, this is one of the great attractions of India. It is also why I go to Asia a lot. But for others it can become a deal breaker.

So, how can we bring an understanding of cultural differences to our business and trade negotiations between westerners and Asia? How can we find acceptance and understanding even when there is difference?

That answer can be found in two words – understanding culture.

Why contracts and project plans end in disputes

Most westerners place a high importance on rules, laws, regulations and contracts. They are almost “set in stone” and apply without exception. Most importantly, rules come before relationships – even if it is a family member. Variations to agreement cause confusion and even anger.

In Asia and especially in India, there are all the rules and contracts and so on, but the common view is that each circumstance and each relationship is different, so the rule may or may not apply. It becomes a moment by moment thing. Variations to agreements are taken for granted and fully expected to happen.

How does this work in business? For many westerners, any change to a contract becomes a time to consult the lawyers and can be a relationship ending event. For Asians, change is expected and accepted.

Why western individualism hits the collective wall

Even children are encouraged to make their own decisions in the west – including on courses, careers and most definitely on choice of partner. Under individualism, you make your choices and must take care of yourself – and in some countries this is harshly applied, in others there is a more compassionate welfare safety net.

Most Asian families make decisions for their children, including courses, careers and partners. The view is that the group – the family and so on – is more important than the individual. In return, the group looks after any member at time of need.

How does this work in business? An American is ready to sign the deal now – but the Asian partner wants time to talk to colleagues and ensure a group decision. Pressure versus group consultation.

Why westerners misunderstand indirect communication

In the west people can work together without having a good relationship and direct communication is highly valued. In fact, any indirect communication – going around the bush – creates mistrust in the other or is simply missed by the westerner. They just want the facts – a simple “yes” or “no” will do.

In Asia there is an overlap between work and personal life and they choose indirect communication because their major concern is to keep the relationship. Being direct such as saying “no” is difficult.

How does this work in business? People in the west keep work and personal lives separate so are less likely to socialise with Asian colleagues – or any colleagues – after work.

Why some hide face, while others save it

Most westerners make a big effort to hide emotions – this varies of course. They see “reason” as more important than “feelings”, so they often keep thoughts to themselves.

In Asia, spontaneous emotional responses can break out and this often surprises westerners. Saving face can become the most important thing.

How does this work in business? An Asian colleague will give or expect some emotional outbursts but is also looking for the following harmony.

Why becoming someone clashes with born something

Westerners value people by what they do or what they have achieved. Performance is king, no matter who you are.

Asian culture generally values people for who they are, so power, title and respect matter greatly, but of course the person should behave according to this status.

How does this work in business? Westerners will often “high five” with everyone including junior colleagues and everyone gets in to share the celebration, while in Asia the leader might receive most of the credit.

Why order dominates the western mind

“Order’ is highly prized in the west. That means doing things on schedule, being punctual, sticking to your plans and a “time is money” view of most things. They react badly to any disturbance to the smooth schedule.

“Time” is viewed differently across Asia, with the past, present and future seen as interwoven and so plans and commitments are more flexible.

How does this work in business? This different view of schedules and time causes relationship breakdowns and can see the end of the deal.

Why westerners feel in control of everything, including climate change

“Control” is big in the west – to the extent they see people as controlling nature or the environment, down to how they work with teams and with the organisation. Conflict is fine so long as the job gets done.

Asian cultures see nature and the environment more as controlling them – events, circumstances are in control more than the team. Conflict is avoided even at the expense of timely delivery.

How does this work in business? Westerners will need to give more reassurance and feedback to their Asian teams and setting clear objectives becomes paramount for both sides.

Adapting

These cultural differences can have big impacts, but with learning and adaptability, both sides can find they quickly work well, understand more and feel better about how things are going. Cultural understanding provides quick and positive results. Cultural ignorance can be the deal breaker.

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.

How does Indian democracy work?

Pictured above is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

I am often asked about India’s democracy – most people know of India as “the world’s biggest democracy” but few know the structure of it. Here is a short summary:

Indian government

The Republic of India is a federal democracy comprising 28 states and nine union territories. The Head of State is the President and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister – currently PM Narendra Modi.

Indian Parliament

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The Indian Parliament is bicameral, comprising the 545-member Lok Sabha (‘people’s’ or lower house) and the 245-member Rajya Sabha (‘states’ or upper house). Lok Sabha members are elected by universal adult suffrage every five years (except for two appointed Anglo-Indian members) using the ‘first past the post’ voting system. The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution; one third of its members retire every second year. One third of Rajya Sabha members are elected every two years by the legislative assemblies of the Indian states.

BJP is the current Government

The 2019 Indian national election for the Lok Sabha saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win a second consecutive term with 303 out of 543 seats.

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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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Britain’s invasion of India, the power of the Muslim rulers and Ayodhya

Indian PM Modi’s emotion in Ayodhya, “British” rule and the power of the Mughals – how can we understand what is happening today?

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To understand modern India and even PM Modi, I feel we need to turn to Swami Vivekananda – who said:

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We talk about the British conquering India and this defines today, but as William Dalrymple writes in The Anarchy, the seizing of power in India was done by a private company – probably the first outsourced act of violence in history.

That company was the East India Company and as Dalrymple writes: “The Company’s conquest of India almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history.” Worth reading that line again!

It is hard to know and even relate to how my Indian friends feel about the two major invasions of their country in recent centuries – first, the Mughal empire and then this East India Company.

Which brings me to Ayodhya.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprinkled sacred water and flowers into a small hole on Wednesday, part of a ritual marking the start of construction of a grand Hindu temple in the city of Ayodhya.

With emotion Modi said: “Today centuries of waiting are over.” For many of my Indian friends, this was a shared emotion.

Western media persists with the line that all this is “Hindu nationalism”. I am not so sure.

It will be up to Indians – and not to people like me or the media – to define what is happening under PM Modi and what the national motivation is. Most change is painful at first but in lifting people out of poverty and restoring confidence, he has brought great optimism to India.

Now India faces another struggle – Covid 19 – which makes arguments about history seem like something of an indulgence.

From our hearts to yours, we wish India success in this life and death battle against the virus.

With Covid19 we are seeing the vast and deep truth of that classic Indian saying Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – meaning “the world is one family”.

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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.

7 ways to succeed in wonderful India

This short list can be your guide to success in wonderful India:

  1. Bring a culturally aware and adaptable mind to India – you will need both. By “culturally aware” I mean more than how to greet and exchange cards. Cultural awareness is understanding how the other thinks and requires some study and effort.
  2. Develop some flexible plans for India – they will need to change!
  3. Commit to India for the long term. One or two years is not enough. I have been going to India since around 2005 and still learning new things and making new connections – to find a way through the maze that is India.
  4. Make social media a part of your program to build your brand and product awareness in India – the shift to social media/digital marketing there is huge.IndiaDigitalEco
  5. Adapt planning and approaches for the need of your business and sector. You might need a quick market study – or you might need studies over several years. Each is different.
  6. Learn as much as you can about your potential market – connect with your potential customers and see how they operate and what is happening in their sector.
  7. Let the market build a relationship with you and learn about your business. Again, like all the other points, this takes time.

CONCLUSION

It is going to take time to succeed in India. But for one of the biggest most dynamic markets with the youngest population on the planet, investing your time will pay off.

Why get closer to India? About 600 million people, more than half India’s population, are under 25 years old; no country has more young people. Remember the economic impact of the western “baby boom”? It is time the west moved closer to India in trade, culture and tourism. What do you think? As the great Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore said: “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

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