Business / Industry Sectors
"Our main focus is on building a long-term partnership based on knowledge and innovation"
09/02/2014
Ms. Vani Rao, Deputy Chief of Mission and Head of the Commercial Wing at the Embassy of India in Israel, relates the various activities undertaken by the Embassy to improve trade relations between the two countries. “Because of the small Israeli market, there isn’t much of a traditional trade relationship – of buying and selling – but we are seeing the development of cooperation based on innovation and technology”, she states

In another half a year, Ms Vani Rao will complete her tenure as Deputy Chief of Mission and Head of the Commercial Wing at the Embassy of India in Israel. In the two and a half years in which she served in Israel she has succeeded in establishing wide-ranging and excellent relations with many of the Israeli players that work with India.

“Sometimes I feel I have been here for just half a year, and sometimes five years”, she says in jest. “I enjoy working in Israel. It is a small country, quite easy to be familiar with and there is a relatively small group of people who work with India. Of course, they work in a variety of sectors, but it was easy to get to know many of them. It’s like a small network! I feel that we know each other very well, and that is why I have the feeling that I have been here long".

How do you find Israel?

"Israel is a very interesting country – there is so much to learn from Israel’s experience. It is very different from India because it is a very small country - but it has succeeded in achieving so much, despite limited resources. I am very impressed by Israel’s achievements in the areas of agriculture and water, and also, of course, in high-tech, IT, defence and homeland security. There is excellent cutting-edge technology to be found in Israel".

What actually are you doing at the Embassy to strengthen relations between our two countries?  

"As an Embassy, we are trying to establish good relations with Israel and with Israeli industry. We give briefings and presentations about the Indian economy and market as well as sector-wise information through seminars and round-table conferences. We send to the Israeli corporate sector monthly newsletters about the Indian market; we send a newsletter to Indian industry also, to increase awareness about the business opportunities in Israel. Business delegations from India come here, and we work with the different Chambers of Commerce in order to set up their programs, B2B meetings and field visits. We advise incoming Indian delegations about the Israeli market, introduce them to potential partners. Ministers from India also visit Israel, and we organize their programme in cooperation with the Israeli government and industry chambers.

"Another thing I have tried to do, is to actively assist companies on both sides in reaching joint ventures, match-making etc… We actually introduce companies to each other or suggest some potential partners that could be suitable for business cooperation. Sometimes this works and we are delighted that we are able to make such introductions. A good example is the match-making that Embassy facilitated between Mekorot Development & Enterprise Limited of Israel and the visiting official delegation from Rajasthan State – which is aimed at enabling water treatment in Rajasthan.   

"We also identify and develop new sectors in which we feel there can be more cooperation and try to encourage Israeli and Indian industry to work with each other. The sectors we are presently laying emphasis on are textiles, chemicals, healthcare sector, renewable energy and biotechnology, to mention a few. In order to promote these sectors, we try to understand the potential that exists, through market surveys research about the potential and demand, then we share the reports with the Indian Chambers of Commerce and invite them to focus on these sectors. In the medical devices and healthcare sector, for example, we see a lot of potential, both in the area of available products as well as development of products relevant for the Indian market, and the possibility of manufacturing such products in India".

Bilateral trade between India & Israel stands in 10th place, in terms of bilateral trade between India and any specific country. Is it possible to improve this position?

 

"Because of a small Israeli market, we don't look at relations in terms of traditional trade relations – of buying and selling – but rather one based on cooperation on innovation and technology. Therefore, the data about bilateral trade is a bit misleading since it relates only to products and does not include trade in services.

 

Much effort is being made in order to change the situation and elevate the level of trade between the two countries. In India there isn't enough awareness regarding the Israeli market or Israel’s capabilities in different fields. It is conceived as a small market and the Indian industry focuses on the American and European markets, as well as the domestic market, of course. From our point of view, one of our challenges is to inspire Indian companies to enter the Israeli market. In Israel also there isn’t much awareness about the well-established manufacturing capabilities of the Indian industry, and their ability to do so at a commercially scalable level. 

 

There is good potential for increasing trade in services in both directions. Indian companies also export services and this would be an area for fruitful and profitable cooperation".  

 

-          There are very few investments by Indian companies in Israeli industry. What is being done in this regard?

"Currently Tata Consultancy Services, State Bank of India and Jain Irrigation Group have established their presence in Israel. The last company made major investments in Israel. In addition, there are minor investments by Indian companies in Israel, like Triveni Engineering of India that invested US$ 4.5 million in Israel’s water treatment technology company AQWISE, and some other small investments. The most recent investment by an Indian company was by the Tata Group that invested US$5 million in Ramot Technology Transfer Center of Tel Aviv University last year. Once again, this is a great opportunity for the Indian industry which invests globally, and makes acquisitions globally - we want to interest them in opportunities for investment in Israel.

"In the coming months we are carrying a campaign to promote India’s High-Tech and Life Sciences sectors. There isn’t enough awareness in Israel about India’s technological capabilities, which are very advanced. We have registered at MIXiii 2014 (www.mixiii.com), the First Innovation Conference in Israel and we are trying to bring to it delegations from India to showcase India’s capabilities.

"Another focus area has been to increase the mobility of Israeli businesspeople – we are issuing multiple entry business visas for a period of a full year at the same cost as that of a visa for a period of six months.  Last year we opened Indian Visa Application Centers at four cities in Israel – Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva. Thus, businesspeople applying directly to these centers can cut down waiting period for visa to 5 to 7 working days. In addition the visa application can be made online and its progress can be tracked online".

During the past year, Ministers of Tourism of our two countries have declared that they would like to increase the flow of tourism between the two countries. What are you doing in this regard?

"During the year 2012, 40,000 Indian tourists arrived in Israel. This is the largest number of tourists to Israel from among all Asian countries. Most Indian tourists come to Israel on pilgrimage tours – there is a large population of Christians in India and they want to visit the places of religious interest including Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee and other places. Since airfares are not cheap and most flights to Israel from India are indirect, such Indian tourists prefer to combine a visit to Israel with other countries in the region, like Turkey, Egypt or Jordan.

"A similar number of tourists come to India from Israel, and to the best of our knowledge most of them are back-packers, though not all… Unfortunately, we do not have enough information to profile tourists who come to India from Israel. But we noticed that today there are a larger number of organized tours to India, even tours exclusively for women, tours for personnel from companies, etc. In the near future, we will promote new destinations for tourists, for example the North-East India, including States of Assam and Sikkim and also South India – states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and others. These are very beautiful destinations, while being different in character and culture from the rest of India. We are also promoting adventure tourism – treks, hiking in the Himalayas, river rafting – as well as nature travel, tours in national parks and forests in which travelers can view tigers, elephants, lions and rhinos;  luxury travel in which tourists can stay at grand palaces converted to hotels and be treated in spas, partake in yoga and other wellbeing activities.

"Those interested in travelling to new destinations in India are invited to visit the Incredible India Tourism booth between 11-12 February at the IMTM Exhibition (www.imtm-telaviv.com) and interact with travel agents from India". 

 

 

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