Friday, February 23, 2024

Connecting Indian and ASEAN Business

Arun Chawla,
Director General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry

 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations. According to India’s Department of Commerce, India’s total bilateral trade with ASEAN was on a steady rise before the pandemic, jumping from US$65.04 billion in 2015 – 2016 to US$96.8 billion in 2018 – 2019. Even during the pandemic, bilateral trade remained high with total trade in 2020 – 2021 standing at US$78.90 billion.

As the voice of India’s business and industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) plays an important role in opening doors for Indian businesses. Its Director General, Arun Chawla believes that a prestigious awards ceremony like the International Business Review ASEAN Awards can be a great stepping stone for Indian businesses and organisations to help spread their reach across the ASEAN region.

International Business Review is proud to welcome Arun Chawla to its esteemed Panel of Adjudicators for the upcoming International Business Review ASEAN Awards 2022. We are delighted to showcase to you excerpts from his interview with our sister company, VOICE OF ASEAN, where he spoke on the role FICCI plays in facilitating business opportunities for Indian businesses both locally and abroad.

“During my long experience in the corporate world, I witnessed the unfolding of economic reforms in India through the prism of business and industry. And through the FICCI platform, I worked to deepen

 the reformation process across sectors and states of India. Through my legal background and experience, I identified the competencies of various states and sectors of India which helped to channel domestic and foreign investment flows into India’s thrust areas. Incidentally through FICCI, I also promote the Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA), which advocates arbitration and mediation of commercial disputes.

Recently, we visited the United Kingdom with India’s Chief Justice and Law Minister to propagate how commercial disputes between India and UK businesses could be arbitrated and mediated through the channels of arbitration bodies.

I also had the opportunity to be a part of many overseas ministerial delegations, both at the state and central levels, representing FICCI. This is when states go abroad to reach out to overseas investors and showcase their own potentials. Obviously we work with states that are proactive in introducing pro-industry reforms, to bring about ease of doing business. So all of this helped me contribute towards building a strong public private partnership in many key areas of the economy.

FICCI is the largest and oldest apex business organisation in India and was established back in 1927 and was closely interwoven with India’s struggles for independence. Incidentally, the federation came at the instance of Mahatma Ghandi, the father of our nation, who inspired Indian industry to come together and form the federation.

We are headquartered in New Delhi, with nearly 500 employees and 17 offices covering almost all the Indian states. Directly, we deal with about 3,000 members and we are able to reach out to nearly 25,000 companies through regional and state chambers. FICCI is the interface between the Indian government and businesses, to bring them together on a platform.

FICCI has been at the forefront of efforts towards strengthening the bilateral economic engagement between India and the ASEAN countries and we are nominated to be the Secretariat for the ASEAN-India Business Council. The potential that ASEAN presents to India in areas like services, information technology, the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, and others, is just unparalleled and we will surely see a plethora of engagements in these sectors. And with India’s strength in information technology and digitalisation, ASEAN countries should consider partnering with India for better integration of digital economies. There should be a greater impetus to integrate digitally and enable a more seamless flow of data, services and payments, to boost e-digital economy.

Take for example, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that are the growth engines of India and ASEAN economies. In India, MSMEs contribute about 30 percent Gross Value Added to its GDP. And likewise in ASEAN countries, MSMEs contribute between 30 percent and 54 percent to their GDP. Hence, it is very important that both sides continue promoting MSME development and capacity building, particularly in the utilisation of digital economy, technical cooperation mechanisms and business match-making attributes. Ultimately, FICCI is not only voice of the Indian industry, we also work towards building the nation. With this year being the 30th year of dialogue relations between India and ASEAN, it is indeed an honour to be invited onto the Adjudication Panel of the International Business Review ASEAN Awards. In the past, FICCI has also been associated with India-ASEAN Business Awards – an initiative of the India-ASEAN Business Council – in recognising Indian and Asean companies for their efforts in strengthening economic and business relations.

So, with that experience, I’m sure FICCI can add value to the panel. Indian companies have gone global, and many of them have very strong ASEAN business relations. By participating in the International Business Review ASEAN Awards, it is a celebration of their excellence and their reach in the region. Needless to say, it will be a stepping stone for furthering economic cooperation between India and ASEAN, which ultimately, will benefit businesses from both sides. I feel that it is going to be very exciting for Indian companies who do business in the ASEAN countries.

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