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India is a quietly rising star on the global stage. Here’s why Canada needs to pay attention.

Conventional wisdom often advises us to “stick to what we know” when it comes to investing. It’s generally a good starting point to stick with what’s familiar, but this can shield us from the vast and exciting opportunities that are outside our immediate bubble.

One such opportunity is India. Boasting the world’s largest population and one of the fastest-growing economies, India is a market that simply cannot be ignored. It might be half a world away from Canada, but what’s happening in this country could wield tremendous influence over our companies, industries and economy in the years to come.

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend an intimate gathering of the Indian diaspora community in Vancouver, organized by Pankaj and Rita Agrawal and attended by the Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Sri Sanjay Kumar Verma, Consul-General of India Manish, and others representing education, technology, business and investment within the local community, including the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, Brenda Bailey.

Sri Sanjay Kumar Verma assumed the office of High Commissioner to Canada in November 2022. Prior to his appointment, he served as the Ambassador of India to Japan and has been recognized for strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Sri Verma has also held several positions in India’s Ministry of External Affairs, including as Joint Secretary in charge of the East Asia Division, where he managed India’s relations with Japan, South Korea and North Korea. He also served as India’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington DC, and as Counsellor in India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

During the course of his travels across Canada, Sri Verma took the opportunity at this dinner to provide his deep insight on India’s role in the world and suggestions on how Canada and India can collaborate and drive mutual economic prosperity.

Levelling up our trade relationship

It’s hardly a secret that India and Canada share a rich history of trade. In fact, India ranks among Canada’s biggest trade allies in South Asia, Canada currently stands as India’s fourteenth largest trading partner.

India serves as a crucial gateway to the future of global trade, and while our bilateral trading partnership has grown steadily in recent years, Canada only scratched the surface of this nation’s market. The High Commissioner highlighted the potential for Canada and India to expand beyond the trading of raw goods and emphasized the prospects for value-added trade. This could potentially include the sale of goods manufactured in both nations to other countries, opening up new avenues for economic growth.

Investing in a greener future

Renewable energy stands out as another promising area for collaboration between Canada and India. Despite being significant producers of fossil fuels, both nations have recognized the immense potential of renewable energy sources. The High Commissioner noted that India’s installed solar capacity reached 40.09 GW by the end of December 2021, making it the third largest nation in this area, after China and the United States.

He highlighted that potential for public and private sector cooperation in the field of technology research and development is immense, particularly as both nations work to globalize these ground-breaking technologies.

Sri Verma emphasized our joint commitment to boosting the adoption of renewable energy and underscored the prospects for cross-pollination and investment opportunities between Canada and India in renewables. He noted that by leveraging our shared interests in a more sustainable future, we can create new channels for growth and collaboration that stand to benefit both nations.

Fostering innovation through education

Canada has taken impressive strides in cementing its engagement with India on the education front. It’s worth noting that since 2018, India has been the leading source of international students in Canada, underlining the crucial role that India plays in shaping Canada’s knowledge economy. Our countries have also been working towards enhancing cooperation in areas like information technology and biotechnology in recent years.

As an investor in Canada’s thriving tech sector, I am acutely aware of the current talent scarcity in our country and how India’s high-skilled workforce has played a pivotal role in fueling growth and fostering innovation within our nation’s burgeoning tech industry.

To fully realize the potential benefits of cross-border education and employment opportunities between India and Canada, the High Commissioner emphasized the need for:

  • A more comprehensive and robust framework for preparatory orientation and practical training programs for Indian students planning to pursue an education in Canada.
  • The promotion of greater cultural immersion through both exchange programs and co-op placements for Canadian students in diverse regions of India to foster a deeper understanding of the nation’s unique social and economic dynamics.
  • Certification and accreditation programs in India prior to immigration to Canada that would enable newcomers to seamlessly transition into the workforce and contribute to the Canadian economy from day one.

India’s opportunity

Sri Verma made many predictions about the short and long-term opportunities in India. Significant challenges in the country remain, including government bureaucracy, persistent wealth disparity, and lagging infrastructure, though these obstacles are steadily improving.

The High Commissioner also addressed India’s response to current global geopolitical tensions, emphasizing their potential impact on the technology sector and global economy. I was very impressed by his wealth of knowledge and insightful perspectives on a broad spectrum of weighty historical and issues.

As I reflect on the event, it’s apparent to me that India and Canada share a rich history, and there are ample opportunities for future collaboration between our public and private sectors. India represents one-sixth of the world’s humanity. It’s already a true force in our global economy that will continue to advocate for its interests, values, and goals.

Despite the physical distance between our countries, India’s evolution will continue to have a significant impact here at home, and I believe there is much to be learned from engaging with this vibrant and ever-changing nation.

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