India : Wonder and Surprises of an Economic Powerhouse

By Hideo Ozaki,
Representative in Mumbai

Ever since female Indian staff used the term “BRICs” in the 2003 Goldman Sachs economic report, India has been attracting worldwide economic interest and receiving large-scale investments from Japan and other countries. Currently there are just under 3,300 Japanese people residing in India altogether and around 340 residing in the Mumbai area, but the number of Japanese businesspeople being stationed here is increasing as business relations intensify.

Japan and India share a long history of exchange. Are you aware that India was an important trading partner of Japan in the past? Nowadays trade with India - both imports and exports - amounts to less than 1% of Japan’s total trade, but 80 years ago, in 1926, this figure was 12%. A major reason for this was the Japan-India cotton trade that began immediately after the Meiji Restoration. During this period, Japan opened its doors not only to Europe and the United States but also to India, and in 1889, 20 years after the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a cotton delegation from Japan visited India. Already our forebears, “Trading House Resident Officers”, were at work. During the peak before the World War II, there were apparently more than 3,000 Japanese residing in Mumbai - ten times the current number.

Samosa (Indian dumplings) stands

India is the sixth country I have been stationed in, and I have been here for a year and a half now by December 2009. Up until now, I have been able to get a general grasp of the country’s characteristics and the people’s way of thinking after about one year of residency, but even now I am stuck for an answer whenever an Indian person or visitor from Japan asks me, “How’s India?” It is extremely difficult to describe in a few words a country with such a diversity of people, cultures, and ways of thinking all blended together, with 1.1 billion people flowing like a mighty river. Below, I introduce some aspects of India that are not well known.
For better or for worse, India is a country of coexisting extremes in many aspects of society. This year, 2009, there was a general election for the Lower House, and there were 700 million eligible voters. In what is called the world’s largest democracy, casting and counting votes cannot be done in “one day” as in Japan and so the election was spread out over a month, in a very orderly fashion with no major confusion. However, since the literacy rate is around 65%, votes were cast by pressing buttons with the symbols of each of the political parties, so many people were voting for “elephants”, or “monkeys”, or “flowers”.

Vehicles called “Auto Rickshaws,”not “Nanos.”

In contrast, the launch of Tata Motors’ popular car, the “Nano,” which sells for 110,000 rupees (approx. 200,000 yen) per car and was also widely reported in the news in Japan, has spurred an automobile boom in India. Roads are filled with vehicles, but they are also overflowing with people, tricycles, and handcarts, as well as cattle and goats and so traffic moves very slowly - so slowly that traveling into central Mumbai to visit a client takes the same amount of time as flying to Delhi to visit a client. Moreover, the Mumbai- Delhi flight is supposed to take two hours, but in fact often taken over three hours. I am always anxious that the plane will run out of fuel and fell down from sky since it has to wait for a runway to be cleared, circling above Mumbai for more than an hour, even after the captain has announced, “We’ll be landing in 10 minutes.”

Nariman Point in Mumbai City

Because the country embraces such a diversity of cultures, rapid expansion or development in India poses difficulties, but there is also a sense of security and the flow in that direction is certainly and steadily growing stronger.
The agricultural business field also holds tremendous potential. Within 30 years, India’s population is expected to overtake that of China to become the largest in the world, and even today the country boasts the world’s second largest production volumes for rice, wheat, and sugar and the world’s third largest production volume for cotton. Moreover, the production technology for agricultural chemicals and other fine chemicals supporting production are of a high level, and many chemical manufacturers, both Indian and international, have established production bases here for agricultural chemicals and their intermediates.

We are introducing high-quality Japanese agricultural chemicals into this broad agricultural market as well as expanding our agricultural chemical production and sourcing businesses in India, a country which is characterized by high technology and low cost, and like our forebears who were active in the past, we aim to further contribute to and expand business between Japan and India.

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