Indian Amb. to Israel gives tips to Israeli companies wishing to expand

"Given India’s continental size, one size doesn’t fit all. depending on the product, there can be a huge variation in consumer behavior and expectations and, thus, require different business models"

INDIAN AMBASSADOR Sanjeev Singla at the Malida festival at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum on Monday. (photo credit: RIKI RACHMAN)
INDIAN AMBASSADOR Sanjeev Singla at the Malida festival at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum on Monday.
(photo credit: RIKI RACHMAN)
India's Ambassador to Israel Sanjeev Singla highlighted the importance of the close relations between Israel and India and the great potential of tech collaboration between the nations, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, in an interview to CTech by Calcalist earlier this week. 
Discussing the growing strategic partnership between Israel and India, Singla mentioned trade as a necessary part of the collaborative effort that has great potential to create other opportunities for both countries. 
"I think the sheer size of India’s economy - it is the world’s fifth-largest economy - and its depth and diversification not only offer a huge scale for Israel but also a base for exports to the rest of world and near-shoring supply chains," said Singla, who was appointed as the Ambassador to Israel last year after serving as Private Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014.
He pointed out that each country has uniquely specialized areas of advantage that put together, can be combined to reach even more achievements in developing fields. 
"Further, India has a huge reservoir of scientific and technological manpower which, combined with Israel’s strengths in niche areas, provide opportunities for having R&D and design centers in India (like many major US tech firms have done) as also for collaboration in new emerging areas like AI and quantum computing that are harbingers of major changes in the economy," Singla said. 
"We have to look at how we can use our mutual strengths to enhance the competitiveness of our economies at large," Singla added. "For example, it is one of India's software giants that is helping to increase the competitiveness of your financial banking services by establishing a technology platform for new banks in Israel - such as the New Digital Bank, Israel's first new bank in nearly four decades - and is building a complete banking services bureau."
India is ranked among Israel's top-10 trade partners, with relations becoming increasingly closer in recent years. But regardless of the developing collaborations and the endless opportunities that they bring, the coronavirus pandemic struck a painful economic blow to both Israel and India, and put many projects on hold for the time being. 
"COVID-19, obviously, has had a very serious impact on the world economy as a whole. That is evident in data that show sharp declines in economic growth rates for virtually every country, as also for world trade. Varying degrees of lockdown over the last eight months and very limited air connectivity has meant that merchandise trade has, quite naturally, been affected sharply," Singla explained.
And yet, Singla sees hope in a quick recovery that might eventually have a positive effect on India's economy. 
"The tech sector, on the other hand, has remained largely immune owing to the nature of work ... as the two countries emerge from lockdowns and as the connectivity improves, we should see a gradual recovery in momentum. In India, major macro indicators are now indicating a good economic recovery, and the big story is that the government has utilized COVID-19 as an opportunity to make the Indian economy more resilient and competitive." 
Singla continued to detail notable Israeli-Indian collaborations in combating the coronavirus pandemic, while utilizing each country's scientific and technological strengths.
"Both countries have cooperated across the entire spectrum of COVID-19. One: on the personal protection equipment, where India supplied Israel with masks at a time when COVID-19 cases were rising in Israel during the first wave. Israel too supplied ventilators to some entities in India," Singla said. "At a B2B level, there’s even an Indian healthcare firm that has launched a disinfectant solution developed by an Israeli nano-coatings manufacturer. Two: on diagnostic kits, a team of Israeli scientists traveled to India to validate and calibrate, with the help of Indian experts, innovative non-invasive diagnostic tools that can diagnose COVID-19 in less than a minute. Information from over 20,000 samples done in India is now being analyzed in Israel to fine-tune these kits. Israel’s Zebra Medical Vision has collaborated with India’s Apollo Hospitals to use AI in diagnosing COVID-19. Three: on the use of AI to forecast waves of similar pandemics in the future, the two sides have designated nodal points but more groundwork needs to be done."
Hoping to see even more Israeli activity in India in the future, the ambassador gave some useful tips for Israeli companies looking to expand their business model to India. 
"Given India’s continental size, one size doesn’t fit all. depending on the product, there can be a huge variation in consumer behavior and expectations and, thus, require different business models," he noted. "The Indian market, while offering a huge scale, tends to be highly price conscious, and there is a cultural emphasis on building relationships, something that takes time; hence, a rushed, transactional approach won’t take you very far. As COVID-19 subsides, India is, once again, open for business. We have restarted issuing business visas and we’ll be happy to assist any Israeli company exploring business opportunities in India."
Finally, Singla shared with CTech the sectors that he believes can benefit the most from an Israel-Indian collaboration. These include the fields of cyber-security, fin-tech, health, defense, water and agriculture.
"The cyber-security sector is an area whose salience has been brought into sharp relief by COVID-19. And it has several verticals like banking, financial services and insurance, telecom and IT, all of which are growing in India," noted Singla. "Fin-tech is an area undergoing huge transformation in India. With over 670 million internet users, the Indian economy is undergoing a digital revolution and India is fast emerging as one of the world’s largest and fastest growing Fin-tech hubs. Five Indian Fin-tech companies have valuations of over $1 billion each. We rank third in the number of most promising Fin-tech companies in the world. The Unified Payments Interface is one of the biggest Fin-tech innovations to have come out of India and now accounts for over half of all digital payments in India that have risen sharply during COVID-19. About a couple of weeks ago, I read the story of how an Israeli firm, Tarya Fin-tech, is collaborating with an Indian partner to benefit from this digital revolution in India.
"The health sector, where keeping COVID-19 in mind, India is planning massive investment in public health infrastructure at primary level and where Israel has strengths in niche areas of biotechnology. Recently, I met your famous serial medical entrepreneur, Dr. Eyal Orion, to learn about some of his interesting innovations for cardiovascular interventions that could potentially be used in India," Singla added. "In the defense sector India has now allowed foreign companies to have a 74% controlling stake in joint ventures in India that could be used by Israel defense companies to increase their cost competitiveness and use Make in India (a government program aimed at encouraging companies to manufacture in India and incentivize dedicated investments into manufacturing) as a base for OEM exports to the rest of the world. In the agriculture sector, recent reforms are aimed at improving yields and investments in cold chains. In the water sector, our government is in the process of providing piped water supply to 250 million households by 2024 and Israel’s water companies have a huge opportunity. Israeli water companies have already successfully bid for many desalination plants in India.  
"And, of course, both countries are vibrant democracies, something which is essential to inculcate an irreverence that drives innovation," he concluded.