Featured Article 27 Mar 2017

A strike for independence may be an unusual beginning for a relationship, yet Ireland-India relations are thriving

Relationships between countries are often showcased at key moments during state visits or national days but it is not mere lipservice to say that Ireland and India have a significant bond. From a business perspective the relationship is just starting to grow but the two countries share links going back over a hundred years – or perhaps even longer. Irish missionaries educated Indian children from the mid-eighteenth century and the countries have a shared experience in the pursuit of independence.

Nilakanthi Ford, Chairman of The Ireland India Business Association (IIBA) explains, “The relationship first started out a century ago in 1919 or 1920. That’s why the flags are very similar. India adopted the flag that it has based on the link between gentlemen who were part of the freedom moment for independence.” In fact, provisions of the 1937 Irish Constitution were drawn upon in the drafting of the Indian Constitution of 1950. Ford adds, “Those links go back to the last century but academics would tell you the links go back to 2,000 years ago. Gaelic and Sanskrit are similar, the music is similar, and culturally there are a lot of underpinning similarities between India and Ireland.”

In the last three to five years, the countries have sought to expand this link and do business together and the relationship is thriving. Over 70 Irish companies have investments in India and with that country ranking first amongst the world’s fastest growing economies for 2016 in the UN’s World Economic Situation and Prospects Report, it’s clear there is much potential for Indian and Irish collaboration.

John Kilmartin, Country Director IDA India reveals, “Kerry Group, Glanbia, CRH: there are about 70 Irish companies employing about 6,000 people in India. There’s about 30 or more Indian companies in Ireland employing 2,500 people. Irish companies are engaged in India, some are trading and some have development centres, it’s a good mix.”

With the uncertainty of the Chinese market and India’s booming growth (the country recently announced its GDP has reached its target of 7.5 per cent), Indian businesses are beginning to look at markets across the world.

“Until five years ago a lot of Indian industry, because they had an attendant market of 1.2 billion in-country, were just looking at their own market and feeding near markets rather than further afield,” Ford explains. “The Indian economy is growing and the new government that came in a year ago are pushing some huge changes which are making it much easier to do business. They now see that the link, particularly the strong link that Ireland has with the USA, as a really good segue to go into new markets.”

According to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, over 30 Indian companies have already made investments in Ireland and employ more than 2,500 staff here. Ireland’s location within the EU and highly educated, highly skilled population are often cited as compelling draws for businesses in industries as diverse as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and IT and energy services.

The visit of Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to Ireland for the first time in September of last year further strengthened the bonds between the two countries and highlighted the potential for a deepening friendship. The first time an Indian Prime Minister had visited Ireland in the past 60 years, it was a noteworthy occasion, says Ford. “It was hugely significant. Ireland was only the second country in Europe he’d visited and he was here on the way to Silicon Valley, which speaks volumes.

While he was here various bilateral working agreements were signed, he had some very strong conversations with the Taoiseach and out of that comes the really interesting developments for the bilateral relationship going forward.” “It raises the profile of Ireland and the understanding of who Ireland is,” Kilmartin agrees, adding, “He actually went to Ireland before he went to the UK.”

Over 1,000 multinational corporations have chosen Ireland as their strategic European base, a reassuring presence to Indian businesses considering setting up in Ireland. “Most of the larger Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies in India have got a location here and are looking to grow,” Ford points out. “What attracts them is the big ICT companies, Facebook, LinkedIn, are already here. Track record is really important in India.”

Kilmartin, confirms this, saying, “A lot of Indian business look to serve US clients, the likes of Google and Facebook, Microsoft and those. The presence of those big players in Ireland is an attraction to Indian business, the fact that there is a European-wide market, that there is European headquarters of US multinationals in Ireland, helps to set Ireland apart.

“The types of Indian companies that we see expanding fall into a couple of  different brackets. From a technology point of view, IT services companies, BPOs, outsourcing companies. There’s also technology product companies that are building enterprise product or platforms, their own IP, that’s a newer area of India technology business. You have life sciences companies, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and then there is engineering and some financial services.”

This ecosystem of multinationals has created a new customer base. “Those companies would be either selling services or product into the American companies, sometimes they are doing that on a global basis and they end up servicing the European arm of the US company and we would try to get that service done in Ireland as well. Companies outsource now,” he goes on, “so it’s important for Ireland to have an ecosystem around the companies.”

Simple logistics are also a winning factor. According to Ford, “The fact that Ireland is an English speaking country is also important and there is a highly focused, skilled education system here,” says Ford.

“That relationship between Ireland and India goes back a long way, with the schools that were set up over there by Irish people.”

Business hours between foreign markets can also weigh in our favour points out Kilmartin. “From a timezone point of view it creates a link between Ireland, India and the US. If you’re in India, you have a half day overlap to Ireland, and Ireland then has a half day overlap to the US. It creates a link point between India and the US.

As well as a skilled workforce and strategic location, the Irish government alongside organisations like the IIBA and the IDA are working to make it easier to do business in Ireland. “Certainly the red tape has reduced quite significantly in recent years,” says Ford, “and I know that Indian companies are delighted with the additional support from state agencies here and opportunities to link up with contemporaries here.”

Irish expansion:

Furthering its relationship with Ireland, Bangalore-based tech consultant company Infosys announced in December that it would be creating 250 jobs in Ireland over the next three years.

An Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve Systems will set up a new R&D facility with the creation of 95 highly skilled R&D roles focusing on FinTech research and development, and a further 155 jobs in IT services. A leader in consulting, technology, outsourcing and next generation services, Infosys has US$ 8.7 billion in annual revenues and currently employs over 250 people in Ireland. At the  announcement of the project, which been supported by the Department of Jobs through IDA Ireland, Dr. Vishal Sikka, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys said, “Much like Ireland, Infosys has based its growth on a foundation of education, lifelong learning and a deep commitment to innovation. Infosys is already working with clients in Ireland helping them explore new ways of working and advancing, by embracing technology-led innovation. We want to build on this early success.”

John Kilmartin believes this is a significant coup for Ireland. “Edgeverve is very different investment to what is gone before from India and it’s a real departure. They are going to use Ireland as a global R&D facility. It’s recognising the talent base that Ireland can bring to the table forFinTech. It’s a very high end block chain technology that they are looking to build out, it’s very hot at the moment and the fact that they have chosen Ireland to do that is really testament to the talent base that exists in Ireland and can be drawn to Ireland. That’s very significant in terms of innovative technology.”

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