Atlanta, India, the world

Moderated by Rick Badie

Atlanta, often hailed as the business hub of the Southeast, strives to become a gateway for the global economy, too. Today, the chairman of the USA India Business Summit writes about the budding business relationship between India and our city. I interview a chamber executive who’s a key figure in Atlanta’s expansion to world markets.

India’s story one of opportunity, growth

By Ani Agnihotri

Bilateral trade between India and the United States is growing by leaps and bounds. India’s trade with the U.S. reached $100 billion last year and has a potential to grow to $1 trillion. Businesses are creating value, wealth and thousands of jobs every year, including here in Atlanta.

In 2007, Novelis Inc., an Atlanta-based global aluminum company, was acquired by India’s Hindalco Industries for $6 billion. In May 2011, Novelis announced the hiring of nearly 150 scientists and technologists for its research and development center in Kennesaw.

In last five years or so, several leading IT and technology companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and NIIT have created jobs and have had a positive impact on Atlanta’s economy. These companies are working to narrow the skills gap, a problem that often leaves local businesses without talent.

The USA-India Business Summit and Georgia Tech Global Business Forum, set for Sept. 11 and 12 at the Georgia Tech Historic Academy of Medicine, brings together parties interested in the growth of emerging markets, specifically India.

The summit is the largest conference in the Southeast to promote productive business relations between the United States and India. Its objective: Grow a sustainable nexus of business relationships in life science, agribusiness, health information technology and new media.

India’s story is one of opportunity and continuous growth. The country’s economy has the potential to be 40 times bigger by 2050 than it was in 2000.

Its economy today is still growing faster than most countries.

Keen investors are taking advantage of the moment. India’s ratio of debt to its gross domestic product (GDP) is stable; India’s growth is healthy even by East Asia’s high standards.

Despite the global economic slowdown, U.S. and other multinationals remain sold on India and are deepening and expanding their market penetration. For example, Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company, recently offered a $5 billion buyout of minority shareholders in its India unit. A full range of U.S. firms with advanced products in the technological and commercial sectors are entering the Indian market for the first time. Other firms increasingly view India as the top anchor market for their services and products.

The Indian health care industry is experiencing a rapid transformation. According to the World Health Report, India spends about 5.5 percent of its GDP on the health care sector.

By 2020, India is on track to grow its workforce by 140 million, the equivalent population of the four most populous markets in the European Union. While such figures represented challenges, they undeniably represent one of the greatest opportunities in the world economy. The right time in India is now.

Ani Agnihotri is founder of the USA India Business and Research Center.

Atlanta looks to the world for growth

By Rick Badie

Jorge Fernandez, vice president of global commerce for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, plays a key role in marketing the city. He fielded questions about Atlanta’s worldwide reputation.

Q: Why do some consider Atlanta the business hub of the Western Hemisphere?

A: It’s all about access to the market, and certainly we offer that to the major cities in Latin America and the U.S. If you are a foreign company, you don’t want access to one or the other. Atlanta offers both.

Q: Who are our competitors?

A: [Dallas and Charlotte] are formidable competitors, but we have a lot of assets they wish they had. One of those assets is the airport. We focus on what we can offer companies from our perspective: the availability to find talent, cost of living, quality of life and the economic vibrancy of the city. A foreign company wants to be in a cosmopolitan city, and we are the largest city in the Southeast. We just don’t sell Atlanta. We sell Georgia and the Southeast. Atlanta has been the economic engine for that region.

Q: What’s the role of the global commerce division?

A: We market Atlanta to our key markets, talk to companies to recruit them here or to set their affiliations in the United States in Atlanta, and we create a network to help Atlanta markets grow overseas. You need awareness and you need foreign investment here, but you also need growth for local companies. An international market place is a great place to do it.

Q: Where does the city have a strong foothold?

A: Our No. 1 investor is western Europe. If you take the top 10 investors in Atlanta, eight are western European. The only non-European countries in the top 10 are Japan and Canada. We focus on high-priority markets. From India, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth in technology companies in Atlanta. We just don’t focus on a region or a city; we also focus on core industries that are strong here and that we want to grow.

Q: What are the core industries?

A: Basically, technology — a lot of Internet companies, security, software. Health sciences is another area. Atlanta is becoming a hub for health technology. There are the traditional industries: logistics, supply chains and management companies. We are a top distribution center in the United States, a combination of airports, railroads and roads. We focus on industries in overseas markets that are conducive to growing our core industries.

Q: What does global economy mean?

A: You may say you only sell in Georgia, but I guarantee you, some of the components or parts you buy come from foreign sources or are bought overseas. It doesn’t matter whether you are a big or small company, you are part of the global economy.

Q: How can Atlanta remain a global competitor?

A: A company wants to be in an area that continues to grow. Economic vibrancy is important. We need to ensure that our economy continues to prosper, and quality of life is a big part of that.

10 comments Add your comment

Matt321

July 11th, 2013
7:56 am

Wouldn’t it be nice if Georgia took a proactive stance in getting its citizens involved in global trade – for example, mandatory teaching of 2-3 foreign languages, as they do in Europe? As it is, a disturbing amount of students fail to even graduate from Georgia schools, and those that do have barely mastered English. While we’re improving foreign language education (focusing on Spanish for South America, Mandarin for China, and take your pick), how about mandatory, state-supported study abroad for Georgia college students – so they can build the connections that lead to international trade?

Or I guess we can just keep throwing tax breaks at campaign contributors and taking whatever low wage jobs come our way.

InfraredGuy

July 10th, 2013
8:39 pm

Doing business with India is just self destruction by the US, India is corrupt, builds crap and steals designs just like China, we don’t need their labor unless its picking through our recycles which they are good at. We don,t need to be doing business with any country that you can smell their stinking cities before you even land at their airports

Bernie

July 10th, 2013
8:06 pm

“India needs to continue to lift its caps on foreign investment … and to continue to lower its tariffs and open its markets to American agricultural products, industrial goods and services.” – George Bush

Corey

July 10th, 2013
7:37 pm

While we outsource our jobs others outsource their fighting to us.

Ajit

July 10th, 2013
6:13 pm

Atlanta Airport needs to open for more airlines. That is more connections to the middle east. Also needs to get better traffic distribution.

Gerald

July 10th, 2013
12:47 pm

SAWB:

As a proud product of the TCSG (have a 4 year degree but was laid off during the great recession and had to be retrained) allow me to say that they have plenty of shorter industry focused programs that can provide actual jobs, as well as adult education services at our technical, junior and 4 year colleges. The problem isn’t necessarily the lack of skilled workers. It is that our skilled workers demand more than the employers want to pay. Thanks to NAFTA and other free trade agreements, it is cheaper to manufacture goods in developing countries and ship them back here than to manufacture them here. And that problem is going to get worse as more countries become developing nations with infrastructure, governments and economies capable of supporting manufacturing. Right now it is just some Latin American and Asian countries. In 10-20 years manufacturing will be viable in more Latin American and Asian countries, plus also in Africa thanks to the investments that China is pouring over there. The “Arab spring” may also result in industrial economies developing in the Middle East, Arabia and North Africa. You hear a lot about the global economy, but truthfully it only includes a small part of the globe because most nations outside of western Europe, the Americas, India, China, South Korea, Viet Nam, Japan, Israel and South Africa are third world or command economies, neither developed or developing. When we have a truly global economy 10-20 years down the line, that is when finding a manufacturing job is really going to be tough. However, the standard of living will rise in a lot of these countries, so that is when we might actually see some of our blue collar workers relocating to other countries for jobs the way that our white collar workers have been doing for decades. I remember the Jean-Claude Van Damme time travel action movie “Time Cop” when the villain (a Ronald Reagan caricature) stated that under his administration the working class/blue collar types would be encouraged to move to Mexico for a better life … well reality will emulate art (assuming that Van Damme movies can be considered art) in a couple of decades.

And what are we doing about it? Nothing. The Democrats are too busy with their social programs and identity politics, and the Republicans are too busy blaming social programs and identity politics.

Laurie

July 10th, 2013
12:45 pm

Exactly what does TCS, Infosys, Wipro etc do? They offshore skilled jobs. I’ve met a number of people in my field that have lost their jobs to out sourcing. There jobs do not stay in Atlanta. They are moved to India. To make matters worse, we now have an influx of “skilled” immigrant workers in this country who make up resumes based on someone’s else’s experience, are marketed by India based recruiters at much lower hourly rates, and then skirt through jobs by relying on off shore assistance through their network of recruiters.

MANGLER

July 10th, 2013
11:32 am

Since the subject is Indian based companies and the jobs they bring, let’s talk about who fills those positions. It’s not local talent. It’s Indian nationals allowed to come here on B1 Visas. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying that’s not the same thing as Indian companies setting up shop in Atlanta and hiring Georgians to work for them. The B1 Visa allows for lower pay rates (ie fewer income tax dollars collected) than would be acceptable for full citizens. This process also ads to the stigma that foreign nationals are of lesser quality or value since they work for less. So who is an Indian company going to hire? Support staff who expects local market rates, or importing staff who does not?

SAWB

July 10th, 2013
10:33 am

While I’m sure some of the jobs created are “low skilled” we have to remember that Georgia has many low skilled workers. We need to seek economic growth at all levels.

One area Georgia seems to be missing out on is manufacturing. While many see the industry as undesirable the truth is manufacturing jobs often pay good wages and provide opportunities for growth to employees.

We need to also improve our adult education services so that we can quickly and effectively retrain people as economic and technological trends shift. The Technical College System of Georgia needs to develop shorter industry focused programs that can provide actual jobs.

Besieged

July 10th, 2013
9:24 am

I have to disagree with the comment that “TCS, Infosys, Wipro and NIIT have created jobs and had a positive impact…”. These companies have contracted with our Atlanta companies to replace existing workers. So while they may have been “new” jobs for TCS, Infosys, Wipro et at, they actually are NOT – they are REPLACEMENT jobs, The former workers are kicked out and on unemployment. The completely new jobs that these companies may have “created” are low-skilled, low-paying helpdesk jobs.
Before you accept any comments from either side of this discussion ask this question – exactly WHAT does TCS, Infosys, Wipro etc produce except to shuffle work around?