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.