Yves PERRIN, Consul General of France in Mumbai says French companies are yet to tap India´s animal and diary products sector.
Tell us about France´s interest in the Smart Cities project.
France has been and is involved in the Smart Cities project, especially with three cities, Chandigarh, Pondicherry and Nagpur. We want to support the project in these cities initially. My concept of smart cities is based on at least four pillars, energy, transport, water and waste management. These have to be implemented first. Only then can cities be smart. We can make BKC smart, for instance, with the announcement by the municipality here, to make this a smart district. We can position French companies for these kinds of projects.
In India, there is always a gap between intent and action...
Well, it is not easy. The government is in power for just 16 months now. Infrastructure and urban development are long-term projects. You can´t imagine or expect that the day after election, the government will begin to build roads, improve water supply and tackle waste-water. Planning has to be for long-term. It takes time.
I feel, in India, this has to be partially decentralised. In France, the state is the main body. We planned plenty of things in the sixties, seventies and till the end of the nineties, but we have one state. Here, you have 29 states and seven union territories all with their own rules. It is not easy. However, we´ve a strong presence here in infrastructure. In fact, we had a delegation of French companies that went to Bhopal three months ago and introduced themselves to state bodies. It was interesting. We´re now doing projects like economical street lighting and other public projects there.
Will the Make in India provide a fillip to business?
First of all, we have a trade deficit with India, a big one. You have to keep that in mind. However, we invest in India when possible and as far as possible. French companies invest for manufacturing and not only since the Make in India campaign. We have been making in India for very long. If you take companies like Legrand and Hager or Schneider in the field of electric appliances, a lot of what they sell in India is done in India, about 80-90 per cent of it. There is more investment with the campaign, the idea of facilitating the way business is done and opening ceilings for foreign investments in certain sectors.
How do you view the recent developments?
Business has got a push. I can feel this since the Indian Prime Minister´s visit to France. It was a very successful visit and the things announced are ongoing for both sides. For instance, we will try to get more Indian students to France. This can be easy because increasingly, the courses are given in English, especially if you go for scientific research. People have to publish their papers. They mostly publish in English since in this area we already have people from other nationalities but very few Indians. Higher education is not very expensive in France compared with US and UK (except some cases in management schools). One thing Indian companies could do is subsidise the studies and also doctorate studies.
Moreover, there are plenty of domains at the edge of business like in science or in heritage conservation. Cultural exchanges are also ongoing. Business is part of the cooperation between us but this is not the only target. We have plenty of other common ground. When I was in the Navy, we had an exercise with the Indian Navy in the mid-nineties. This was 25 years ago and the one I was involved in wasn´t the first!
What´s the next step? What are other areas of possibilities?
French companies first came for manufacturing. Now, they are doing R&D and innovation. You can say there have been two phases. Today, I personally think there´s a big gap in the area of animal and diary products between France and India. There is a big capacity for growth. It is a sector we should invest in. However, one has to find a good partner as it´s not easy. Strict rules must be applied in this business as your image and credibility is very quickly destroyed due to even small mishaps.