AIBC looks to the future as Australia-India trade grows


AIBC NSW president Sheba Nandkeolyar is confident that as bi-lateral trade between Australia and India intensifies her organisation will become a key player.

For Sheba Nandkeolyar, president of the Australia India Business Council (AIBC) (NSW chapter) and a Director of AIBC National, it hasn’t been business as usual for a few years now. Or maybe we should say that business as usual has been quite hectic in the last few years for Nandkeolyar. Trade between India and Australia has been on the rise in recent years. India is Australia’s 10th largest trading partner and fifth largest export market. India is the source of the largest number of skilled and permanent migrants to Australia. In 2011-12 India was Australia’s 12th largest source country for approved proposed investment, with $A2.2 billion of approved investments. Believe it or not, the majority of this was for mineral exploration and investment. And in the previous year, the stock of Indian investment in Australia was $11 billion. Australia warming up to the Indian economy and the possibilities of trade with India couldn’t have come at a better time for the AIBC.

Ever since its inception in 1986 the AIBC has spared no effort to persuade Australians, and predict the Indian economy’s prospects, says Nandkeolyar. When she joined AIBC, NSW in 2000, as a newly arrived professional from India, Nandkeolyar says the organisation attracted a lot of interest from Australian businesses and investors curious about India. At that time the AIBC, NSW, held four major events every year: the first one was the Indian budget session; then there was the end of financial year wrap up program, followed by the Annual Dinner Address coinciding with India’s Independence Day and the year ended with a end of the Year Cocktails and networking event for the members. There were a few trade delegations between the two countries.

In the last decade, however, bilateral trade between India and Australia has been on the rise. Much of this is led by Indian private corporates looking for opportunities in Australia. And education has been a surprisingly and steadily strong performer in this time. Partly as a response to this growing trade and partly created by this climate the AIBC,NSW, like the AIBC in the other states, has changed considerably in the last decade, says Nandkeolyar.

Nandkeolyar’s involvement with the AIBC stems from her own professional background in business and marketing as well as her passion for Australia-India trade—she runs her own marketing business MultiConnexions, a leader in its market space. Being a woman in business, Nandkeolyar launched the Women in Business AIBC chapter in 2011. She then went on to become Co-Vice President, Vice President and then President of AIBC NSW in January 2013.

As a consequence of the changes in the Australian and Indian economy the AIBC NSW has chapters dedicated to the several sectors and industries of the two economies. Some of these are the Young Professionals Chapter, the Women in Business Chapter, the Education Chapter, the Professional Services Chapter, an ICT chapter, the Sustainable Energy Chapter and a Real Estate Chapter. A Media, Film & Entertainment Chapter and a Finance & Banking Chapter is on the cards. The AIBC Queensland has a Mining & Resources Chapter among others.

Despite the growing interest in the Indian market reports say that India will be the source of the largest number of multinationals by 2018 the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” report ranked India 132 overall out of 185 countries. India’s tariffs and nontariff barriers are allegedly the cause of this dismal ranking.

Nandkeolyar says that such rankings and perceptions only make the role of the AIBC more crucial in helping Indian businesses establish a presence in Australia, just like Australian businesses venturing into India benefit enormously from the cultural and business expertise of the AIBC. Nandkeolyar says that the AIBC sees a great deal of interest and activity directed to India from the ICT, mining, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, tourism and education sectors.

India’s regulatory environment and the competition from domestic players mean that investors gain much from organisations like the AIBC.

The AIBC NSW works closely with the State and Federal governments and often complements organisations like Austrade and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This is the pattern of operations for all other AIBC state Chapters. The DFAT country strategy for India says, “We need to deepen Australia’s cultural familiarity with and knowledge of India”. And “the Indian community in Australia will remain an important source of expertise” in building India-Australia trade.

Nandkeolyar’s optimism is certainly well founded. The AIBC is poised to grow from strength to strength as the Indian community and the Indian economy continues to lure Australia. The NSW president says that in keeping with the organisation’s aims and profile measures are also in place for a more professional and transparent culture of functioning.

News in the media that Air India will be operating flights to Australia is another milestone in the Australia-India story that will quite likely become another shot in the AIBC’s arm. So all the good news may just help out taking the bilateral relationship to an all new level.

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