“Whoever invests here “can profit”, said Ajay Swarup, the Ambassador of India in Belgrade. The problem is that there has not been much interaction between the businessmen of the two countries in the last 15 years, as compared to the earlier period
There is little investment risk in Serbia. Whoever invests here can profit. I read your newspapers on a daily basis with the translator’s help, and I am not concerned about the headlines on war criminals or any affairs or scandals. This has been overcome. There is no political or any other risk for investing here”. The Ambassador backs up his optimistic views by referring to economic indicators saying that they demonstrate best that the economy is heading in a positive direction. He reminds of the nearly $5 billion of foreign direct investments in 2006 and that the dinar has been considerably appreciated against the dollar and euro. A lot has been achieved, and the difficult period is over, the Ambassador said, adding that our country is a good investment destination for the Indian capital.
“The problem is that there has not been much interaction between the businessmen of the two countries in the last 15 years, as compared to the earlier period. I have also noticed that there is a lack of information and many misconceptions. Speaking to some of the Indian businessmen I realized that they were apprehensive about the situation in the region. Also, many Serbian businessmen are not aware of the Indian market’s potential and India’s accelerated economic growth in the past years. The best path for a successful cooperation is through mutual interactions and creating opportunities for business acquaintances”. The Ambassador added that it is only a question of finding the right products and bringing the right partners together.
Ambassador of India and his wife live in their residence in Senjak. This house is known for at least two things: one, it is a house built by Nikola Pašić for his son and the other is that back in 1963, while visiting Belgrade, former Indian statesman Nehru had planted some roses in the residence garden.
“He was very fond of roses. Every day he wore a fresh rose in his lapel. During his visit to Belgrade, Prime Minister Nehru used the opportunity to plant some rose flowers in the residence garden”, the Ambassador said.
The Ambassador said that a business center will soon be set up in the Embassy of India, where all the businesspeople interested in cooperation with India would be able to obtain all the necessary information and contact details related to the Indian market and companies. Similarly, Indian businessmen would be provided with facilitation on establishing linkages with their Serbian counterparts.
“Many Indian businessmen do not know that Serbia is the only European country which has a Free Trade Agreement with Russia. We have a good trading relationship with Russia, but the route through Serbia could provide some benefits. Serbia also has qualified experts in the IT sector, who could certainly be of use, since this sector in India is on a very high-growth scale. Our companies have offices in Romania and the Czech Republic which can be established in Serbia as well. Many people here speak English which is also an advantage” Ambassador Swarup said.
He also said that auto components, food processing, pharmaceuticals and bio technology industry are also attractive sectors for Indian entrepreneurs to invest in. As a signatory of the CEFTA Agreement, Serbia has become a much more interesting destination for investments, he said.
“I was told by many Indian big businessmen that Serbia is a small market. Things have changed a lot with this agreement, placing Serbia in the center of the region “, the Ambassador stressed.
“Laymen may not be able to immediately identify which sectors and products may be attractive from Serbia to export to India, but one thing which is very evident in this country is the wide variety of processed meat products, which are not available in India”, Ambassador Swarup said.
“Don’t forget that 60% of India’s population is under the age of 30, the young people are always looking for new products, they’re always eager to try something new, something good, and willing to spend their money on what they like”, the Ambassador said, adding that he is very impressed with the variety and quality of yoghurt available in the Serbian supermarkets, as well as the wide range of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.
View from the airplane window
Mr. Swarup’s first encounter with our country was in October last year as he landed at the Belgrade Airport. Looking out of the airplane window, he was amazed by the beautiful scenery.
“Prior to my departure to Belgrade I met with Mr. Vuk Žugića, the Serbian Ambassador to India, who gave me an excellent briefing about Serbia. I soon noticed that Serbs and Indians have many things in common. Both of our peoples are family loving, friendly and hospitable, they both have strong interests in history, culture and spirituality. I had no problems in adjusting to the new work environment here, in fact, the only problem could be the fact that I cannot speak Serbian, but, generally, we have no problem with that. When we go shopping or elsewhere, there are always people around who can speak English and they’re always willing to help in the communication.
“India House” in Zemun
The best reminders of India for the Ambassador are the many India Shops in Belgrade. India House was recently opened in Zemun Polje.
“They have a wide selection of furniture, home furnishings and handicrafts. These products are very attractive because they are something new on the Serbian market “, said the Ambassador.
The Indian Ambassador serves real Indian tea with milk for his guests at the Embassy. And Serbian biscuits too. He’s been in Serbia for only five months so he is still trying out the domestic products. Some of the things he likes here is yoghurt, ayvar and orasnice (sweet walnut bar).
Ambassador Swarup has recently visited “Zastava” plant in Kragujevac. He says that as a government representative he cannot directly conclude business arrangements, but he can do a lot of facilitation.
“After this visit, at my initiative, a 25-member delegation of the Kragujevac Chamber of Commerce went to India in February to attend the Intl. Fair of Engineering & Technology in Delhi. They are very happy with the results of this visit, they have established some very useful contacts.A. Nikolić