“This summit is similar to the World Economic Forum, but with a focus on emerging economies,” explains Luc Lewel, the managing director of Voka’s Antwerp-Waasland office. “We are extremely proud that this conference is coming to Antwerp because it will raise the profile of our city and our region as the ideal entry to the European Union and as the perfect location for European head offices.”
Voka Antwerp-Waasland last November led a business mission to Mumbai, accompanied by Cathy Berx, the governor of Antwerp province. The event this week will explore different ways of bridging India’s economy with the rest of the world, including Flanders. Antwerp is used to the presence of a predominance of Indians in its diamond industry, where about 3,000 Indians work. Delegates will also look at ways to create partnerships in other sectors, such as clean technology, port activities and the creative industries.
Among the companies represented will be Hero MotoCorp, India’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters; Piramal Healthcare of Mumbai; Moser Baer, the world’s second-largest maker of optical storage media like CDs and DVDs; and Tata Communications, operator of India’s largest data centre in Pune.
India is an important export partner for Flanders, with exports in the first nine months of 2011 increasing by more than 24% on the same period from the previous year. Flanders Investment & Trade has three offices in the country, in Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi. Belgium is India’s second-largest supplier after the US, and Flanders accounts for 98% of Belgium’s exports to India.
In 2007, Indian airline Jet Airways chose Brussels as its European hub for onward connections to the US and Canada, the company’s only secondary hub outside of India. In February, the Port of Antwerp signed a cooperation agreement in Mumbai with the Association of Multimodal Transport Operators of India, aimed at helping Indian exporters bring freight to more European destinations, and including the creation of the digital platform India Natie to exchange information. Last year Antwerp handled about five million tonnes of freight going to and from India, out of a total of 187 million tonnes.
Then in May, the port’s international investment arm, PAI, entered a strategic alliance with Essar Ports, one of the largest private-sector port companies in India. “Essar Ports is a highly regarded, strong and reliable partner with a lot of know-how in India,” says Antwerp port authority president Marc Van Peel. “We will rely on them for the development of port activities in India. The Port of Antwerp will share our knowledge and expertise on port development and strategy with Essar Ports. This added value for both parties will create breeding grounds for further development of both regions.”