From space resources to pickle production, the Indian Business Chamber of Luxembourg's (IBCL) seminar on Luxembourg-India trade relations, held on Thursday evening at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, showcased some of the many ways of furthering collaboration between these two countries.
On the occasion of its 10th anniversary, and during the traditional Holi celebrations, the IBCL organised the seminar "Scaling Up India-Luxembourg (EU) Trade - What Will It Take?". The event attracted several members of the Indian and Luxembourgish (and international) business communities. Among the topics addressed were existing relations between Luxembourg and India as well as future avenues of possible collaboration between the two countries.
Guest speakers included: Luxembourg Minister of Finance Pierre Gramegna; Jeannot Erpelding, Director of International Affairs at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce; Her Excellency Gaitri Issar Kumar, Ambassador from India to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU; Gastron Stronck, Secretary General at the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs; Nicolas Graas, Director of Wonderchef India, MISB Bocconi Mumbai and Owner of Hermes Luxembourg; Taha Coburn, Chairman of Kutay, UK Asian Business Council (UKABC); Mujahid Rathod, Chairman of Zendiel CVBA Antwerp and Managing Director of Zenobia Agro Pvt Ltd, India.
In his welcoming address, Jeannot Erpelding began by highlighting 70 years of Luxembourg-Indian diplomatic relations and the opportunities offered by the IBCL. He similarly emphasised the opportunities available to Luxembourg by India, to which he referred "a giant for financial opportunities", especially in the area of space resources. Erpelding added that there remained room for improvement in bilateral relations, particularly at the economic level. Nevertheless, he emphasised the two countries' shared defence of global trade against protectionism.
For his part, Minister Pierre Gramegna reflected on the fact that Luxembourg will host the 4th annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) this July, marking the first time that the meeting takes place in Europe. He suggested that this could be the right opportunity to put the Luxembourg-India bilateral relationship in the European context, not least because the EU represents 13% of global trade for India and India is the EU's 9th partner. The Finance Minister particularly emphasised the role of multilateralism, a matter on which he believed Luxembourg and India agreed: "Multinationalism is not the problem. It is the solution to existing problems". In this context, he addressed the issues related to protectionism, as well as solutions in the fields of sustainable finance and digitalisation.
Ambassador Gaitri Issar Kumar went on to discuss India's commitment as a founding member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to preserving its principles and actively working with the EU to update and modernise the WTO without compromising these values. She similarly highlighted the collaboration opportunities available for India and Luxembourg in the field of digitalisation and expressed hope that the two counties would work together on new routes based on long-term sustainability, namely in the fields of cybersecurity and collaboration with Indian start-ups. In this context, she emphasised the progress made in India with regards digitalisation and added that, in addition to asking "what will it take" to scale up Luxembourg-India trade, we should be asking "what are we waiting for?".
The next speaker, Gastron Stronck, focused on the opportunities associated with relaunching negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and India, an initiative that should make scaling up much easier. Like Jeannot Erpelding, Stronck also highlighted the many opportunities for collaboration in the space area, as well as in the tourism sector. Newly appointed consul Nicolas Graas, who built two companies in India (Sodexo and Wonderchef India), similarly discussed the importance of the Indian market and its many opportunities.
The event closed with speeches from the entrepreneur Taha Coburn, who offered insider tips on doing business with India, namely that "relationships matter," and on how he helped develop an Indian start-up culture in the UK, and Mujahid Rathod, who works in the agricultural sector. Rathod, who filled a gap in the market for supplying pickles in Europe, also emphasised opportunities for further collaboration between Luxembourg and India, this time in agriculture and food processing. He concluded: “India is the greatest market waiting to happen, and I think India’s time has come”.