India: Investment, exports and talent all in one package?

There are few countries that are the whole package.  If a  jurisdiction is looking to attract investment (or firms that want to invest there) it is normally richer countries such as the U.S. If a jurisdiction wants to develop export markets for its products and services it may not be the same target as investment markets (say potash for the Brazilian market – although that example is one that makes me swallow hard).  Finally, if a jurisdiction wants to attract talent – workers or entrepreneurs – it may not be the same markets as either investment or export markets.  For example, Romania, Morocco and the Philippines may be ideal markets for talent attraction but not necessarily investment or export market development.

India, it seems to me, provides the trifecta.  Indian IT outsourcing firms are placing tens of thousands of workers from India into the United States using the H1B visa program.  Now that program is under threat – at least at a high level making Canada look more attractive.  Indian firms are also a significant source of investment (think AV Birla and its investment in NB forest products mills).  Finally, Indian firms that potentially set up in New Brunswick wouldn’t be doing so for local markets – but as a location to develop export markets.  We have spent decades trying to develop Asian export markets but to little avail.

But when AV bought two mills in New Brunswick exports to Asia rocketed by more than 8x.  If Indian IT outsourcers set up here they too will significantly boost our export revenue.

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The challenge, of course, is that many jurisdictions realize this so the competition for Indian talent and investment is substantial.  Small jurisdictions need to figure out if they can find niches to exploit in highly competitive markets or whether they should focus on less lucrative but less competitive markets.  NB has already attracted one small IT firm from eastern Europe – there may be many more looking to set up in North America but that are nervous about the US of A at this time.

But we need to give India the good ol’ college try.  The opportunity is too great to pass up.

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