Below you can read the speech of Mr. R.L. Lakhina, June 26, 2015 – Kasteel De Wittenburg, Wassenaar, Leadership Transition Dinner Program.
“I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak to you concerning the achievements of the Netherlands India Chamber of Commerce and Trade (NICCT). This subject is very dear to my heart because as some of you are aware the NICCT is my brain child. About fifteen years ago I had a vision that there was a need for creating a strong bi-national chamber of commerce to promote business and economic relations between the Netherlands and India. I was convinced at that time and I continue to hold this belief until today that the economies of these two countries are mutually complementary and there is a very significant scope for expanding business relations between them. This conviction led to the creation of the Netherlands India Chamber of Commerce & Trade in 2001.
The NICCT has come a long way since its inception in 2001. The business and economic relations between India and the Netherlands at that time were very modest and there was a very limited awareness about the business potential between the two countries. Since then business and economic relations between the two countries have expanded substantially. Flows of trade and investment in both directions have increased greatly and there is a growing awareness about the vast potential for broadening and deepening these relations further. In 2001 the total trade between the two countries was 1.4 billion Euros. The bilateral trade kept on growing steadily and by 2013 it had become 5.7 billion Euros, an increase of more than 400%. In the year 2000-1 the flow of Direct Foreign Investment from the Netherlands to India was only 161 million US dollars but in the year 2014-15 the figure is more than 3.13 billion USD, a jump of nearly 2000%. In fact the Netherlands has become the 5th largest investor in India. Similarly India has become the 5th largest investor in the Netherlands. In 2001 there were only a small number of Dutch companies operating in India but in 2015 the number of Dutch companies operating in India has exceeded 175. Very substantial increase in trade and investment flows between the two countries which has taken place during the last 14 years is indeed very impressive. NICCT cannot claim entire credit for this impressive increase. But it is undisputable that the NICCT has made a very significant contribution in creating awareness about the growing business opportunities between these two countries.
Since its inception the NICCT has organized more than 100 different programs in the Netherlands to inform the Dutch companies about the growing business opportunities in India; to inspire them with success stories and help them in making new contacts and forging new alliances.
In this short presentation I do not wish to recall all the activities which the NICCT has organized during the last fourteen years. But some of these activities were trailblazing and it will be useful to bring them to your attention. In this context the following achievements of the NICCT are particularly noteworthy:
- The NICCT has become the focal point for contacts and information about the Netherlands India business and economic relations. Before the establishment of the NICCT, two organizations, namely the Indo Dutch Chamber of Commerce and India Trade Council, were existing in the Netherlands. Both of them were small and had only occasional activities. The merger of these two organizations into the NICCT started the process of consolidation and has resulted in the emergence of a dynamic and robust organization committed to the promotion of the Netherlands India business and economic relations.
- Starting with a modest membership of about 35 companies the NICCT has now nearly 100 members including small, medium and large sized companies including several multinational companies.
- In 2003 the NICCT highlighted the visa problems for knowledge workers and businessmen wishing to come to the Netherlands, by bringing together all the stakeholders on a common platform for an open discussion. That has contributed significantly to the easing of visa problems for the knowledge workers. As a result of the new visa regime more than 6000 Indian knowledge workers are currently working in the Netherlands and making a very useful contribution to the Dutch economy.
- In the same year, the NICCT organized the first major seminar in the Netherlands on ICT related services from India. Since then there is an increasing recognition in the Netherlands about India’s potential in this important sector and opportunities for Dutch business concerns in India. Almost all of the ICT majors from India are currently operating in the Netherlands and the ICT business between the two countries has expanded greatly.
- In 2004, the NICCT organized the first privately funded Match Making Trade Mission to India. The Mission has contributed to the establishment of new Dutch business concerns and joint ventures in India. It led to the contacts which have contributed to the IIFA Film Awards being held in Amsterdam in 2005. It has also encouraged other Dutch organizations to send similar trade missions to India.
- In 2006, the NICCT joined hands with the ING Banking & Insurance Group and KPMG, in organizing a major seminar on “Investing in India-Opportunities & Challenges”. This seminar has stimulated further Dutch interest in doing business with India.
- In January 2007 the NICCT initiated a new series of annual lectures on “Rapidly Growing Indian Economy & its Relevance for Europe”. The first lecture under this series was given by the Chief Economist of the ING Banking & Insurance Group, Mr. Mark Cliffe. Since then several Dutch, French and Indian economists including Mr. Suman Bery, the chief economist of Shell International, have addressed the Dutch businessmen and informed them about the relevance of the rapidly growing Indian economy for their business with India.
- In June 2007, the NICCT and TCS organized a seminar on “Collaborative Innovations: New Generation Cooperation between India & the Netherlands”. This seminar has also stimulated interest in this important subject.
- In 2008, the NICCT in partnership with the ING Bank and KPMG organized, the Netherlands India Business Meet (NIBM) with strong support from many Dutch Companies and Organizations including Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce, Amsterdam City Council, and Tata Corus. It brought together more than 300 business persons from both the countries and was the largest event of its kind ever organized in India or the Netherlands. It was addressed by inter alia, the then Finance Minister of India, Mr. P.C. Chidambram and the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade, Drs. Frank Heemskerk. Since then such an event has been organized in the Netherlands every year and the NIBM has become the most important event in the Netherlands India business corridor.
- In 2008 the NICCT instituted another important program, Meet the Distinguished CEO. The purpose of this program is to give opportunities to distinguished CEOs to share their experiences with Dutch business persons and inspire them with their success stories. Several distinguished CEOs including Mr. Ramadorai of TCS and Mr. Jan Hommen of ING Banking Group have participated in such programs.
- In 2009, the NICCT instituted the Netherlands India Business Award to recognize and Honor Dutch companies making outstanding contribution to the Netherlands India business relations. A number of companies including Hyva Group BV, Danieli Corus BV and Women on Wings, have been honored under this program.
- In 2010 the NICCT started organizing New Year Receptions in the month of January to kick start its activities every year. Since then these New Year Receptions have become very popular. These are occasions for making new contacts, renewing old relations, sharing mutual experiences, learning about new business opportunities and at times forging new alliances. During these receptions the participants have the opportunities to meet and interact with the Dutch Ambassador to India and the Indian Ambassador to the Netherlands. The Reception in 2014 was also addressed by the then national Chairman of VNO-NCW, Mr. Bernard Wientjes and in 2015 by the Chairman of MKB, Mr. Michel van Straalen.
- In 2011 the NICCT started organizing programs on corporate social responsibility to highlight the fact that the purpose of doing business was not only to maximize profit for the shareholders but also to take care of the other stakeholders including workers and the society at large. World renowned spiritual leader and the Founder of the World Forum for Ethics in Business, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, addressed the Indo-Dutch business community in June 2012 under this program.
- In 2014 the NICCT initiated a program of Round Table Discussions to provide a platform for the new entrants to learn about how to do business with India in small groups with the help of one or two mentors. These programs are organized in different parts of the country in cooperation with the various chambers of commerce and or VNO-NCW and MKB.
- Over the years the NICCT has forged very valuable partnerships in the Netherlands and India. The NICCT greatly appreciates the strong support it has received from the municipalities of Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht; Chambers of Commerce of various regions in the Netherlands, Dutch Embassy in India, the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), VNO-NCW and MKB.
- To broaden, deepen and strengthen the business and economic relations between the Netherlands and India further, the NICCT needs its own footprints in India. I am delighted to inform you that the NICCT has already taken important first step in this direction. During the recent Dutch Economic Mission to India which was led by Prime Minister Mr. Mark Rutte, the NICCT organized the first Indian edition of the Netherlands India Business Meet (NIBM) on the 6th of June in Mumbai. This program was attended by more than 200 Dutch & Indian business persons; was chaired by the Dutch Minister for Trade & Development Cooperation Mrs. Lillian Ploumen and was considered very successful. The NICCT has also signed Memorandum of Understanding with Confederation of Indian Industries and J.Curve to facilitate match making and provide other facilities in India for the members of the NICCT.
- Presently the NICCT is a well established, financially sound and smoothly functioning bi-national chamber of commerce. It gives me immense pleasure that I have been able to make some contribution for the creation and development of this great institution. I am grateful to the members of the NICCT for giving me the opportunity to play this role. I like to convey my deep sense of appreciation to my colleagues in the governing board of the NICCT for their cooperation and strong support. I have decided to step down from the Chairmanship of the NICCT but I shall continue to be interested in the progress and wellbeing of the NICCT. When necessary, the new leaders of the NICCT can count on my impartial advice and strong support. I wish them great success in their endeavors to take the NICCT to greater heights.