Deiss seeks to expand business ties with India

Deiss is currently on a whistlestop tour of India

Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss hopes his current visit to India will stimulate bilateral economic ties and make a strong relationship even better.

This content was published on January 22, 2006 - 15:32

Deiss was speaking at a business lunch in Bangalore, the capital of the southern state of Karnataka, a city renowned as the information technology heart of India.

"Swiss companies are increasingly aware of the potential of this region. Some 20 to 25 Swiss companies engaged in diverse fields have been present in Bangalore for a very long time and the number is increasing," said Deiss.

Shortly before his speech on Saturday, Deiss inaugurated a new extension to the research and development facilities of power and automation technology concern ABB, which is based in Zurich.

"ABB and other Swiss companies have demonstrated the vast potential to do business in the country and Swiss investment in India will only grow in the years ahead.

"Karnataka has always been seen as an investor-friendly state and we have a noteworthy presence here," he said.

Smarter products

The ABB centre is aimed at driving ABB's "embedded technology" development, which means helping to make products smarter or more intelligent.

"We are about 250 people and when we began we were about 20. We certainly have plans to increase the capacity and size," ABB India's Bazmi Husain told swissinfo.

The people at ABB in Bangalore are primarily engineers, whether in the chemical or electrical fields, or power systems analysis.

According to Richard Friedl, ABB's senior vice-president, ABB India belongs to the top 40 of private companies on the sub-continent. It is quoted on the stock exchange in Mumbai and employs 3,200 people.

Husain explained that employees were involved in developing software solutions for "very real life products".

"We here in Bangalore are globally responsible for providing integration of these assets into the system so that our customers can benefit. That translates into higher productivity and profits," he said.

Swiss firms

During his tour of Swiss companies in Bangalore, Deiss also heard about the activities of the Bühler company, which is a world leader in making machinery to mill grain, and is rapidly expanding its activities in India.

He also heard how the company that runs Zurich airport, Unique, is helping in the development of the new Bangalore International Airport, and how reinsurance company Swiss Re has been establishing itself further in India.

Deiss will be in the capital, New Delhi, from Sunday and is scheduled to meet President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and the commerce and industry minister, Kamal Nath.

Although a free trade agreement between India and Switzerland is being talked about, it seems that such an accord is not yet on the cards.

What seems more likely in the short term is a free trade accord between India and the European Free Trade Association, of which Switzerland is a member.

For the time being, no one officially wants to say when such an accord might come about.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes in Bangalore

In brief

Deiss said there was a common interest to deepen bilateral relations in the field of scientific and technological cooperation.

He said Switzerland was among the leading nations when it came to innovation and put a lot of emphasis on its policies of rapid technology transfer from academic institutions to industry.

Deiss said that India's skilled and well-educated workforce, comparatively low cost of manufacturing and improving business climate made it a "more and more interesting" partner for Swiss companies.

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