By Sajeev K Peter

KUWAIT: The Indian Embassy in Kuwait hosted a conference on India-Kuwait investment on Monday titled ‘Unleashing Synergies’, exploring new opportunities for collaboration and investment in various sectors. The conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel was organized in collaboration with the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) and supported by the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the Union of Investment Companies (UIC).

High-ranking officials and delegates from India’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Invest India, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) participated in the conference.

“We are here today to exchange ideas, experiences and expertise and to identify more investment opportunities in both Kuwait and India,” said Ministry of Commerce and Industry Undersecretary Mohammad Al-Enezi, delivering a keynote speech as the chief guest on behalf of Minister of Commerce and Industry Mohammed Othman Al-Aiban.

Indian Ambassador Dr Adarsh Swaika delivers his opening remarks.

Bilateral relations between Kuwait and India have witnessed significant growth in recent years, especially in the areas of trade and investment. The volume of trade between the two countries exceeded $2.3 billion in 2021, an increase of 25.6 percent over 2020, Enezi said. “However, we recognize that there are many investment opportunities available between the two countries, which need to be strengthened by joint efforts,” he pointed out.

Enezi said the conference is an ideal platform to enhance investment relations and consolidate friendship between the two countries. “Kuwaiti-Indian relations go back many centuries, as India was and continues to be an important supplier of Kuwaiti trade. Today, we are witnessing a new transformation in these relations, as the economic, trade and investment ties between the two countries develop increasingly and fruitfully,” he said.

“The conference will discuss investment opportunities that are available in Kuwait and India and review the latest developments in this regard. I am confident that this conference will witness productive and effective discussions, during which cooperation and partnership between the private and public sectors in both countries will be strengthened. I look forward to seeing positive results that benefit Kuwait, India and their people,” he added.

KIA Managing Director Ghanem Al-Ghenaiman.

Scope for diversification

In his opening remarks, Indian Ambassador Dr Adarsh Swaika spoke about the huge scope for diversification of the bilateral relations between India and Kuwait. “Clearly, there are very good possibilities in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, automobiles and related spares, electronics goods and components, high efficiency solar PV modules, textiles and apparel, white goods, ceramics and so on. I would encourage the captains of Kuwaiti businesses present here today to look at the quality and cost competitiveness that Indian products offer today,” he remarked.

The ambassador pointed out that India is the fastest growing major economy in the world, fifth largest economy currently, third largest in terms of purchasing power parity and projected to be a $5 trillion economy by 2030. “India is expected to be the only major economy to keep growing at well above 6 percent per annum in the foreseeable future, and thus will remain one of the major growth engines of the world,” he said.

India’s FDI inflows have increased 20 times in the last 20 years, with cumulative FDI inflow of $871 billion and highest FDI inflow in the last FY of $84.8 billion. Swaika also mentioned that India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative is to position itself as a major global manufacturing hub, a bigger trader, and a stronger service provider. The productivity linked investment scheme with an outlay of $26 billion in 13 priority sectors is a major step in this regard, he pointed out.

KCCI Board member Diraar Al-Ghanem

Showcasing the investment potential of both countries, the event provided an ideal platform for investors and entrepreneurs to discuss challenges and identify areas of cooperation. By bringing together key stakeholders from both nations, the conference has succeeded in fostering stronger ties and enhancing mutual understanding, leading the growth of the economies of both Kuwait and India. Speaking at the conference, Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) Managing Director Ghanem Al-Ghenaiman spoke at length about the close partnership the KIA has with Indian entities. KIA, one of the largest and oldest sovereign funds in the world, established its official operations in India in 1990s. “If the initial investment was a mere $35 million, today it has reached double-digit billions of dollars,” Ghenaiman stated.

“The KIA has noticed over the years India’s resilience and reassuring macroeconomic stability. The GDP is growing at a healthy rate driven forward by a young and growing population. To put this into perspective, the KIA’s investment in India has doubled within a short period starting from March 2020 to the present day,” he stated. He reiterated KIA’s continued interest in further strengthening its relationship with India.

Union of Investment Companies (UIC) Chairman Saleh Al-Selmi and KCCI board member Diraar Al-Ghanem also addressed the conference. NIIF’s Executive Director Padmanabh Sinha gave a presentation on potential investment cooperation with NIIF. Invest India Vice president Aastha Tyagi gave an elaborate presentation on the India growth story with statistics and analysis of opportunities for FDI investments in India.

Indian delegates with the Indian Ambassador, Indian embassy officials and IBPC office-bearers.

Dari Al-Bader, Chairman, Asiya Investments, shared his positive investment experience in the hospitality and gas sectors in India  and James Minato, General Manager of Kirby Building Systems, an Alghanim Industries company, presented a detailed overview of Kirby Industries’ manufacturing plants in India.. A panel of eminent Kuwaiti and Indian speakers presented a discussion on ‘Unlocking the Full Potential of India’ in which Faisal M Sarkhou, CEO, Kamco Invest, Abdulaziz Al-Loughani, CEO, Floward and Ali Hasan Khalil, CEO, Markaz from the Kuwaiti side and Rajat Kumar Saini, director, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Padmanabh Sinha, ED & CIO, National Fund for Investment and Infrastructure (NIIF), Pankaj Kumar Tandon, CEO and Joint Managing Director, Jakson Group and representative of CII delegation From Kuwait from Indian side participated. Sunny Bhatia, CFO, KIPCO Group, moderated the discussion. Earlier, IBPC Chairman Gurvinder Lamba welcomed the gathering.

“The conference gave us an opportunity to know Kuwait more closely, the opportunities for India and the successful Indian diaspora here. This time, we have important representatives from NIIF, CII and Invest India which are pillars for facilitating businesses and competent bodies for sharing information,” Tandon, who heads the Indian delegation, told the Kuwait Times on the sidelines of the conference.

Talking to Kuwait Times, Bhatia said the conference could create awareness about potential investment opportunities for both India and Kuwait. “Most importantly, it enabled Kuwaiti investors and audience to know the new India growth story. It is also important to understand the Indian side what Kuwaiti investors are looking for in India to make an investment in the country. Significantly, the conference had strong representations from both Kuwaiti and Indian sides,” Bhatia pointed out. Separately, Ghenaiman and a KIA delegation met Swaika, Smita Patil, First Secretary [Political and Commercial, Indian Embassy], members from the NIIF, Invest India, CII, members from the Indian Embassy in Kuwait and various entities from the IBPC during the pre-conference bilateral meeting.