“I noticed several new high-tech gadgets and devices at the Chinese hotel in which I have stayed, and I think Indian companies should connect with technology companies in China to launch things like that in Delhi,” said Abhishek Kumar, president of the Entrepreneurs Association of India (EAI), during an interview with China-India Dialogue at a youth entrepreneur conference held in Beijing in April. Kumar’s past experience in China-India business cooperation has made him acutely aware of the interdependence and mutual complementarity between Chinese and Indian companies.
He and his colleagues already found numerous chances to engage in productive discussions and collaborations with their Chinese partners during their multiple visits to China previously. Last year, a proposal from the conference’s organizer to establish the International Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs Associations gave Kumar’s team a needed boost of confidence to embark on bilateral business collaboration. They recognized the immense potential for youth and business development in the two countries.
Emerging Stronger out of the Crisis
The global economy has encountered headwinds over the past three years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their impact has been felt in almost every sector in India as well. “Some young enterprises and startups that launched from 2016 to 2019 were hit the hardest,” said Kumar. “These companies were just reaching their growth trajectory, but the sharp, long-lasting slowdown sent them back to square one, causing entrepreneurs to default on loans.” This resulted in major non-performing assets and a crisis of capital. Negative working capital, suspended operations, overstocked commodities, and wage arrears led to a massive flow of migrant workers desperate to return to their native places. In response, the non-profit organization EAI collaborated with logistics companies and individuals willing to offer help to provide cabs and buses to transport such migrant workers home.
The organization also played a role in coordinating discussions between companies and the government on types of financial packages to be offered to small and medium-sized enterprises. To apply for the scheme, companies had to undergo a careful eligibility check involving the EAI communicating with banking institutions and chartered accountants to gather all the necessary documents. These financial aid efforts were critical in helping companies survive the economic recession, and the EAI continued to support them from 2020 to early 2022.
Last February, India was ranked fourth out of 51 countries in the quality of its entrepreneurship ecosystem according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor National Entrepreneurship Context Index report, a drastic turnaround following a much lower score in 2021 at 16th overall.
Kumar attributed the success to the emergence of numerous startups that have played a significant role in supporting the government’s drive for good governance. He personally contributed to the endeavor by assisting several state governments in managing their affairs more efficiently. He assisted a chief minister with computerizing the state’s documentation and data analysis which empowered the official to access reports from a variety of ministries on his mobile device, saving valuable time and facilitating efficient governance. These technological advances have helped curb bribery and streamline bureaucratic procedures, allowing applicants to obtain licenses and certificates with just a few clicks on a mobile device.
“The International Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs Associations could serve as a platform for collaboration between China, India, and other member countries in various fields such as governance, technology, hardware, software, digitalization, healthcare, agriculture, and logistics,” remarked Kumar. The alliance was introduced as a means to promote international cooperation among young entrepreneurs from different countries. By facilitating exchange programs and sharing new ideas and innovative products among member countries, the alliance could be particularly valuable for driving youth and business development forward.
China-India Business Cooperation
During a meeting with Indian agripreneurs in March, Kumar received positive feedback that machines imported from China have been working very well. Many have been looking to Chinese technology for replacements when upgrading machinery. According to him, Chinese agricultural machines, electronic equipment, and industrial products are particularly suitable for Indian consumers. Conversely, software, medicine, and food products from India have been popular in the Chinese market. In 2022, bilateral trade reached an all-time high of US$135.98 billion, crossing US$100 billion for the second time despite border tensions.
“China has been helpful in offering India innovative technologies,” remarked Kumar. “Digitization and various technologies could be immensely conducive to managing the increasing population of India.” Kumar suggested igniting the minds of the people with new ideas and innovation to turn India’s population size into a dividend and inspiring entrepreneurs to play a crucial role in driving innovation. “The Indian government encourages entrepreneurial ideas at grassroots levels to foster more innovation, and the Digital India initiative is reaching villages to help with the tele-medicine and education sectors.” The huge population creates huge demands in public welfare, urban utilities, housing, and facilities. All those things need to be managed efficiently by leveraging technologies and digitalization.
Back in 2021, Paytm, an Indian digital payment giant backed by Alibaba, made India’s largest initial public offering ever, highlighting the significance of Chinese investment in the country’s internet industry. “Indian entrepreneurs are keen to collaborate with and scale their businesses alongside their Chinese counterparts,” added Kumar, stressing that stronger business and cultural interaction would enhance the bilateral relationship. He admitted that a deeper cultural connection is still lacking. With India’s G20 and SCO presidency attracting global attention this year, Kumar expressed hope that the situation would create more opportunities for people-to-people exchange between China and India.