Monday January 22, 2018
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‘Make in India’ roars: Hong Kong shifts industrial base from China to India

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India
Image source: mediaroom.hktdc.com

Hong Kong: Even as it promotes Hong Kong as the gateway for Indian companies to the Chinese markets, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is promoting India as an alternative manufacturing base for its industries based in China, states a research report.

“In recent years, the sustained rise in production costs on the Chinese mainland has eroded the profit margins of many Hong Kong companies with labour-intensive factories located on the Chinese mainland, prompting them to seek alternative production bases elsewhere,” the report states.

“In a nutshell, India offers many advantages as an alternative production base, along with the added advantage of having a domestic market of great potential,” notes the report.

Most of the manufacturing units in Hong Kong migrated to China to take advantage of the low costs after the region was handed over to the latter by the British in 1997.

Some of the multi-storeyed buildings that once housed garment units are now used as offices or are lying vacant.

With manufacturing units shifting base, Hong Kong has turned into a business services hub.

According to HKTDC’s report, India was the world’s second biggest exporter of textile and garment products in 2014, shipping goods worth $36 billion, behind China’s exports worth a whopping $399 billion.

The report also cites the lower import tariff levied on Indian goods by the US and the European Union (EU).

India has been an active player in Asia, securing free trade agreements (FTAs) inside and outside the region. India has also been in talks on an FTA with the EU.

Further, US import tariff rates for Indian yarn-related products range between zero percent and 2.7 percent. The weighted average import tariff rates of the EU and US on non-agricultural products from India are 4.5 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

On the demographic profile, the report states that the Indian median age of 27 is way below China’s 37, ensuring a good supply of young workers for many years to come.

“As an aside, China recently announced the abandonment of its one-child policy in response to the country’s ageing population, though the effect would not be appreciable over the short-to-medium term,” the report added.

According to HKTDC, the Indian wage levels are comparatively lower than what is paid in China. Furthermore, labour productivity in India is going up while that in China has been declining.

The report also cites the presence of industrial estates with plug and play facilities in India for Hong Kong manufacturers to relocate their factories rather than getting bogged down in land acquisition and other issues.

The HKTDC report cites the huge domestic market available in India for Hong Kong manufacturers apart from the country being an alternative production site for overseas markets.

Meanwhile, businessmen in Hong Kong said that the region is the best route to do business with the Chinese.

“We know the people who have shifted operations out of Hong Kong to China. It is better for Indian companies to set up an office here than landing directly in China,” Noordin A Ebrahim, director of Masterful Ltd, told reporters.

Referring to credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service to cut Hong Kong’s long-term debt outlook due to its close link to China, Ebrahim said: “I feel it is a political judgement rather than financial.”

Ebrahim is of the view that China would not do anything to shake the confidence of the Hong Kong business community and would like to see that peace continued to prevail in the former British colony.

Hong Kong has transparent and rules-based systems, very low taxes and knowledgeable work force, he added.

“Knowledge of the local market is important while branding products for China and other markets. Hong Kong-based brand consultants would provide the same for Indian companies,” David Lo, chairman, Hong Kong Designers Association, told agencies.

“The Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between the mainland (China) and Hong Kong would result in the liberalisation of trade in service between the two regions from June 2016,” Yvonne So, director, corporate communication and marketing at HKTDC, told reporters.

“Overseas companies can take advantage of CEPA by outsourcing to, or partnering with, a CEPA-qualified manufacturer or services provider in Hong Kong,” she added.

As for the human resources available, she cited Hong Kong’s nine major universities having more than 75,000 full-time undergraduate students and 8,000 taught and researched full-time postgraduates. (Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS)

Next Story

Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

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Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)