Vikrant Jawharkar -- aka Rockey洛基 as he is fondly called in China -- has been staying in the land of the dragon for the last 20 years. He first got a job in China and visited Guangzhou in 2003. He then got another job in the city of Yiwu in 2005. He loved China so much that after losing his job he started his own business of imports and exports.
In conversation with Dominic Rebello and RN Bhaskar (both from the Free Press Journal) he talks about how the Chinese are business-oriented people. Common people there do not care much about what is happening at the border. They feel that this is a country-level issue and the governments will solve it. They do not treat people differently depending on their country of origin, if you visit China for business, they invite you with open arms, he says.
What kind of business do you conduct in China?
I am into the import-export business. Earlier, I used to export from China toys, household items, garments, etc. However, later on, the Indian government put a ban on these Chinese items. So, the export of toys and many other items from China stopped while there were a lot of duties slapped on garments and others. So, after that, I started exports from India to China. Now, I have been exporting sugar to China for the last four years.
As I spent a lot of my younger years in China, I could not suddenly come to India and get a job or start some business. It's not easy, because the main period of my life I have given to China. So, the other option was to export from India.
In China, I had made a lot of contacts with the locals. So first they asked me whether I could export cotton, chemicals, medicines and some other items. But that didn't work out. So, for one year, we were just working out what we can get into. After a full year of planning we realised that the export of sugar was a good idea. At that point of time India was exporting good quality sugar without any quota system. So, we slowly started exporting sugar and the business performed well.
However, last year, the government put a hold on sugar exports. So now, we are still waiting for the Indian government to restart the export of sugar. I think exports will open up soon as there is a jump in the production of sugar.
In business there are always some ups and downs. As a common man we think that we are supporting the farmers and the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative -- but are still facing problems.
Vikrant Jawaharkar |
You tried your hand in chemicals and pharmaceuticals too. Is there is a big opportunity in pharmaceutical exports from India to China because Chinese medicines especially anti-cancer medicines are 10 times costlier than Indian medicines. So why have you not succeeded there?
The reason is as a common exporter we cannot export medicines. . For that, we need lots of certificates and permissions that are very difficult to get. Yes, there is a huge demand for Indian medicines and the margins vary from 10% to more than 100%.
What do you think India should be doing to make India-China business ties better?
When two nations are doing business, it all depends on the relations that the two countries share. If the relationship is good, the business too will be good. So, till we don't solve our border issue, I think it will always have an effect on the business.
Do you see a change in attitudes of both countries lately?
To be frank, what I have seen in China is that they are business-oriented people. For the common people, they don't care much about what is happening at the border. They feel it a country level issue. They will get a little slow but basically, they are very business-minded people and will not spoil their relations with you. They do not treat you depending on what your country is doing. As you have come there to do business with them, they will invite you with open arms.
Did you find any anti-India sentiment there?
No, I have not seen such things existing there.
From India, besides sugar, which are the other attractive things you see that can be exported to China?
There is a huge demand for a lot of products from India. There is a huge demand for Indian rice, but there is quota system. Also, there is a strong demand for good quality steel and chemicals. But this is the Centre’s decision. As a common man, we may think that if there is demand for all such things, India can easily fulfill this [negative trade balance[ gap, but things need to begin at the government to government-level. That can kick start a huge business opportunity for both sides.
So, India has a huge export potential
Yes, the potential is huge. But when you are doing business between two nations, it boils down to the same point of relations. A few days ago, I met an MLA from Maharashtra and he too stated the same thing. There are a lot of Chinese investors who want to come and invest in India, but he said that he was not sure whether the Centre would accept this or not. He said that in his opinion it was a very good opportunity for India.
How about trade between both countries?
There is a lot of potential. There are a lot of common items that we can import and export. I feel the Chinese Consulate is also working on this. In September or October this year, there is a huge exhibition coming up in China. They are inviting Indian traders and manufacturers to come there and promote Indian goods. I think this will be a very good platform for Indians to showcase their wares.
Anything more you would like to add?
I hope that the relations between the two nations will become better and more smooth. As common people we just want to conduct our business. I hope the leaders on both sides come to a solution soon and traders from both sides can conduct smooth business operations.
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