India has everything — market, highly-skilled manpower and not to forget the ROI (return over investments) — to attract investments. But it is after an investor comes to the country that he realises that things are not quite easy in the country. This was reiterated by the experts who deal with Israeli companies or investors mulling over investing in India.
These experts were on a panel discussion organised by Free Press Journal and SIES in association with Invest India. The discussion comes under the webinar series 'Financing India’. In this edition of the webinar series, the focus country was Israel. The panellists were Anat Bernstein-Reich, Chairperson, Israel-India Chamber of Commerce; Benjamin Grossman, Partner and Head of Indian, Legal Practice, APM & Co.; and Sagi Itcher, Economic Consul, Israeli Consulate General, Mumbai. The opening remarks were delivered by Ya'akov Finkelstein, Consul General for Israel in Mumbai. The session was moderated by RN Bhaskar, Consulting Editor, Free Press Journal and the closing remark was given by Vaneeta Raney, head, BMM at SIES College.
Ya'akov Finkelstein said, “For Israel, India is the strategic partner but this relationship has to be translated into business.” He stated that the cooperation between the heads of both countries is strong. However, it needs to be seen in people-to-people cooperation as well. “The potential for the relationship is enormous as Israel and India are not competing with each other, but completing each other. Israel has the technology and India has the upscaling potential. There is a lot both can do together. India is more than just a market, it is a partner,” he stressed.
Other than cultural differences, the challenges Israeli businesses face in India are around taxation, legal systems, exiting businesses, repatriation of funds among others. “...Intellectual property (IP) is definitely an issue for the Israeli companies in India. For instance, a diamond tech company Sarine Technologies is still struggling in India to protect its IP — knocking the door of courts, government bodies and various authorities. This company has not found any relief,” stated Anat Bernstein-Reich. Such issues discourage other investors or companies from investing in India, she hinted.
Adding to these challenges, Benjamin Grossman stated that the long and tedious process of registration of companies in India can put India plans on the back burner. “Registering a company in India is a nightmare. With KYC I can register a company in Singapore in 24 hours, in India it takes no less than 90 days. It is a long and tedious process — it takes three-six months with a bank account,” explained Grossman. He also urged Indian authorities to look at investors with trust. “You can do a high-level of audits but India will need to trust its investors.”
Sagi Itcher and his colleagues in India do not just help Israeli investors find their feet in India but work the other way round as well. He explained that getting investments identified is just the first step. But it can be a smoother affair – if one can get the right local partner and on-going activities like delay in payments and other issues sorted. Itcher stated, “Israel regards India very highly. India is one of the most prominent partners in this part of the world. Our trade is around USD 4.5 billion and doubling it should not be a challenge. We are not there yet due to some reasons.” He is optimistic that will be sorted soon.