Brussels is gearing up for an Indian summer, but this has less to do with the weather than India Inc, which is all set to strut its stuff in the heart of the European Union. The largest India-related business summit ever to be held in the city will see top CEOs and political heavyweights join hands to send a clear message to Europe, of engagement and interest.
Jointly organised by the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) and the Europe India Chamber of Commerce, the 'India Calling' conference is a rare effort by Indian industry to brand India at a EU level. IMC's chief advisor, P N Mogre, explains how Indian companies are yet to learn how to deal with the EU's emergence.
There is still a tendency to try and engage with each European country individually, he says. It does not take into account the fact that the EU has a single market. "Every other India Calling conference we have organised in the past has been with just one country, be it Singapore or Canada. But by doing it in Brussels, we are involving the whole of Europe in one go."
India's economic relationship with the EU is, in fact, its meatiest. In 2008, trade between the two was worth Euro 60.9 billion, way ahead of the $51.78 (Euro 36.1) billion trade with China, India's second largest partner.
Yet, from the EU's perspective, this is small potatoes. By way of comparison, its bilateral trade with China in 2008 was a massive ¤326 billion. Even in services, India's USP, China outstripped India, exporting Euro 14.4 billion worth of services to the EU, compared to only Euro 7.3 billion for India.
There is, thus, a lot of scope for expanding the India-EU engagement, a process IMC hopes the India Calling conference will help. The focus will be on four sectors that the organisers believe have the greatest potential for growth: pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, infrastructure, financial services and energy. Confirmed participation from government includes Union cabinet ministers Kamal Nath and Vayalar Ravi, and chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Sheila Dikshit.