rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Business » Virginia Governor bullish about FDI in India

Virginia Governor bullish about FDI in India

November 18, 2011 15:52 IST

Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who is leading a trade delegation to India, talking to rediff.com from Bangalore - his second stop after Mumbai after arriving on November 15 - said, "The market here is just unlimited," and that even though he had pre-empted the much touted 100-member delegation that Maryland's Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley will lead to India next week, "There's plenty of business for everybody."

"The market here, as you know, is just unlimited - incredibly entrepreneurial companies, particularly in the high-tech, manufacturing space," he said.

"They have just begun to come into their own, companies like Tata and others that are now expanding to have an international presence."

McDonnell said - even as he was chuckling that he had pre-empted O'Malley's much publicised trip - that "there is plenty of business for everybody. We have a much leaner trip here - we've got about 12 people and a couple of business leaders who've paid their own way, who just wanted to come and be part of it."

He said, "We are focusing on these core strengths of Virginia - in manufacturing, technology, tourism, wine, film, energy - the things that we think we have the greatest shot at foreign direct investment."

"So, we've had a great start with a lot of small and medium-sized technology companies that are Indian-owned - already over a 150 in Northern Virginia - and then about 25 other companies in the manufacturing space - Tata, Sendestra, Essel Propak and others."

However, McDonnell noted that "our goal is to build on these strengths to get the existing companies that are big to expand and then use them as ambassadors for us to tell the Virginia story."

He said in Mumbai, where he opened up a Virginia trade office, "We had one of the leaders from Tata come and sing the praises of Virginia - why we are the most business-friendly state in the country, how easy it was to get up and running. We also had statements also from Sandesara's (senior vice president) Danny Patel talking about how great it is doing business in Chesterfield County."

"So, that's our best asset - the great business that we already have here," he added.

McDonnell, who has a perfect rapport with O'Malley, although they belong to different parties, told rediff.com, "Both Virginia and Maryland are ideal locations for Indian companies in the technology and bio-tech and nano-tech space to locate."

"We already have marvellous infrastructure around the I(Interstate)-270 Corridor in Maryland and the Dulles Corridor in Virginia," he said.

"And, so there are so many opportunities here that I am not worried about that competition."

McDonnell reiterated that even though "we are a small and lean delegation, but we are accomplishing a lot here in the short period of time."

The Governor, whose named is also being thrown around as a potential vice presidential candidate for whoever Republican presidential candidate is nominated on account of Virginia being an important swing state – which Obama won in the 2008 election but is likely to lose in 2012 - who is on his first visit to India also observed that it "is in some ways even easier to do business here (in India compared to China) because one, they are a democracy, a free enterprise system, and secondly, everyone here speaks English."

He said, "Young children here learn it a very early age and so most Indians are fluent in both English and Hindu and it's made it very easy everywhere we've gone to do business."

McDonnell also noted the severe traffic congestion in Mumbai, saying, "Mumbai is a city of 17 million, and with many other visitors, it's a nice city on the ocean, but very, very congested. We think the traffic's bad in Virginia, but boy, it is horrific here."

Besides, Danny Patel, accompanying McDonnell are a few other prominent Indian Americans, including the Virginia Treasurer Manju Ganeriwala - who hails from Mumbai - leading Virginia entrepreneur Sudhakar Shenoy, chairman and CEO of IMC Inc, and erstwhile chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and Dr Kamlesh Dave, a physician and close friend and fund-raiser of McDonnell.

"So, it's great to have our emissaries from Virginia here with us,"McDonnell said, and noted that "We got to meet with Manju's entire family in Mumbai and she is accompanying us now on the rest of the trip."

McDonnell said that in Mumbai, "We met with over 60 of India's leading business leaders and also major Indian businesses that already have offices in Virginia and talked to them about expansion and job creating opportunities in our state - companies like Tata, with offices in Herndon and Arlington, Sandesara headquartered in Mumbai and it's North American headquarters in Chesterfield County, Essel Propak, a major manufacturer in Danville, Virginia, and one of that city's largest manufacturers."

Meanwhile, he said his wife Maureen "led a delegation to Bollywood – that's the Indian version of Hollywood - and they met with top producers there, including the studio of Chopra, one of the largest producers of films in India, where they actually have twice as many producers of film as does Hollywood."

McDonnell also said, "We were delighted to meet with some of the officers of Virginia Tech, who are in the final stages of opening up a tremendous master's degree program in Chennai."

"They've been working on this for a couple of years and they have some large companies like Tata and Marg that have worked with Virginia tech over this last year to have this program opened," he said.

"It's going to be a master's degree only program focusing on the science, technology, engineering and math."

McDonnell said, "This will be an opportunity for Virginia Tech to be one of the first universities to offer a master's degree programme starting in January 2012 with about 600 students."

He also said that on Monday, November 21, the delegation would open an agricultural office in New Delhi to represent Virginia and that he was also looking forward to his meeting with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

Image: Virginia Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC