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'Indo-Japan Dialogue on Strategic Collaboration' at Spire Edge's World Trade Center, Manesar: Does it add value to Indian business scenario?
Spire Edge promoted World Trade Center in Manesar hosted the 'Indo-Japan Dialogue on Strategic Collaboration' on February 19. The idea was to bring the Japanese and Indian business community under one roof for a fruitful discussion while Spire Edge also gets a chance to promote the USP. Given the background that this particular property from Spire Edge had drawn a lot of attention due to the title 'World Trade Center' designated by World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) after a rigorous evaluation, interest was anyway expected to be high among business owners. However, incomplete infrastructure, presence of a mere 100 people in the event and lack of concrete developmental roadmaps being presented, gave an impression that the event was just a marketing gimmick.

Despite failing to make much profit in India, as revealed by a survey conducted by Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), most of the Japanese companies are expecting expansion, in the hope that Government of India comes to their rescue. This was revealed by Naoyoshi Noguchi, Chief Director-General JETRO, at “Indo-Japan Dialogue on Strategic Collaboration” at World Trade Center in Manesar where Indian business leaders and their Japanese counterparts met under one roof to discuss the challenges and opportunities in Indian and Japanese markets.

Quoting the survey, Mr. Noguchi said that Japanese companies are making profits in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but in India they are facing multiple challenges, which includes, inter alia, massive competition, increase in production costs and labour issues. Notwithstanding the challenge, Mr. Noguchi said Japanese companied are still eyeing for expansion in the country. “Inviting and convincing more Japanese companies to India remains a challenge,” Mr. Noguchi said while addressing the gathering. He added that the companies are facing difficulties while operating in Haryana, which incidentally is home to one-third of Japanese investment in India.

“We are encountering a number of difficulties, like high labour costs in Gurgaon and Manesar. But we are taking them (issues) up with the state and central governments,” Mr. Noguchi told this citizen journalist . He was also quick to mention that Neemrana and nearby areas of Rajasthan are fast coming up as more attractive destinations. When asked about the improving Indo-Japan relation after the election of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sees India at the heart of ‘Broader Asia’, Mr. Noguchi replied in negative. “He (Abe) is trying to put the Japanese domestic market on track. After he is done with that, he will obviously focus on India,” he said.

Given the title of the dialogue, one would have expected a power-packed session with policymakers from both sides on the dais, but that was not be. However, the presence of Tamaki Tuskada, Minister (Economic), Embassy of Japan, India did lend credence to the dialogue that saw an audience of around 100 people listening carefully to every speaker. However what went missing was an interactive session between the Japanese and Indian community discussing and reflecting on challenges and probable solution of various issues pertaining to the business environment. In absence of the ‘dialogue’ that the event promised to host the efforts, though commendable, came across as a fruitless marketing monologue between two parties.

Calling the topic “timely and relevant”, Mr. Tsukada maintained that the region was witnessing dramatic change along with dynamic shift in geo-political realities. Recalling that Japan, third biggest source of FDI to India, has in the recent years, technically and financially assisted India in large infrastructure development projects such as Delhi Metro Rail project (DMRC) and Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), he said: “We are witnessing a dramatic change in the vision of Japan doing business in India; Japanese SMEs are visiting India in droves and regional banks are seeking investments.”

Tarun Bajaj, Managing Director, HSIIDC promised all support and facilities to the Japanese investors. “We are always available to you at Manesar. All the facilities will be provided to you at the click of a button. Should you have any hiccups, I am here to address them,” Mr. Bajaj told the potential investors.

Compared to present day Gurgaon city, IMT Manesar looks quite promising with wide and well-laid out roads and grand scale of construction and infrastructure, but even this level of development comes with a number of ifs and buts. When asked by a member of audience, how it was possible to bring investors to IMT Manesar and the World Trade Center, given the appalling connectivity issues, Mr. Bajaj replied like a typical politician, making a lot of promises. “We are building alternate roads; two of them will be operational by May this year. Besides we are trying to acquire the land at some other places which will help us build roads connecting Manesar with rest of the city,” Mr. Bajaj informed.

However, keeping in mind that public transport is something even Gurgaon failed at, it remains to be seen how Manesar plans to evolve under the same authorities. In the absence of public transport services, questions might be asked how the region or the center will draw human resource once companies set up their businesses. This citizen journalist had to spend two hours in the cab while reaching the Center from Gurgaon’s Palam Vihar, some 30 km away, and three hours on the return journey via NH-8 as traffic moved at snail’s pace thanks to the movement of trawlers and lorries.

Being built by Spire Edge, the World Trade Center in Manesar boasts of Japan Business Tower, which according to its representatives is a “unique feature” that will offer a compatible eco-system to various Japanese organizations working to looking forward to establishing their base in India. “There is a dedicated Japan business desk facilitating day to day working requirements ranging from legal to advisory to HR to market research and taxation. Also included in the facility is a Japanese restaurant, though we won’t name it as we have signed confidentiality (clause),” Khair ull Nisa, Sr. GM, World Trade Centre, Manesar said.

Spire Edge’s representatives while making hard efforts to market the Center which incidentally will take couple of more years before it is declared complete, seemed to be very upbeat about the future of Manesar. Their key selling points were the low rentals and the presence of interpreters/translators in the building. “Gurgaon is becoming expensive; Manesar is offering better facilities at a cheaper prices,” Ms. Nisa claimed.

However, to make the rate of INR 72 per sq. ft an attractive proposition compared to INR 150 per sq. ft for almost similar infrastructure in the middle of Gurgaon, a lot of external infrastructure needs to be created. A senior industry analyst pointed out, “We are trying to sell hardware (real estate) to Japanese but we forget that there is a urgent need of an app store (facilities) as well. We will provide them incubation centres, but unfortunately they wouldn’t be like ‘ready to move in’. Take the example of Manesar, there is a massive connectivity issue and as such Japanese companies setting up business there would, before everything, need to arrange a chartered bus for their human resource,” he said.

He pointed out that these issues would only add to the operating costs and that, according to him, is the reason that Japanese companies are not making profits. One would agree with the analyst as we can boast of many things but fail on delivery, despite such a hard work. To address these issues, one would have expected people from the transport ministry or for that matter industries minister to grace the event and inform the Japanese investors how the state government was seriously working towards building connectivity to the region.

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