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Symposium explores prospects, challenges of doing business with India

Umah Papachan
July 2009
Symposium explores prospects, challenges of doing business with India

India offers boundless investment and business opportunities, but also significant challenges, as Mark Carter and others have learned.

Carter, an architect at Atlanta-based tvsdesign, was among about 100 entrepreneurs, government officials and members from the education sector who participated in the India and the US: Growing Market Opportunities symposium, held June 16 at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. The symposium was organized by the Georgia Tech Center for International Business Education & Research (CIBER) and U.S. India Business & Research Center (USIBRC).

Carter’s firm, formerly known as Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates or TVS, has designed CNN Centre, Omni Sports Arena and World Congress Centre, among others.

“We have a mixed-use development project in Mumbai, a shopping centre project in New Delhi and another in Mohali, Punjab, a huge 800,000 sq ft project,” Carter said. “We are in partnership with American developers and a private and well-known Indian developer.”

Despite its enormous local and international success, the award-winning firm has encountered some contractual problems with its business transactions in India. “We are service providers and we are in a bind, as we are not getting paid for the parts of the project that we have completed,” Carter said.

The company has performed “exactly per the contract,” Carter said, so the next step is to take the matter before a judge in India.

“That’s going to very expensive and a long litigious process,” he said. “We began this relationship with the Indian developer on good faith and now we have hit a road block. As architects, we are a creative lot with innovative ideas and not paying for the part of the contract that we have dutifully performed can be discouraging.”

Carter hoped that the symposium would shed some light. “We are here to listen to the other participants who have had business experience with India and hope they can help us find a solution to our dilemma.”

Dr. Rama Amara of the Emory Vaccine Centre hoped that the symposium would highlight the importance of working with India’s foremost scientists, a collaboration that might save millions of lives in the near future.

The centre, established in 1996 with support from Emory University and the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), is developing vaccines for major diseases prevalent in the developing world, including tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria.

“In the last 10 years, my specialty has been finding a vaccine for the HIV virus,” Amara said. “But we have along way to go, as we are still in the clinical stage with an initial funding of $50 million from the National Institute of Health (NIH).”

The centre is collaborating with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), based in New Delhi.

“It looks very promising,” Amara said.

What’s promising for others is the opportunity of tapping into India’s growing auto industry. Global Vehicles USA Inc., an Alpharetta-based auto importer and distributor, has acquired the exclusive rights to sell Mahindra & Mahindra’s SUVs and two- and four-door trucks.

Mahindra made the first rugged jeep in India in 1949 and continues to build its $6.3 billion automotive business worldwide. Forbes ranked the company in its Top 200 list of the World's Most Reputable Companies and in the Top 10 list of Most Reputable Indian companies.

Ann Durham, President of Global Vehicles, said she was impressed with Mahindra’s work ethics, innovation, integrity as well as its reputation.

“We are very proud to bring Mahindra’s SUVs into the US,” she said. “They will feature Common Rail Diesel engines which are fuel efficient, will reduce greenhouse gases by 30 percent and with good mileage (35-39 mpg).”

With GM and Chrysler closing many of their dealership nationwide, GV will be opening about 330 to sell the Indian-manufactured line of vehicles.

India may have been hit by the global recession, but it will continue to grow economically and offer opportunities to local entrepreneurs and others.

Ani Agnihotri, founder of USIBRC, knows this all too well. And through the symposium and other programs, he hopes to make it easier for U.S. companies to do business with India.

“We hope that we can offer solutions to dilemmas faced by an American company that has encountered obstacles with its Indian partner,” he said. “We are here to demystify when doing business with India.”

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