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More than 100 small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners visited Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar, New Delhi, Amritsar and Jalandhar in January.

The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) headed the trade mission, which provided an opportunity to Canadian small businesses to explore the Indian market. Delegates actively participated in the Business Leaders' Summit in Mumbai, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in Kochi, and the Vibrant Gujarat Convention in Gandhinagar, where Canada was declared the partner country and ICCC was the partner organization.

The presence of a Canadian government delegation, led by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, reflected its priority to promote business relations with India. The mayors from two municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area – Susan Fennell of Brampton and Frank Scarpitti of Markham – along with their economic development departments, also joined the India Mission 2013.

The delegation focused on food processing, hospitality, travel and tourism, construction and development, information technology, and the service sector.

It is meaningful that relations between Canada and India have moved to a new level of co-operation in the past couple of years, including a visit by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in November, 2012. The SMB sector is an important factor in this growth.

ICCC has a vested interest in promoting the role of SMBs in bilateral economic relations between Canada and India. Over the years, the chamber has provided valuable networking opportunities to interested businesses from India and it organizes more than 80 annual events across Canada. The 35-year-old Toronto-based organization is the largest institution with membership comprised of Canadians of Indian origin.

In Canada, SMBs account for 45 per cent of GDP, 75 per cent of net employment growth, and 60 per cent of all jobs, with a commanding share of exports in agriculture, forestry, transportation, and construction – at present these are largely directed to the region covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). SMB figures from India are equally impressive, accounting for 20 per cent of India's GDP, 65 million jobs and 45 per cent of manufacturing and exports.

While corporations are experiencing downturns in the current economic conditions, SMBs have displayed exceptional resistance, stabilizing employment and income levels. The success of corporations is often dependent on SMBs. They are important contributors to the economy and they must continue to take their financial place – they are the most significant solution to economic challenges.

It is easy to launch a new business in Canada, and its provinces have shown great interest in Indian investment and vice-versa. Canada is known as one of the best places to do business in the G7, because of its tremendous working conditions, high standard of living, skilled work force, and world-class health facilities. Moreover, the country boasts industry that is networked with educational institutes; it is advanced in manufacturing and food processing; it has expertise in aerospace, automotive industries, clean technology, digital media, IT, nanotechnology, life sciences, material research, mining and biotechnology; and it is a multicultural society with a rule of law and democratic practices supported by a robust banking system.

Small businesses have limited resources to operate in the global market. ICCC is committed to assisting them with networking opportunities and providing them with a platform to enter the Indian market. The trade mission in January facilitated connections between Canadian delegates and Indian economic organizations with significant representation in the SMB sector.

India Mission 2013 delegates also benefited from interactive sessions with business leaders, political leaders and senior government officials who are directly involved with the promotion of trade ties with Canada. These connections are crucial for the expansion of Canadian SMBs into the Indian market – Canada and India are natural partners for innovative projects.

SMBs continue to play a significant role in taking Canada-India relations to a new level with consultation, co-ordination, joint projects, joint ventures and joint research.

Naval Bajaj is the president of the  Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce(ICCC).