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Sixty companies join trade mission to India

A BlackBerry is used to take a photo of the Taj Mahal Thursday, October 14, 2010 in Agra.

The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) and the Town of Markham, Ont., led a trade mission to India and the UAE in January, providing a unique opportunity for delegates to explore emerging markets and, in some cases, clinch deals.

More than 60 small and medium-sized Canadian businesses visited Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai and Pune in India, and Dubai in the UAE.

The SMBs included companies from such diverse sectors as food processing, hospitality, travel and tourism, construction and development, information technology, and business-service industries. In India, SMBs account for 20 per cent of the country's GDP, 65 million jobs and 45 per cent of manufacturing and exports. In Canada, the sector contributes 45 per cent of GDP, 75 per cent of employment growth, and 60 per cent of all jobs.

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The United States and Mexico capture the bulk of SMB exports from Canada, but companies are steadily expanding into the European Union, Japan, and South America.

The ICCC has been promoting the role of SMBs in bilateral economic relations between Canada and India. The 35-year-old, Toronto-based institution has a coast-to-coast presence in Canada and it is the largest organization with Canadians of Indian origin or descent.

Indo-Canadians have traditionally exhibited a higher-than-average propensity toward their own businesses, in part to overcome a lack of Canadian experience when attempting to get a job. Several factors help steer this process, and ICCC has consistently championed their cause.

Given SMBs have limited resources for overseas market research, ICCC is committed to assisting with networking and providing substantive insights into the Indian market. The ICCC also organizes more than 70 annual events across Canada that focus on business opportunities for its members. The events include site visits and hard-hat tours to expose members to real-world examples of different processes.

During the January trade mission, the ICCC connected Canadian delegates with Indian economic organizations that have significant representation in the SMB sector and an increasing interest in Canada, including the Canada committee of the newly formed Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Delegates also benefitted from the interactive sessions with senior government officials who are directly involved with the continuing Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The ICCC believes these connections are crucial for the expansion of Canadian SMBs into the Indian market.

According to Katie Macmillan's report, Canadian SMEs and Globalization – Success Factors and Challenges, which was published by the Conference Board of Canada in 2008, "the best performing foreign exporters are often headed by owner-managers with an international background." She suggests governments in Canada should encourage "born global" SMBs.

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This is an accurate assessment. The ICCC consistently encourages its members to expand operations into emerging markets such as India, and advocated for a stronger role for SMBs in fostering bilateral relations between Canada and India.

The ICCC believes that SMBs with an international perspective tend to be more competitive and have a better chance of success in the long run. Global competitiveness leads to innovation, and it helps SMBs perform better on a local level as well.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Satish Thakkar is the president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

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