China casts shadow over Indian traders at German meet

Wednesday, 04 September 2002, 07:00 Hrs
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FRANKFURT: The latent fears of many Indian small companies about the rising influence of Chinese trade is turning into full-blown paranoia.

And the gentle wind of competition, which blew in the face of many Indians at past Frankfurt shows, turned into a tornado at this year's "Tendence" meet, often touted as the world's biggest consumer goods show.

The five-day "Tendence", which ended here Tuesday, clearly brought out the fears of the Indian traders, with most of the 170 exhibitors expressing fears about the "big challenge" from China in the consumer goods trade.

While the exotically styled China pavilion in tandem with massive publicity on billboards produced a high level of visibility for exhibitors, Indians could hardly attract a turnout of buyers.

"China is our major worry. They have all the infrastructure, marketing muscles and government support to push up its exports," said P. Agarwal, president of the Indian Frankfurt Exhibitors' Association.

He warned that unless the Indian government helped Indian exporters foray into the global markets, New Delhi's export trade was programmed to be a major loser.

"Global trade is becoming a highly competitive arena. We need to get creative ideas and designs from experts in countries such as the U.S., Italy, France and Hong Kong.

"The average Indian does not have the resources to import innovative technologies. The Indian government should sponsor such initiatives for the overall good of the trade," Agarwal told IANS.

In recent years, Chinese companies have been flooding India with cheap televisions, toys and other products, putting pressure on thousands of Indian manufacturers.

If that weren't bad enough, the Chinese are now targeting the one industry where India still enjoys a lead over its giant neighbour -- software.

Agarwal later emphasised at a dinner hosted in honour of Tsewang Topden, the Indian consul general in Frankfurt, that the Indian government should play a "proactive role" in promoting exports.

Other Indian exhibitors echoed Agarwala's sentiments and highlighted major roadblocks facing the export trade.

"Look at India's ports. They are in such an anachronistic state. Tiny Hong Kong, in comparison, handles the highest cargo volume in the world. Container ships can offload and turn around in Hong Kong within 24 hours," said an Indian exhibitor.

"It can take three weeks in Mumbai for a ship to turnaround. Our infrastructure for distribution and supply chain is dismal."

China also has also put in place a sophisticated network of highways and fast roads, the exhibitor said, adding India's economy could get a major boost if the country's infrastructure, particularly ports and roads, are improved.

The exhibitors also urged the Indian government to provide tax incentives and other support to exporters.

Huma Farman, a partner in Zakaria Ilyas Export Corporation, also urged the government to help provide publicity for India's participation at the Frankfurt show. "This is the best way to promote our exports."

There were 170 Indian exhibitors in this year's exhibition, up from 139 in 2001. The number of exhibitors from China rose from 141 in 2001 to 182 this year, Hong Kong from 110 to 151, Taiwan from 137 to 142 and Thailand from 126 to 148.

Even the number of Vietnamese exhibitors increased from 35 in 2001 to 45 this year.

Source: IANS
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