A bridge between India and Italy

Aluminium, infrastructures and metallurgical equipment: Italy can be a strategic partner for India. The Italian Consul in Calcutta, Damiano Francovigh, confirms this in his comment on the success of the IndoItalian MetalHUB initiative.

by Alberto Pomari

The IndoItalian MetalHUB, an initiative and a brand owned by Art Valley which organized this event from 15-23 January across the three states of Kolkata, Bhubaneswar and Mumbai, involved a week-long session of meetings and interfacing between representatives, companies and associations from India and Italy in the Engineering, Metals, and Transportation sectors. Two great schools of metallurgy, Italian and Indian, have officially met during this event – with the contribution of Danieli & C, which for twenty years has been the main Italian player in the country’s metallurgy and that has supplied great Indian groups, including Mittal, Jindal, Nalco, Vedanta, Aditya Birla Hindalco; Francesco Esposito, CEO of Danieli India, highlighted this historic collaboration, which will continue strongly in the non-ferrous metals sector. From the Institutional point of view the event had the endorsement and cooperation of several associations and independent bodies including: the Italian Embassy in New Delhi, the Italian Consulate, the IICC, the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce, the AAI – Aluminium Association of India, as well as the support of important trade associations such as ASSOMET, AMAFOND, ASSOFOND and Metef (the major Italian metal exhibition), FACE (Federation of Aluminium Consumers in Europe), involved to coordinate the companies in the industries of: transportation, aluminium, and specialty materials towards shared strategic and operational objectives. We met at the end of the event the Italian consul in Calcutta Damiano Francovigh, exchanging with him some impressions on the meaning and scope of a technological and commercial partnership between India and Italy, in particular for the aluminium business.

Mr. Francovigh, what do you think of this Italian initiative promoted and organized by Art Valley?
Art Valley’s initiative, brought forward by the commitment of Alberto Cavicchiolo, Francesca Bruni and all their team, received from our side the maximum support and maximum appreciation. We can only praise initiatives aimed at the development and improvement of “pan-Indian” trade relations with our country. In addition to participating in the Bengal Global Business Summit in Calcutta (Kolkata in the local language), the delegation continued the meetings in the Odisha region, with a major metallurgical vocation, and concluded with the Tour in Mumbai, with the participation of the local Italian Consulate and the support of the Italian Indian Chamber of Commerce. It was not an easy task, due to the vastness of the territory, the diversification of the issues and the complexity of the Indian aluminium system that has great potential but a structure still undergoing consolidation.

On our arrival we found, from the airport to the centre, a city “carpeted” with large billboards announcing the Bengal Global Business Summit. How many people attended the event?
The great importance given to the event by the local government is demonstrated by the participation of all the highest Bengali authorities, starting from the Governor Mamata Banerjee who inaugurated the work in the new Biswa Bangla International Convention, in front of an impressive audience of at least 3000 people. Delegates coming mainly from India attended the summit, with targeted meetings between the trade delegations sent by the Bengali government and representatives from Italy, China, Germany, Poland, South Korea, France, Japan. The event is the main initiative of the Bengali government to promote and attract investors, businesses, trade and cultural areas. Calcutta is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal (India is a federal state divided into 29 states), at the centre of an area, Bengal, which for centuries has been a hub for lively economic, commercial, cultural exchange between India and all the south-east of Asia. Until the move to Delhi, which took place in 1911, Calcutta was also the capital of all India. This was followed, with the Indian independence of 1947, by the division of Bengal into two, so that one part (called West Bengal) passed to India and the other became the current Bangladesh (initially West Pakistan). The partition has removed the natural hinterland to the city and has led to major changes in the region’s economy. Moreover, when around the mid-1990s India opened its market to investments, the economy and international trade, the local government at the time preferred not to encourage foreign investors who then headed mainly towards Western states of India and the New Delhi area. For many years, therefore, West Bengal has tried to find a new vocation: the driving action of the current Bengali government (Governor Banerjee has been in charge since 2011) has moved in this direction, trying to intervene to create conditions to ensure that the local economy will develop at higher rates. With the organization of the summit as well as other initiatives to stimulate domestic demand and growth, the Bangladeshi Government is strongly committed to developing the state’s economy, stimulating the attraction of domestic and international investments, and improving the business climate. This strategy is beginning to bear fruit, considering that West Bengal is the Indian state that recorded the highest growth rate of the Indian economy in 2017, with 15%. On the second day of the Summit an event was organized for meetings between India and Italy in a very popular “Country Session”, the results seem very positive. In fact, the Italian Country Session was particularly appreciated, with a participation much higher than the previous year. This is demonstrated by the “final assault” of all the local delegates looking for networking and possible interactions.
The audience was attentive and very interested, our message to focus on the deepening of technical and commercial relations between the two countries was recorded. The intervention of Italian and Indian speakers was very valid and very much appreciated, clear and concise, always focused on practical and concrete elements. I reiterate that the practical approach of the speakers has helped to make people understand that we meant business, and in fact the Italian booth set up at the BGBS has received hundreds of visitors with very interesting requests and collaborative proposals.

How can you comment on the continuation of the meetings in the Odisha region?
The second stage of the tour was precisely Odisha, which is a mining-oriented state rich in raw materials and in particular bauxite. The Italian consulate of Calcutta has jurisdiction for the eastern area of India, which also includes Odisha, which is why I accompanied our delegation in this part of the program. Nalco, National Aluminium Company, the main governmental company in the region, has important interests in the production and processing of aluminium and its alloys and is very active in promoting light metal; the company is preparing an enormous area in Angul, called the Aluminium Park, where processing plants of the raw material produced will soon be installed. The delegates participating in the IndoItalian MetalHUB have been invited by the Aluminium Association of India to visit the Nalco smelter in Angul and carry out an inspection in the area where the Aluminium Park will be built in collaboration with the governmental institutions of Odisha. The Indian aluminium sector is growing at an important rate of development of more than 15% per year, both in the production of electrolytic metal and in downstream processing and transformation, such as laminates, castings, extrusions and forgings; for the primary metal, India is a big potential supplier for Italy, which is a net importer of raw material, as was pointed out during the working sessions in Bhubaneswar, on the other hand the annual per capita consumption of aluminium in India is still at very low levels, slightly more than one kg against European values that reach even 20 times as much, for this reason it is foreseeable that this subcontinent will have in the coming years a real boom for light metal in all the final destinations, from construction to transport, from packaging to electrical applications and infrastructures, and all this can offer good opportunities for the Italian industry of advanced plant engineering and processing technologies. Finally, Mumbai was the last stage of the tour. According to colleagues in the Italian Consulate in Mumbai, the local government is investing in infrastructure, especially in the subway, considered a jewel of technology and development with a project that plans to build over 400 stations in the coming years. According to the program of the event, mobility in India was therefore the main topic of the Italian delegation in Mumbai, a city that, in practice, is another India in terms of infrastructure: enlargement projects will require investments and high-level technology partners and it is to be hoped that Italian companies will be able to seize ideas and opportunities, as it is in the spirit of this whole interesting operation.

In conclusion, do you think that there are good opportunities for Italian entrepreneurs to establish valid contacts and relationships, and that for once maybe we were able to start at the right time?
The Indian driving force comes from its demographic curve that distinguishes this country from all others. This nation has contradictions, bureaucratic difficulties and obstacles of various kinds; here we sometimes experience difficult situations where qualities of patience and tolerance are often needed. But India is also a country rich in resources, with a new generation of technicians and entrepreneurs of the highest professional standards, in practice a world still partly to be discovered and valued. The potential of the market is huge, for example the aeronautics market is growing by 30% a year while only 3% of Indians use the plane. The task of the Italian diplomatic-consular network in India is to help put the Indian reality in touch with Italian companies in all the product sectors. In this tour, together with all the participating companies and the Art Valley organizers we are committed to the best because we believe in this kind of initiatives based on serious assumptions and we think that together we have managed to offer a good image of Italy and its entrepreneurial system. As always happens in these cases, we have tried to contribute to create assumptions on a reality that we consider very interesting, and it will depend on individual companies to assess whether there are conditions for business prospects and if there is a fertile ground on which to give birth to something. In our opinion there are excellent bases to start off on the right foot, and, importantly, we have also succeeded, as you said, to play ahead of our main competitors in the manufacturing area.