Austria is a terrific entry point for Indian companies
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl, Commercial Counsellor & Trade Commissioner Austrian Embassy, opines the wide availability of highly qualified employees combined with strong framework conditions make Austria a primary investment destination particularly for R&D intensive companies.
IBT: The past two years have witnessed a major reset in global trade and economy. In the backdrop of the pandemic and ongoing supply chain realignments, what are the priority areas for Austria when it comes to trade policy?
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl: As a small, open economy with highly specialized products and services, our companies are naturally very active on global markets. The recent years have not been easy on anyone; however, we also see enormous potential moving forward. The strength of Austrian businesses lies in technology and sustainability. The huge demand for “green tech” and investments in modern infrastructure is a natural fit for many Austrian companies, as they are market leaders in their respective fields.
IBT: How do you view the trajectory of India-Austria trade vis-à-vis its potential in the past decade? What are the key sectors driving Austrian exports to India?
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl: Bilateral trade has had a strong showing recently, with the last year breaking a new record of more than EUR 2 billion of bilateral trade between India and Austria. Austrian exports in railway, hydro energy and smart city solutions have particularly benefited from investments into modern infrastructure in India. Furthermore, companies providing the newest manufacturing and testing technologies saw their sales increase significantly.
IBT: What measures do you feel are necessary to enhance the bilateral economic relationship in line with its potential?
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl: Most Austrian companies are small- or mid-sized enterprises. When doing business abroad they often do not have the financial capacity to invest big sums into a specific market from the start. Once those companies are able to build a strong customer base, more investments into their local production and presence do follow. Market access based on reciprocity is therefore key.
IBT: What are the major areas where Austrian companies have been successfully investing in India (please cite some examples), and what is their view of the business environment and growth prospects?
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl: In India, Austrian investments have been particularly successful in the railway, smart city and automotive sectors. Examples of which can be found all across the country. One of these leading firms is Plasser India. Plasser manufactures the most up-to-date high performance and highly sophisticated machines for track maintenance, track laying as well as track renewal for the railways sector. India is one of their strongest markets around the globe and through new production capacities they also export from India to other countries.
Generally speaking, once companies have been able to establish themselves within the Indian market they have a very positive outlook on their growth prospects here.
IBT: India is home to the world’s third largest startup ecosystem and Austria is emerging as a startup hub in sectors like IT, media, life sciences and creative industries. What collaboration opportunities can the two countries explore in this area and how?
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl: Both sides find many openings for collaboration, a potential increasingly being highlighted through cross border investments that go both ways. Austrian startups and tech companies can find a huge source of inspiration and know how in India. Indian businesses and customers greatly appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit and the innovative, high-end technologies coming out of Austria.
IBT: India and the EU are about to re-launch FTA negotiations. In your opinion, how will the FTA be beneficial for Austrian companies looking to enter/expand their business in India? And what would be Austria’s major concern areas?
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl: Having a strong industrial base, a trade agreement would certainly benefit many Austrian companies. More exports from Austria would in turn also allow for more technological spillover effects and aid the modernization of India’s manufacturing sector.
IBT: What are the major benefits that Austria offers as an investment destination for Indian companies?
Hans-Joerg Hoertnagl: Austria is a terrific entry point for Indian companies wanting to set up in Europe, even more so after the United Kingdom left the European Union. Geographic and historical ties allow for ideal access from Austria to all German speaking markets as well as Central and Eastern European countries. Furthermore, the wide availability of highly qualified employees combined with strong framework conditions make Austria a primary investment destination particularly for R&D intensive companies.
*Views expressed are personal.