“Indian SMEs are mature enough for organic growth in Europe”

Ms. Aparajita Sen, Inward Investment Manager, AD Normandie, discusses various ventures that are lucrative for Indian businesses to invest in Normandy, France, given the favourable ecosystem for businesses in the country.

TPCI: What are the favourable factors that would help Indian firms to leverage Normandy as an attractive investment destination? What trends should Indian start-ups investing in Normandy should watch out for?

Ms. Aparajita Sen (AS): Normandy offers diverse opportunities in different sectors like agro-food, automobile, aeronautics, cosmetics etc. The regional government has made innovation a priority in all these sectors. The regional economic development agency AD Normandy has the mandate to help foreign companies set up their businesses in Normandy. We offer a specific soft landing programme for foreign companies when they decide to invest in our region.

The trends that Indian companies should look for are directly linked to innovation. Innovative projects in the sectors mentioned above, are welcome in Normandy. The favourable eco-system in Normandy is ideal for growth and development.

TPCI: Normandy has identified 12 dynamic sectors such as automotive, agri-food, healthcare & logistics for investment. Which are the key sectors for Indian players to make the best of their investment?  

AS: Agro resources, agrofood, cosmetics and digital sectors – because I believe that Indian companies today have specific skills in these sectors. Tourism is another sector that the regional government wants to develop. Normandy is a preferred tourist destination and there is ample scope for Indian investors to invest in hotels, restaurants, other types of accommodation (bed & breakfast, guesthouses, resorts etc.). We also have interesting real estate offers for greenfield projects like theme parks, amusement parks etc.

I sincerely think that Indian companies need to look beyond direct export of Indian products targeting the Indian diaspora in different countries in the world if it wants to become a global player. They should think about working in the different European countries with local partners to develop new products or adapt their products to the demand. There is also great scope for innovative solutions to traditional sectors like agriculture. It is also possible to acquire French companies for inorganic growth in different activity sectors.

TPCI: How are Ayurvedic medicines received in French markets? What are the opportunities and challenges for penetration?

AS: I think it is becoming quite popular in France and this has been validated by some Indian companies I met last week who are exporting their products to the French market. Whereas it is extremely difficult to enter the medicine sector in Europe – even in India the ayurvedic products are not patented – they can easily be positioned as food supplements and products for overall health and well-being. However, I feel that Indian companies need to adapt their product portfolio to suit the tastes and preferences of the French & European markets. One interesting option could be to co-develop products with French companies using traditional ingredients and formulations. Normandy has a thriving cosmetic sector, including laboratories and technological platforms that can help in this process.

TPCI: You’ve been a part of quite a few business meetings during your present India visit . How fruitful have these been in exposing you to new trade opportunities? What are you taking back from them?

AS: Yes, I have had very interesting meetings here this week. I have done the same exercise twice before – in 2018 and 2019 and each time an Indian company came to Normandy to set up operations, both from Bangalore and both in agro / agri sector (Stellapps Technolgies and Croitre Millet). I am sincerely hoping for the same success this year. A few companies I met this time seem to have real good projects.

I must mention one thing I noticed during my meetings this year: the companies seem to have a more long-term vision of their growth plans and are not looking at direct exports for international growth. I think the Indian companies, especially SMEs, are now mature enough to envisage organic growth in Europe.

Ms. Sen is an experienced Project Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the government administration industry. She is skilled in International Project Management, Negotiation, Business Development, Community Management, and Internationalization.

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