Make in India: French companies share success stories and challenges
I spent an interesting afternoon yesterday at the France 'Make in India' seminar organised by the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the newly-opened Shangri-La Hotel, Bangalore.
The discussions centred around two main themes of high relevance for Karnataka: Aerospace & Transport and Energy. Karnataka is home to over 170 French companies/ subsidiaries, operating in varied sectors: aerospace, energy, transport, logistics, engineering and consumer goods.
Representatives of French companies in India shared their success stories, their plans for growth, the challenges they faced and their expectations from the Government of Karnataka. Government officials and French embassy representatives were also present at the forum.
While India's market, skilled workforce and especially its talent in 'frugal engineering' are attractive draws, companies still face obstacles in many areas, including acquiring land to build factories and lengthy customs procedures, just to name a few.
Mr. D K Shivakumar, Minister for Energy for the Government of Karnataka, gave a keynote address on the initiatives made by the Karnataka Government in the power sector and welcomed collaboration from French companies.
I'd like to highlight two interesting points that came up during the Q&A session.
The first addressed recruitment and skills training for Indian nationals working in French companies. Safran for example, explained that along with an in-house training programme, they also have tie-ups with major universities in India, including IISC Bangalore. In fact, till date, around 400 MoUs have been signed between French and Indian universities and private institutions.
The second question concerned an ethical problem: While manufacturers in developing nations (the question concerned Bangladesh and India) can produce quality products at a lower cost, there may be compromises made in some areas, including the well-being of employees at work and the respect of labour regulations. How do companies square this with their conscience?
As a Canadian/Swiss consulting company based in Bangalore, our mission includes assisting French-speaking companies to source Equipment Made in India and many of our clients have the same concerns. From our experience, building a relation of mutual trust with the supplier and working with third-party auditors is absolutely imperative to ensure that quality standards as well as health, safety and labour regulations are constantly respected.
The reply from Decathlon to this question was also quite illuminating:
Decathlon has an internal division called HRP: Human Responsibility in Production. This group works closely with its suppliers and third-party auditors to ensure that standards and laws are respected. Decathlon also sends 'protection embassies' to monitor the production lines in the factories they source from. Though the process may take up to two years to be accepted and implemented, this is an integral part of Decathlon's model.
All in all, the debates confirmed that there's a feeling of possibility and hope for Modi's Make in India campaign. It remains to be seen how soon action plans can be put in place to address the challenges faced by both Indian and foreign companies, not just in Karnataka but across the country.
Bhargavi Venugopal | International Project Manager