Harshvardhan Bhatkuly, Editor, Business Goa spoke to Agus P. Saptono, Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia to India, on his recent visit to Goa, where the discussion was about trade between India and Indonesia and the possibilities of investing in Goa
Harshvardhan Bhatkuly: What brings you to Goa?
Consul General: First, I think Goa is a State that is quite similar to Indonesia, especially Bali. I feel that Indonesia can try to expand their business in Goa. We have collaborated with our embassy in Delhi, and I have come here. I had a meeting with the Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII-Goa). We are trying to help our citizens who live here in Goa, especially to get them vaccinated, for which we have collaborated with the Directorate of Health Services, Government of Goa. The focus, of course, is to introduce to people who don’t know much about our country, encourage bilateral economical relationship and attend to global trade. We are focusing on economic diplomacy that is trade, investments and tourism. These three issues is what we are highlighting during my visit here. Indonesia and India have a very long relationship since the early 70s. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo agreed to increase the level of economic relationship between our countries by signing a trade agreement. We should be able to increase all trade and investments between our countries. We also agreed to extend the trade value, which is approximately between 16 and 19 billion dollars (US), and take it up to 50 billion dollars (US) by 2025.
HB: What is the focus of trade and what gets traded between India and Indonesia?
CG: From Indonesia, we export palm oil and coal, which is our main export to India. However, things like furniture, spices are also in the list. From India, we import sugar and as some spices are not available in our country, we import some of them too. Also, manufacturing machinery, textile machinery, around 57% is imported from India.
HB: In terms of tourism, as you said, there is a lot of similarities between Goa and Bali…
CG: Goa is one of the States in India that promote tourism and I think we can plan a future collaboration with Goa and Indonesia. Bali is the main destination for Indian tourists, who stand third in the number of tourists, with China being the first and Australia being second. In Indonesia, tourism stands at number 5. Around 50000 Indian tourists visit us in a year and the number has increased in 2019. We planned to increase the number by 2020, but covid played spoiler to our plans, and this was not possible.
HB: What about ease of getting visas for Indian tourists?
CG: For Indian tourists we have a ‘visa on arrival’, which is free for 30 days, especially if its by direct flight. This is not only for tourism but also for people who visit the country for business. We used to have direct flights till 2019. We are hoping to revive this facility.
HB: If one has to travel to Jakarta how does one go?
CG: If one wants to come here, it has to be through Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, or Bangalore and even Hyderabad but they should have a stopover at Singapore, Malaysia or Bangkok.
HB: You are aware that the Indian startup space is growing. In terms of investments, are you looking at investing or finding investments in India?
CG: Yes I agree with you, that India is growing very fast. The program of Prime Minister Modi, ‘Startup India’ and ‘Make in India’ has helped India to grow very fast. In Indonesia, too, we have started on similar lines, but not so fast as India has grown. I am on the lookout for partners between Indonesia and India especially in IT and startups. We have tried to encourage inbound and outbound investments. For outbound investments or startups, we already have three companies in Bangalore. These companies are technology majors like Gojek, Anabatic Systems and travel bookings unicorn, Traveloka. We have invested for two reasons – one, for the opportunities; and two, because India has a lot of young talent. We would like to learn, transfer technology etc. Now I have already started looking for other opportunities. In inbound, we have companies coming to Indonesia and in outbound we request Indonesian companies to invest in India.
HB: What are you looking for in Indian companies, to invest in Indonesia?
CG: We know that India excels in the IT space and startups. That is why I think this is a good opportunity for us to look for collaboration in India. If companies try to invest in India it will be good else we will look at a joint venture. My main task is economic diplomacy. So I am trying to reach out to Indian and Indonesian companies to explore IT and to check if they are ready to invest in our country and vice versa. I try to find out what information they want from us and I try to find out about companies interested and act as a negotiator. I discuss with the leadership team of the companies in India and ask them if they are interested in investing in Indonesia. This works both ways.
HB: What is the discussion that you had with the GCCI and what were the ideas that you exchanged?
CG: I was introduced to the members and spoke about the opportunities in Indonesia for trade investments. We have introduced a new law (called Omnibus Law) recently, which is basically to bring in ease of doing business. The government wants more foreign investments to come to Indonesia and have relaxed regulations in order for foreign companies to invest with us. With India we have (CEPA – Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) with a target of a million US dollars. This is not easy but I am quite confident that we can do this. Inspite of covid, trade with India has increased.
HB: What would you promise an Indian business if they want to invest in Indonesia?
CG: The investment climate now is better, plus we have relaxed the laws when it comes to business, we have One Stop Service (The service that BKPM – Ministry of Investment of Indonesia gives to help investors to get through with their business licensing) and we have a number of industrial estates according to ones business and targets. Each industrial estate has its own specialty and there is healthy competition between them. My agenda is to cooperate, facilitate and help those who are interested in investing in Indonesia.
HB: Are you looking at signing up any businesses from Goa?
CG: So far, we had some discussions in this regard. But it is still under progress. I am looking for something that we can deal with in the near future. We met the CII Goa team, where we discussed investment issues. With GCCI, we have discussed more about small and medium enterprises which we have in plenty in Indonesia. However, in both meetings we spoke about the trade expo that will take place in October and we would like to invite companies to join, since it’s a virtual program. Last year, Indians were the highest in number to attend. We are also focused on pharmaceutical business. States like Telangana, Hyderabad, Gujarat and Maharashtra, so also Goa is doing very well with regards to pharmaceutical products. As far as pharma products are concerned, Indonesia is a big market.
HB: How is the covid situation in Indonesia?
CG: Like India, we have had the second wave in June and July and the situation has improved. It took time and it has now improved.
HB: Tell us about your experiences in Goa in terms of business, how you wish to attract investments, tourism and trade.
CG: I met with a lot of business people in Goa which was good experience for me. We discussed a lot about the opportunities available and I feel it is good chance for both countries to invest, trade and makes the best of these opportunities. I hope in the near future, Indonesia and India especially Goa, increase their relationship. Our Consulate will facilitate all Indian business people, who have an interest in investing in Indonesia in the trade and tourism sector. We are open and we hope in the near future that we can have more interactions on investment, trade and tourism.