Indian delegation to visit Ottawa with eye for investment opportunities


A delegation from India’s burgeoning economy will descend on Ottawa next week at an event hoping to reveal investment opportunities between the National Capital Region and the South Asian powerhouse.

More than 50 Indian businesses from a variety of sectors will be in attendance for a day of panels and networking hosted at Carleton University on Monday. The delegation’s visit is being orchestrated by the Canada-India Centre for Excellence, which is mandated to foster relations between the two countries in areas such as science and technology. Invest Ottawa, TiE Ottawa and the Indo-Canada Ottawa Business Chamber also leant support.

Harry Sharma, the Canada-India Centre’s manager, says the Carleton-based organization looks for ways to marry the needs of India with the strengths of Canada. For example, Sharma says he’s worked closely with Ottawa-based Clearford to connect the local wastewater management and treatment company to opportunities in India, where demand is high for wastewater technologies.

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Monday’s event will feature panels on investment and partnership opportunities between the two countries, such as the future of diplomatic ties and possible academic tie-ups.

“The Canada-India partnership is one full of potential,” Sharma says.

India’s economy is growing even faster than expected. On Thursday the nation reported 7.7 per cent GDP growth in its most recent quarter, higher than last quarter’s seven per cent economic increase and a faster growth rate than China, which posted 6.8 per cent GDP growth in its most recent quarter. Now is the time for Canadian businesses to hop aboard India’s economic rocket, Sharma says.

But opportunities are not one-way. One of the panels at Monday’s event will cover Ottawa’s real estate market, with hopes of attracting Indian businesses that are looking to invest.

Sharma says Indian investors that are interested Canadian real estate but put off by housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver might turn their gaze instead to the National Capital Region.

Data released last December from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. suggest foreign buyers currently have little interest in Ottawa’s condo market. Just 0.7 per cent of the city’s condos are owned by non-residents, the same as in 2014.

“What we wanted to do was give them a glimpse of the opportunities that exist in Ottawa,” Sharma says.

Startup swap

Monday will also mark the launch of a new accelerator and soft-landing program between the two countries. The Canada-India Accelerator Program will focus on women-led businesses, another need for the south Asian country.

Sharma says the Canada-India Centre signed a memorandum of understanding last November with the All India Council for Technical Education, a national education regulator in India. There are 10,000 colleges with 200 business incubators under the AICTE’s umbrella, and over the next five years 90 female-led startups will take part in a three-month soft-landing program at one of these Indian incubators.

On the other side, 50 Indian companies will come to Ottawa over the same time frame, working out of Carleton’s incubator spaces on-campus and at Bayview Yards. The India side of the program has already launched and is in the process of narrowing a list of 700 applications to 10 initial companies for launch.

Before heading over, the Canadian startups will receive training at Carleton on cultural differences, expectations from foreign investors and Indian market insights.

If, after the three months, a panel has judged that the Canadian companies have successfully penetrated the Indian market, they will receive up to $200,000 in funding to continue their work in India.

Sharma says the program has raised $3 million in funding from Carleton, federal government grants and a private equity investor. The applications will be open for two months, and 10 initial candidates will be sent to India for a soft landing later this year.

WIth the Indian economy’s unprecedented growth, Sharma believes now is the best time for Canada’s startups to get a piece of the action.

“We can’t wait much longer to access the Indian market because other countries are getting it,” he says. “The time is very right for Canadian businesses.”

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