In this issue I will share some thoughts our recent visit to Vibrant Gujarat, on demonetization (removal of the INR 500 and 1000 notes in India on 8 nov, 2016) before finalising on our activities moving forward. In the next few years, we will see a completely different cohesive strategy from Sweden working towards India (and other places), and SIBC has a key role and playing its part to facilitate business for Small Enterprises, for Larger Enterprises and for business leaders through the Sweden-India Business Leaders’ Roundtable, SIBLRT.

The year ended on December 22 with one last big lunch hosted by the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Mikael Damberg, where SIBLRT’s Co-Chair Marcus Wallenberg with its members handed over a progress report and the final SIBLRT Joint Statement to Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, also in the presence of the Minister for Secondary Upper Education and Adult Training Ms Anna Ekström. Just as the year 2016 ended on a high note, 2017 started with a bang between Sweden and India. In early January, Minister Anna Ekström and a large delegation visited Vibrant Gujarat. It was all in all an impressive conference by the Gujarati government, which this year also included the Nobel Exhibition, which Prime Minister Modi gladly inaugurated. The exhibitions’ intent is to gather interest around Science and Innovation, with a full exhibition but and also by bringing eight Nobel Laureates on the tour. An amazing Nobel Dialogue was arranged with very inquisitive and engaged students.

As you may have noticed on our Facebook page, or in Dagens Industri, an MoU was signed between some SIBLRT business leaders and an NGO – “Pratham” to ensure education for 30 000 kids (to remain in School project). The project was facilitated by SIBC, with the excellent help of the Swedish Consulate in Mumbai, but initiated by Mr Carl Bennet ,working with Mr Marcus Wallenberg. Also participating in the program was Mr Håkan Buskhe, President and CEO of Saab, who was also present at the signing together with Minister Anna Ekström. Elanders, Carl Bennet AB, Getinge, SKF and Saab are the initial sponsors of the project.

On 9 November last year we conducted what was probably the most prestigious (non-Royal) delegation to India in Swedish modern history. Naturally we all were of the notion that this would create some buzz. Little did we know that on 8 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Demonetization scheme, removing all 500 and 1000 rupee notes within 50 days, in a country where almost all transactions are made in cash. It effectively moved 86% of the currency out of circulation, resulting in a massive cash crunch throughout the country. Naturally it will take more time, but as of early January, cities had begun to go back to normal and the lines at ATM machines were mostly gone in the sizable cities (according to NDTV), but many ATMs are still without cash. If the move was to get the public to start using digital platforms for payment, it was quite effective. Electronic payments tend to remove corruption, which was one of the arguments for the move. However, only about 300 million people have a smart phone, which would enable mobile Internet to conduct mobile banking. Swiftly, the newest mobile operator on the block, Reliance’s “Jio”, launched free mobile internet until the end of March 2017, gaining a stratospheric 74 million new subscribers!! Albeit, the initial free launch was in early October. At the same time, the government launched the cash replacement app. Bharat Interface for Money, or BHIM, which is something between Swedish Swish and mobile banking. The Demonetization move has definitely not been painless; productivity has taken a hit, as there has been no cash to pay salaries or pay for good and services, especially in rural India. Economists brought out the calculators to see the possible effects on GDP growth. Some suggest GDP will drop to 6.6%, others 7% and some say it will be only a minor hit. It’s too early to tell. I remain of the view that looking at states and regions (state GDP), is more interesting than country GDP given the share size of the Indian states. Whatever the outcome, it was a very bold move.

Just last week we sent out the program for the Spring. Some things are changing dates already and it is a very hectic Spring – as usual. We are also moving to increasing the value for our members thereby creating some closed roundtables. Our biggest event this part of the year will happen on March 24th when SIBC, together with the Indian Embassy, Teknikföretagen and Business Sweden have the Energy and Smart City Day. The Minister for Policy Coordination and Energy, Mr Ibrahim Baylan is confirmed as a key note speaker, together with Ambassador Monika Kapil Mohta and SIBLRT Smart City Co-Chair Håkan Agnevall (Volvo Bus President). It will mostly be a two panel discussion, with an exquisite Indian lunch in between, followed by lighter drinks in an after work mingle. We then have the Strategic Sourcing India, where we have invited Mr Atul Kansal, who has a most impressive background and client list as an EHS Compliance Assurance Auditor. We will have a session for both our groups – Small Enterprise Roundtables and Medium and Large Enterprise Roundtables, with a focus on identifying suppliers including environmental due diligence, and distributors. For our larger firms it will be in our successful program Strategic Sourcing India.

While the newly elected president in the United States continues his rampage, India moves on, steady she goes!