Strengthening Canada India Trade ties – the Visionary
Hemant M Shah from Winnipeg, Manitoba
There is no doubt that in today’s fast paced world and increasing globalization, our world boundaries have minimized. The need to expand across borders has been incessant. With this demand also comes the need for peaceful and strong bilateral relations with countries across the globe. Today, we look forward to moving away from the negativity of the pandemic and move towards the light of the New Year. As I, Jais from India stepped into 2021; I had an opportunity to interact with the visionary Hemant M Shah from Manitoba, Canada. A simple comment on LinkedIn led to an exchange of thoughts and what followed were some great and insightful conversations. He is fondly referred by many as Motabhai literally meaning ‘Big brother’.
He spoke about his amazing journey from the buzzing city of Mumbai, India to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1970’s. It was literally a 360 degree change from 30 degree to a -30 degree temperature. An eminent immigrant Shah – found himself at home, away from home – was overwhelmed by the support he received from not only the Winnipeg community but the Canadian Government too as he progressed in his career. 1990 was big turnaround for Mr Shah. Because that very year, he entered into the aviation industry. What followed was a series of aircraft enterprises along with training of 120 pilots in Winnipeg. In 1990 Mr Shah was also introduced to few industrialists by High Power Business Contacts and he sold the corporate jet to an industrialist in India. Mr Shah became a one-stop shop to provide maintenance and parts. In 1990, when he sold corporate jets to the industrialists of India, the people appreciated saying that a Kutchi boy can sell Aeroplane. Gradually, new horizons opened before him. Then the idea emerged in his mind as to why not prepare commercial pilots. When he became the executive director of Winnipeg Aviation, he held a road show in India. That fetched the first batch of 10 students, all of whom were Gujarati. Like this, he got 180 students. He brought those youth from India to Canada and made them pilots.
Hemant M. Shah has priceless experience in International trade which includes exporting to Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East. He has represented 41 Canadian businesses and has led numerous trade missions for Canadian Government. He is Director, West Asia International Market for mining, oil drilling equipment company, Cubex Ltd. He has received numerous business awards and his most recent addition is the title of the Canada India Trade Champion. Let’s know his thoughts on some aspects on trade close to his heart.
How do you feel about spearheading the Canada-India Trade through Overseas Friends of India Canada?
I am honored to be on the board of Overseas Friends of India Canada in Ottawa. I had been retired for several years. When I got this opportunity to serve as a Canada India Trade Champion and spearhead the trade relations, I was thrilled to yet again be able to render my services and expertise to both the nations. I have been working in this area ever since I landed in Canada and have over 45 years of expertise in Canada India trade. I am recognised for my trade expertise and I feel that there is lots I can help achieve on this front. I am aware that there are a number of young entrepreneurs, businessmen who are doing great but one must remember that when the question is about two countries and their bilateral trade, the experience, the practical knowledge counts and can help the countries to strengthen their relationship. One must understand India is a market of relationship, trust and network which must be honored and dealt with care.
How do you foresee the partnership between the Canada and India?
International trade is an exponential factor in growth of any country’s economy. Canada is one of the best places to live in whereas India is projected to be the world’s third largest economy by 2050. Canada enjoys a strategic partnership with India, which has strengthened over the years through dialogue and agreements. I strongly believe that both the countries have improved their relations and have overcome many hiccups in their partnership and continue to grow. I can’t emphasize enough the importance to focus attention and nurture the Indo Canadian trade relationship, which eventually will benefit Canadian economy as well as our taxpayers. To understand the scope of bilateral trade possibilities between the two nations one needs to note that Canada’s exports to India was recorded at $4.84 billion in 2019 from $2.36 billion in 2012 whereas India’s export value to Canada stood at $3.46 billion in 2018. It is lucid that there lies a huge opportunity to harness and increase the bilateral trade between the two countries.
Do you think there is a need to develop more platforms to encourage the investors from India to Canada and vice versa?
I would like to mention that Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has encouraged international trade and have done a great job by establishing Trade Commissioner Service over the years across the world. The Trade Commissioners are the greatest service providers to the Canadian businesses who continue to help the Canadian businesses to expand across the world. They are the best to guide you and provide all the possible information. Moreover, there are three main Canadian platforms which have been working to promote trade ties for many years. The pioneer Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC) established in 1982 by Tomas Bata – I have been honored to be on board of C-IBC twice (in 80’s and 2000) – followed by the Indo Canadian Chamber of Commerce and last but not the least the India Canada Foundation. There are similar platforms from Indian side too like CII, FICCI etc. Thus, I strongly feel that there is no need to develop more platforms. What we do need is to go beyond discussions and move towards action. Uplift and develop the existing platforms and take mileage from their existence to expand and to foster stronger trade ties.
What ways do you think Indian agriculture industry could benefit from the Canadian technology and innovation?
During 80’s and 90’s there was a very close tie up between Indian and Canadian agriculture industry. The exchange dates back to Amul Dairy in Anand, Gujarat when they had a tie up for Canola oil in Canada. I have met lot of visitors from India as well as Middle East and South Asian countries. They came to undertake the 1 month Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGI) agricultural course in Winnipeg. In addition, Canada has been the largest exporter of Canadian yellow peas, green peas and some lentils. I was also a part of exporting these to India. There was a lot of information exchange that took place especially on agricultural storage, its handling etc., along with several visits from the senior Ministry executives from India. I personally feel that both sides of Governments must focus on developing not only the agriculture but also the food industry. I see India as a huge consumer market for food industry and steps to focus with this regard must be initiated. Canada has great technology and India can absorb the technology and both can mutually benefit.
What do you think could be the stumbling blocks?
I have seen during the Import License Raj during 70’s and 80’s at that time Canadian Government’s focus was not India but on China, that was the stumbling block. I see so much great work being done by many individuals and organizations, there are young people who are coming and want to be Canadian exporters. At present there doesn’t seem to be any stumbling blocks. I can say that a little hiccup – on part of the Canadian Government side at the Parliament Hill – is the lack of focus on trade with India. I personally think that there is a need to keep politics aside and focus on growth of the Indo Canada trade and businesses. It is imperative to ensure the trade between the two countries is not affected by political ideologies. To the Parliament Hill I would say that if they create the Export Bills Canada, they would create jobs and better economy. One needs to focus on Canada India trade, keep your principles but ensure to be respectful to each other. I would say the world is open and we should focus on strengthening our economy.
What advise will you give to the immigrants?
My advice to the new immigrants, who chose Canada as their 2nd home, is simply for them to realize that once they are in Canada they have a duty to make their 2nd home more innovative. The Indians who settled in Canada have set up export business with India by giving back to the Canadian economy and became role models for many other communities in Canada. The new immigrants need to be conscious about how are they going to be beneficial to their new head of trade home. They should feel blessed and consider themselves as Lord Krishna with two mothers. One can work or run a business for oneself but must also learn to give back to your new home.
Aricle and Imterview by : Ms Jais Kaur
Jais has over a decade of experience in research and believes in the brand ‘India’. She is committed to promote trade ties with India voluntarily. The views in the article are of Hemant M Shah, Director, Overseas Friends of India (OFIC). For more information please write to email@example.com