Mr Deepak Bhojwani , a career diplomat who has been the Ambassador to several countries in the Latin America in the last 12 years prominent being Venezuela, Columbia, Cuba among others and Consul General at Sao Polo, Brazil addressed the students about the opportunities in Latin America. The theme of his lecture was “India Brazil Economic Cooperation”. He urged the students to shun the myths around Latin America, which appears remote to most Indians. Mr Bhojwani described it as a land of 600 million people with per capita income as high as $15,000 which has great opportunities for business.
Mr Bhojwani began with an introduction about the region explaining about the rich history the continent has. He began with how the continent was discovered, explaining along the way why Brazil was Portuguese and the rest of the continent predominantly Spanish. He explained the difference in colonization of Asia , Africa and South America. He also pointed out the difference between the inhabitants of Caribbean and parts of This in turn has had a great influence in the way Latin America behaves and thinks. The influence United States has had on the region and the rise and fall of left leaning dictators.
Mr Bhojwani elucidated the numerous reasons why Latin America needs to be looked in a new light and highlighted the absence of credible sources on the region. Some of the key opportunities according to him were:
A) The continent is endowed with Mineral wealth for eg: Petroleum ( Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela), Natural Gas ( In Bolivia, Uruguay) etc , Iron Ore, Copper, Lithium, Gold etc.
B) The presence of unified markets being created in form of Mercusor, Pacific Alliance and an Alliance of Latin American Countries (CELAC )creates new business opportunities.
C) The relatively peaceful neighbors ( last time a major war that was fought between neighbors was over 150 years back).
D) The prosperity of the people, the population being 6/10 of India and spread over an area that is over 5 times the size of India with high per capita income ( over 10 times the Indian per capita income) cannot be ignored for long
E) The favorable image India has in the minds of Latin Americans
He discussed in detail about how the engagement with Latin Countries and particularly Brazil have grown in the past one decade ( during which he held prominent positions in Indian Embassies across the region) but he pointed that a lot is required to be done to promote bilateral trade. The trade has been limited to seeking resources from the region in the form of crude, which formed the bulk of trade, along with other natural reserves. The overall investment by Indians in the region according to one estimate was over $15 billion but India on the other hand has not seen the same. Mr Bhojwani expressed his hope that in the coming years the visa policies for the region will be made more conducive to allow businessmen to explore the region before investing and at the same time stressed on the need to sign preferential trade agreements with the countries to make the most out of the opportunities that exist.
The students asked about the safety of business in the region and the instability of the business regimes and also tried to understand the cultural nuances in terms of doing business in Latin America. The students tried to understand the various policies India has to promote Indian Business in the region and also were intrigued how the region especially Brazil, despite the similarities with India, has larger companies on Fortune 500 than India and is now also facing a slowdown.
The session gave students a comprehensive overview on doing business in Latin America and Mr Bhojwani complimented the students on their keenness to learn about the region. He expressed his desire to come back to the campus and talk more about the same.