India’s High Commissioner to South Africa has affirmed that the historical links between the two countries, rooted in their mutual support for their respective freedom struggles, provide a firm base for trade and investment between them. The two countries enjoy “a very cordial relationship”, high- lighted High Commissioner Virendra Gupta. “Our leaders meet frequently.
“We have a unique relationship between our two countries, built on this very strong foundation,” he said. “There is a natural willingness to partner with South Africa. There are business opportunities created for India; there are business opportunities created for South Africa. These create wealth; these create jobs.”
“We have, between our two countries, a very robust economic engagement . . . despite global recessionary pressures,” he stated. In addition to trade and investment, there were also strong exchanges in sectors such as tourism – particularly Indian tourists to South Africa – and information technology.
He was speaking at the recent opening of a Johannesburg office by Indian State-owned diversified manufacturing company BEML. This is the group’s first office in Africa.
“This is a very important event from our perspective, from a national perspective,” enthused Gupta at the opening function. “This is a very important step that has been taken by the Indian corporate sector.”
“Our vision is to become a market leader diversified company and emerge as an international player,” said BEML international business division assistant GM Nagendra Kumar, who is responsible for Africa. He indi- cated that the company was keen to establish a post-sales service centre in South Africa and could set up a spares warehouse as well.
“We have 19 warehouses in India,” he pointed out. “We [also] have warehouses [abroad] in strategic locations.” The company already has what it calls “global establishments” in Brazil, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
BEML is already active in South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It has local distributors in Ghana and Zimbabwe. In addition, it is targeting Algeria, Senegal and Zambia for new business. The company is also interested in Mozambique. The opening of the Johannesburg office is intended allow the further development of its business in South Africa and Southern and East Africa. “The connectivity with other African countries and the presence of financial institutions, banks and major mining companies make Johannesburg an ideal location from which to service markets in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania along with South Africa,” affirmed BEML international marketing head Kanyana Bhat.
The company, which had a turnover of $800-million in 2009/2010, is organised into three main business groups – mining and construction, defence and rail and metro – and four new business divisions (technology, trading, aerospace manufacturing and international business). It has close to 12 000 employees. It has a number of international partnerships, with Komatsu of Japan (in mining and construction), Rotem of South Korea (rail and metro), IGM of Austria (for welding robots), Bumar Labedy of Poland (defence – armoured recovery vehicles) and Tatra Sipox of the UK (a subsidiary of the Czech Tatra company, for 4 × 4 and 8 × 8 trucks). Another partner, for draglines and shovels, was Bucyrus of the US. Although Bucyrus was taken over by Caterpillar last year, this will not affect BEML’s dragline and shovel business.
The company originally started out as a defence concern and, despite its diversification, remains under the aegis of the Indian Ministry of Defence. Founded in 1964, it was listed in 1992 and is now 54% State-owned and 46% publicly held. All its businesses are ISO 9001:2008 certified. It has exported to more than 58 countries. Last year, its exports of both goods and services came to some $350-million.