He may be leaving Seoul for New Delhi, but the exiting Indian ambassador to Korea is keen to take a patch of this country’s industry back to his home turf.
Skand Tayal wishes to establish a South Korean industrial complex in his homeland to help this country’s manufacturers take advantage of Indian human resources and technology.
“What we have been trying to do is create some special zone in India which would be devoted to Korean industry,” Tayal said. “That way Korean workers and managers who stay there will feel comfortable.”
The site of around 2,000 acres envisioned for the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat would include Korean schools and restaurants as well as accommodations for Korean employees to stay in while working for the manufacturing businesses that Tayal is keen to attract.
“We are looking for Korean support from the government sector and private sector that could come with some investment,” he said, adding that a similar Japanese venture is also being considered.
Following his return on Dec. 1, Tayal is aiming to continue his work to encourage small and medium enterprises to follow large Korean companies already operating in India, such as Hyundai Motor.
The Korean firm’s two plants in the industrial city of Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, are capable of producing almost 600,000 cars annually with almost 40 percent being exported to the global market from there.
“India offers its vast market for Korean industry,” he said, citing Indian IT expertise and quality human resources as reasons to come.
Outgoing Indian Ambassador to Seoul, Skand Ranjan Tayal.(Kirsty Taylor/The Korea Herald)
“If they manufacture there they can cut their costs while servicing the Indian market and also exporting from there. They will have economy of scale so it would be a very profitable venture.”
The former Indian ambassador, who was posted here for more than three years, said one major highlight of his time in Korea was the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the two countries which came into force in January 2010.
He called the pact an “FTA plus” as it covers the normal terms of a free trade agreement as well as services and some movement of professionals from country to country.
There are about 7,000 Indian nationals currently living in Korea working in sectors such as IT, science and textiles businesses.
Tayal said the CEPA gave an extra boost to the two nations’ bilateral trade, which had already grown 155 percent during the five years leading up to 2010. And during Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s trip to India in January that year, where he was chief guest at the country’s Republic Day celebrations, he and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set a $30 billion bilateral trade target for 2014.
The two also joined their countries in a Strategic Partnership ― the highest level of bilateral relationship.
But Tayal said there was still a long way to go to even out the imbalance between the exports and imports that Korea trades with India.
Of the $17.1 billion bilateral trade between the two countries recorded by the Korea International Trade Association in 2010, Korean exports to India marked $11.4 billion against $5.7 billion of Indian goods being imported here.
Tayal predicted further growth in Indian exports, with the $9.7 billion in goods sent here up to September of this year already surpassing last year’s import total.
He saw potential demand here for Indian pharmaceuticals, chemicals, textiles and metals such as copper and aluminum.
He said Indian investments in Korea were also growing to reach about $1 billion last year.
Headline deals include Mahindra and Mahindra’s acquisition of a 70 percent stake in Ssangyong Motors this year and Tata Motors $102 million takeover of Daewoo Commercial Vehicle in Gunsan in 2004.
“I think that Korea and India have a good comfort level with each other,” said Tayal, citing India’s Look East policy since 2001 as an example of how his government was prioritizing relations with countries such as Korea.
“Both are countries really focused on our own economic growth, we both want a stable secure and peaceful region and Asia, and our world views are very similar.”
The countries are celebrating the ‘Year of India in Korea’ and the ‘Year of Korea in India’ this year, with the opening of the Indian Cultural Center in Seoul last April and the installation of a bronze bust of the nation’s poet Rabindranath Tagore on Dehangro in May.
Tayal said the center, which offers everything from Bollywood nights to lectures and yoga, had already been a success with demand from locals for classes outstripping supply.
His wife Kusum also added her own light to Korea as chairwoman of the Annapurna Indian Women’s Club, which most recently raised 5 million won for the Korean Red Cross at a Diwali Gala Dinner in October.
Tayal said they have both enjoyed the country’s “stunning nature,” adding: “The natural beauty of Korea is absolutely wonderful.”
While visiting mountains was a cooling summer retreat for Tayal growing up in his native India, the former ambassador said the pair took advantage of Korea’s ever-accessible peaks.
“We really enjoyed our walks on Namsan in Seoul and our visits to Seoraksan,” he said.
”There is tremendous beauty in Korea as well as a very satisfying cultural life in Seoul. The city is vast but well-organized as well as very safe and secure.”
By Kirsty Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org