Italy bets on its areas of expertise to boost bilateral trade and tourism

Bilateral trade has long been the most reliable barometer of engagement between nations. Going by that assumption, Italy is on course to becoming a formidable partner of India in the coming days. As the Italian government launched a campaign to promote business in India, we spoke with Trade Commissioner Francesco Pensabene to understand the contours of this mega move.


Reflecting a sense of urgency to diversify and multiply its stakes, Italy has put in place a major bid to expand its presence in the Indian markets. Keen on leveraging India’s growing consumer base, large-scale infrastructural push and need for larger collaborations to boost industrial production, the government of Italy recently unveiled its first ever campaign in India – ‘Italy: The Extraordinary Commonplace’.
With a sharp focus on its innate strengths and areas of expertise, the campaign’s principle pillars include design, fashion, food processing, infrastructure, SMART CITIES, luxury and furniture. The campaign, itself, will be spread across two years with focused events and activities, in each sector, all across the country. Giving us an insight into Italy’s major push, Italian Trade Commissioner Francesco Pensabene opined that “This is a public and government undertaking which demonstrates the seriousness of our endeavor in taking this forward. India is a huge opportunity for business and trade. In a world where big economies have found hard to stay afloat, India has done remarkably well for itself. It has been growing at a rate of over seven percent in terms of GDP – which opens up a number of avenues.”
He went on to call India a priority market for Italy, stating that in terms of the overall FDI coming into India, Italy was the fourth largest in the European Union and thirteenth largest in the world. “So, keeping in mind the prevalent trends and future expectations, we have launched this campaign; nothing more, nothing less. As I shared earlier, market trends are very clear. In today’s day and age, you cannot think about global commerce and partnerships with India not in the loop. India is central to any such endeavor,” he said. He added that Italy did understand that there was a huge range of potential that remained untapped. “There is a huge range of channel which we have to nurture to build our partnership with Indian companies,” he mentioned.
A look at the bilateral trade figures reveals that the total volume of trade has risen considerably in the past five years. The aggregate volume stood at 7,363 million Euros in 2015- which has grown from 2012 figures of 7,097 million Euros. Interestingly, specific sectors that have seen robust growth are those that have been handpicked by the Italian government for bilateral engagement. Specific sectors that have registered noticeable growth in export term is led by machinery – which amounted to 1063.48 million Euros – followed by chemicals, textiles and consumer goods.
Given that India, itself, has launched an ambitious campaign – ‘Make in India’ – there were some concerns about how Italy was going to push for more exports. Francesco Pansabene, however, refuted the argument noting that Italian foray was to supplement India’s efforts and not to contradict it. “We have expertise in areas such as sophisticated machinery, infrastructural management and heavy engineering that can assist India in their quest for a very ambitious hundred SMART cities. It must be viewed in that light. If we can help India augment its low-manufacturing base through our expertise and technological collaborations, I think we will be partners in India’s quest, and not competitors,” the trade commissioner said.
Besides, Italy’s core areas of interest, it was also keen on exploring new avenues, we were told. “We are also keen on developing new areas of bilateral connect such as IT. We are constantly trying to have more Italian companies come and explore the vastness of the great land and search for more areas of engagement. These six segments that we are going ahead with are by no means only six areas of mutual interest,” he stressed.
He went on to point that as India’s growing appetite for luxury goods, especially cars, jewellery and leather items presented a huge opportunity for both countries to work on. “Italy is known for its high-end cars, expensive brands that have world’s best watches and jewellery. Our own research tells us that we already have a market share of over ten percent of India’s total luxury car imports,” he said. He attributed this optimism to growing number of consumers in the Indian market. “We would want to see these numbers grow, especially when larger number of its population is entering this segment. In fact, luxury car segment in India, is one of the fastest growing segments in the world,” he added.

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