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PORTAFOLIO

“Businessmen should get to know the Indian market” Vice President Francisco Santos

“The big companies of this populated country, one of the fastest economies in the
world, has Colombia in its sights” assured Santos who is on a tour of Asia.

While different analysts emphasized that Colombia should strengthen its


commercial relations with China, there are those who believe that India cannot be
ignored. Not only is it the second most populous nation on earth, but it is also the second
in growth, and is on its way to join the group of five largest economies of the planet in
the coming years.

On this and other topics, PORTAFOLIO spoke to Vice President Francisco


Santos during the tour which he is undertaking in Asia and in which he is heading a
Colombian delegation in the inaugural ceremony of the Universal Exposition of
Shanghai.

Question : What do have to say about your tour?

Answer : The first is the surprise that India evokes. On the one hand we find
ourselves with growth and changes which are taking place in the second most populated
country in the world. On the other hand, we notice the commercial aggressiveness of the
firms of that nation and how the biggest ones have Colombia in their sights.

Question: What do you mean?

Answer: The Indian businessmen who have been in Colombia and have invested
have done very well, and they already speak about a secure country with good conditions
for receiving foreign capital, which has a good rate of growth and at the same time is
similar to India in doing business : with flexibility and agility.

Question : How has this evolved?

Answer : In the middle of the last decade we are exporting US$16 million and in
2010 we came close to US$500 million covering over 40 products. And investment
coming from India, in the short term – not counting mining, gas nor oil – can go upto
US$ 1 billion. In this country, they are aware of the relative sophistication of Colombia
and want to take advantage, not only to sell in the internal market but also to do business
in the rest of Latin America.

Question : What sectors are they mainly interested in?


Answer: Outsourcing of highly sophisticated business operations. Let me explain:
payment of dues of companies in any part of the world, analysis of financial credits,
accounting and billing, among others. There are great possibilities of bringing here
important business that today is being done in Brazil and the US. Everything depends on
whether we do things right.
Question : In what sense?

Answer : For example, we need to design an intensive Portuguese language


programme so that in a year economists and accountants can read and speak it fluently in
order to carry out operations in that country, apart from English of course.

Question : What other sectors?

Answer : They are very much interested in the software industry with the aim not to
latinoamericanise it, but to let it develop on its own, with training aimed at regional
projection, including Brazilian and US markets. Also in the pharmaceutical sector there
is interest, as well as in the development of the hospitality industry.

Furthermore, we contacted the third largest sugar company in the world. They
want to buy a sugar mill in Colombia, and since it involves the energy sector, they are
also interested in developing a coking coal mine.

On the other hand, Bollywood, the largest film industry in the world, is interested
in co-production as much of film as of music. Finally, the infrastructure companies are
looking very closely at projects that we have. And we are not speaking of small but of
big players.

Question : What was the most interesting part of your visit to India?

Answer: That they do not want to come to Colombia only to make money and
leave, but they see it as a long term scenario and as a platform for business for Latin
America. I must admit that a great part of this is due to the intensive political, economic
and cultural work of the Colombian Ambassador Juan Alfredo Pinto. Thanks to him
many doors have opened.

Question : What advice do you give to Colombian businessmen?

Answer : Get your bags ready. Go and find out about the Indian market. You will
find a positive environment towards our country and its businessmen and opportunities
which you can hardly imagine.

Question : What do you recommend to the next Government on this subject?

Answer: Refocus a large part of your policy for commercial promotion as well as
the budget that the Foreign Ministry assigns. We need to be much more in India in
particular and in Asia in general.
Question : What does this imply?

Answer: I think it is imperative to take 30% of the resources which today are
invested in Europe and the US, to strengthen diplomatic and commercial services in these
countries, which already have the highest economic growth in the world and will
continue to have over the next 50 years.

Is it justified to sign a free trade agreement with South Korea and the Embassy in
Seoul has three functionaries? The world has changed definitively and our assignment of
resources and priorities should also change.

Question : What more should we do?

Answer : It is fundamental to have better air connections which are direct, as far as
possible, with the majority of these countries. The Government should, if necessary,
promote the creation – if necessary through subsidies – of some routes to the Far East,
which for us is the Near East. If we do this, we can recover some lost ground.