The Joint Action Plan and the Sweden-India Innovation Partnership signed during PM Modi’s visit in 2018 are key platforms for collaboration between the two countries in areas such as innovation, green technologies, healthcare, renewable energy, sustainable mobility, smart infrastructure and more. During the state visit by the King and Queen of Sweden to India in December 2019 with a 100+ high-level business delegation, further concrete announcements were made under the Innovation Partnership. In an interview with BusinessLine, Consulate-General of Sweden in Mumbai, Anna Lekvall, spoke about the future of these partnerships and investments by Swedish companies in India.
Several business agreements were signed between India and Sweden in 2018 during PM Modi’s visit. What has been the progress since then?
A multi-million-dollar joint three-year project on health and artificial intelligence has been launched, co-funded by Sweden’s Innovation Agency – Vinnova and the Indian Department of Biotechnology – to create opportunities for innovative, cost-effective and accessible health solutions using AI-based technology. The Swedish-British pharma giant AstraZeneca has launched an India-Sweden Healthcare Innovation Centre at AIIMS Jodhpur and AIIMS Delhi, led by Business Sweden, to enable innovators to develop and deploy new healthcare solutions under the guidance of a variety of stakeholders, including the Centre. In Nagpur, Maharashtra, a pilot project on combating diabetes, cardiovascular and related metabolic conditions has started. Sweden and India have launched a collaborative programme for research, development and innovation in the area of smart grids. The programme is co-funded by the Swedish Energy Agency, committing $2.6 milliom over four years in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology. This year’s Sweden-India Nobel Memorial programme further strengthens the synergies between the two countries, with several events including the India-Sweden Health Talks, the first anniversary of the India-Sweden Healthcare Innovation Centre, Nobel lectures and felicitation of the Innovation Challenge winners.
Can India become one of the top two trading partners of Sweden?
As of today, India is Sweden’s third largest trade partner in Asia. Swedish companies reported investments of $1.7 billion in the last five years and another $1 billion is planned in the coming two years. At this moment, we are welcoming the opening of the IKEA store in Mumbai on December 18, representing another milestone in Sweden-India trade and investment relations.
Sweden’s Business Climate Survey (BCS) for 2019/20 states that businesses are concerned about the weak consumer sentiment and a level of fatigue in the coming years associated with it. How will this sentiment affect future investments in India?
Three out of five are positive about the investment climate and most find it either easy or neutral to set up their businesses here. There is a slight fall in the perception of the investment climate as compared to the last survey. Moderating domestic demand, weaker consumer sentiments over the last one year and the desire for changes to happen faster, may have impacted the outlook. The BCS indicates an overall positive investment outlook, with Swedish companies planning $1 billion in investments in the coming two years.
What are some of the reforms needed in areas like customs, import administration and taxation regime to improve India’s business climate?
The message from companies overall is that reforms in key areas would further improve the business climate and investment potential. Such improvements include streamlining the customs and import administration and standardising the process of obtaining licenses and permits. Moreover, targeted and reciprocal incentives and rationalisation of the corporate taxation regime would further unlock the potential. In Sweden, India is currently seen as a somewhat challenging market, but with tremendous potential
Sweden is a flagbearer of Renewable Energy. Why do you think it is crucial for India to take climate action and make the 50 per cent shift to renewable energy sources?
The impact of such a shift in a country like India is huge and the shift to more carbon-neutral technologies and climate-friendly sourcing will help drive economic development and increased trade. Sweden and India’s joint leadership on the green transition of heavy industries by establishing LeadIT (the Leadership Group on Industry Transition) is an important contribution. At the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, Sweden and India took the lead towards a fossil-free future and the responsibility to drive transformation in the hard-to-decarbonise and energy-intensive sectors. The group is open to both government and business leaders and aims to enable the transition of heavy industry towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Post-Covid, further investments will be needed to reboot our economies in a more sustainable way to ensure employment, competitiveness and export of sustainable innovative solutions and products
(The reporter is interning with BusinessLine’s Mumbai Bureau)