February 16, 2004 | Statesman

India-China cooperation mutually beneficial: Tata

China and India, two of the world's most populous and the fastest developing countries are faced with one of the greatest opportunities to cooperate for mutual benefit and the Tata Group is exploring ways to promote two-way investments and trade to boost bilateral ties, the company chairman, Mr. Ratan Tata, has said.

Noting that the combined population of China and India totaled over two billion, Mr. Tata said it offered one of the greatest opportunities for the two Asian giants to tap each other's huge market.

Impressed by China's near double digit figure economic growth, massive infrastructure and investor-friendly polices, Mr. Tata, who just completed his first official visit to China, said the Tata Group was exploring two-way investment opportunities between India and China.

Mr. Tata, who was made an honorary economic advisor to the booming east Chinese city of Hangzhou on Wednesday, met with senior Chinese ministers, government officials and CEOs of top Chinese firms in sectors like information industry and tourism, was optimistic about India-China cooperation in a range of business fields.

"While many may consider China and India as competitors, we consider China to be a source of partnerships between our groups and companies in China," Mr. Tata said.

"Tatas would therefore like to commit ourselves to making an investment in China and would also like to explore ventures where Chinese companies would like to invest in India, promoting two-way investment and trade between the two countries," he said here.

While declining to go into specifics, Tata said the group was actively pursuing investment opportunities in China's booming automobiles, hospitality and steel sectors. "We consider China to be a very important partner in our plans to internationalise our operations," he said.

"Tata Iron and Steel Company (Tisco) was interested in setting up a venture enabling intermediary steel products to be shipped from India to China where they could be finished," he said.

"The company had already held talks with several Chinese steel firms including the Shanghai-based Baosteel," Mr. Tata said.

Buoyed by the success of Indica and other indigenously-developed car models from the Tata stable, he said there existed a potential for the group to cooperate with China's booming auto market.

The company has plans to import auto components from China and developing a joint auto products venture here for the Indian and Chinese markets.

Asked about Chinese concerns about the heating up of the auto and steel sectors, Mr. Tata said the over capacity fears did not bother his group, which is intent on exploiting two-way trade and investment opportunities in such sectors.

"We're looking at both countries together, not investing in China for China," Mr. Tata stressed.

In the hospitality sector, Tata said the group would like to have a presence in China with a hotel.

Sources said the group is looking at some properties in Shanghai, which is China's largest city as well as the commercial hub.

During his journey, Mr. Tata visited Shanghai and had met the vice-mayor of Shanghai as well as other business leaders. Asked whether Titan Watches and Tata Tea had plans to enter China, the group chairman said he did not favour their entry here.

In the telecom sector, the group was talking to some Chinese operators who could invest n India, he said.

Mr. Tata said he was pleased by the progress made by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) which has completed one year of operations in China and has a workforce of 150, mostly Chinese.

He said TCS, which has a state-of-the-art software development centre in Hangzhou city, planned to raise investment in China to $5 million from $2 million.

Mr. Tata, who first visited Beijing seven years ago to attend a conference, said he could not recognise the Chinese capital this time since it had transformed so much.

Last time, it was just the hotel and the meeting room. But this time, I had the opportunity to see some parts of China, Tata said, adding that the firsthand impression he got from this visit has given him a better picture of China.