Business Delegation from India Makes Stop in Columbus

Columbus Business First

Businesses based in India want to invest in the U.S. and Ohio could be one of the beneficiaries.

The Confederation of Indian Industry made its first ever visit to Ohio Wednesday and is leaving with a good impression.

“Ohio is clearly one of the better places to locate for an international business,” said Adi Godrej, Confederation president and chairman of the Godrej Group, a diversified company with holdings in real estate, manufacturing and agriculture, among other industries.

The group is India’s largest industry association with more than 100,000 member companies. Its leaders are visiting the U.S. between June 11-14. The tour started in Washington D.C. where they participated in an economic summit with the U.S.-India Business Council and will end in Illinois with a meeting with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The delegation spent Wednesday in Columbus, meeting first with Gov. John Kasich then attending a reception hosted by JobsOhio and Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter Co. LPA.

Godrej said Ohio has several attributes that could be attractive to Indian businesses including its geographic location relative to the rest of the U.S., a tax system that is attractive to businesses and a generally business-friendly environment.

Ohio’s strengths align with many of the Indian companies’ interests including energy, health care, education agriculture and manufacturing.

He also noted that the delegation is seeking U.S. businesses looking to invest in India as well.

“The opportunities are both ways,” he said.

While full of praise about the initial impression of Ohio, Godrej did point out one federal-level hurdle to business expansion.

“We have serious problems with getting visas for our Indian employees,” he said. “It’s very restrictive.”

He said that has been a problem for the last five years and the government has been slow to address it, but doing so would help clear the way for more Indian investment in the U.S.

Godrej said the group will assemble a report on its trip, which also included an afternoon meeting with leaders, and distribute it to members.

Mindy McLaughlin, JobsOhio’s foreign direct investment manager, said Wednesday’s activities are a good start and the group looks forward to more detailed discussions with the Confederation and its members in the future.

Martijn Steger, Kegler Brown’s head of the global business practice, said the meetings were a step toward job creation in Ohio, whether that is Ohio manufacturers exporting to India or Indian businesses setting up shop in the state.

“We want to increase the level of economic activity in Ohio,” he said.

McLaughlin said Ohio is home to 13 India-based companies employing more than 1,300.

Steger said he was told that of the 100 top CEOs in Indian business, roughly 10 percent were part of the group in Columbus Wednesday. Companies represented in the delegation included Godrej Group, Infosys Ltd., Apollo Hospitals, Hi-Tech Group, Jetline Group and Triveni Turbine Ltd.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman was the catalyst that got the group to Ohio, Godrej said. Sen. Portman spoke to the group previously and encouraged the trip.

“Usually our visits are to Washington D.C. or New York,” Godrej said. “We thought it was time to visit the Heartland.”