As Indian Independence Day is on 15th August, we take a look at the bond that India and Bahrain has shared over the years. The relationship between India and Bahrain goes back a long way to the time of the Dilmun civilisation in 3000 BCE when the latter served as a trade link between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilization.
One-third of Bahrain’s total population of 1.3 million are Indians, making them the largest expat community in the country.
A healthy economic and trade relationship between the two countries also prompted a lot of Indians to move to the Kingdom to set up their businesses. Be it retail, food and beverage, infrastructure or education, Indians have carved a niche for themselves in Bahrain and other parts of the Middle East.
We spoke to the Director of Gajria Holdings, Mr. Vijay Baloor on India Bahrain relations. He said that India and Bahrain enjoy excellent bilateral relations, be it political, cultural or economical. The trade and commercial exchanges go back 5,000 years. Bahraini traders used to successfully carry out trade of Bahraini pearls with spices from India. Many Bahraini merchant families had trading links with India, and they have lived and operated offices in India, trading mostly in the food industry.
Mr. Baloor said, “Our family has been doing business in Bahrain and other parts of the Gulf for over a century. We are happy that Bahrain’s infrastructure is conducive to entrepreneurs, the people are friendly so all in all it’s very comfortable to do business here.”
The recent visits of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, HRH Crown Prince and senior ministers to India, accompanied by other high-level dignitaries and business leaders has reinforced the bond between the two nations. Lately, a host of Bilateral Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding have also been signed between India and Bahrain.
Leading Indian corporations like Tata Consultancy Services, Tech Mahindra, Chemco Plastics, ICICI Bank, Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank and State Bank of India have offices in Bahrain.
Last year, an Economic Development Board (EDB) delegation visited India to attend ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ Global Business Summit in Ahmedabad and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) annual conference in Jaipur, where the EDB was an event sponsor. During the visit, EDB representatives met with Indian businesses who were looking for an opportunity to enter Bahrain and the fast-growing GCC market.
Commenting on the visit, Mr. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB said, “The Economic Development Board is capitalizing on the historic relations that link Bahrain with India to strengthen the cooperation between the two countries in vital sectors including ICT. We aim to promote the achievements of Bahrain and the strength of its economic infrastructure, as well as its position as a gateway for Indian businesses to establish their presence in the region.”
Mr. Maran Nagarajan, Founder of Kaar Technologies and National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) delegation leader said, “Bahrain is an important business partner for India and we are glad for the opportunity this visit gave us to meet our counterparts in the ICT sector. We are keen to learn more about the investment opportunities in the Kingdom and enhance our relations with the private sector in Bahrain. This will serve our objective of increasing the presence of Indian ICT firms globally and in the GCC countries in particular. Bahrain offers an excellent professional talent pool which can be utilized by the Indian ICT companies to gain foothold in the GCC region”.
In order to further strengthen economic ties, EDB has established international offices in both New Delhi and Mumbai to offer assistance to Indian investors interested in setting up business in Bahrain.
Earlier this year, a delegation of Bahraini and Indian businessmen had visited ‘Make in India Week’ in Mumbai, India. The event showcased the potential of design, innovation and sustainability across India’s manufacturing sectors in the coming decade.
The BIS delegation aims to highlight the business and investment opportunities in Bahrain, build relations and meet prospective investors. Chairman of Dadabhai Group and Bahrain Indian Society (BIS), Mohammed Dadabhai said, “We are delighted to take part in this important event. We will make an effort to promote the business friendly environment in the kingdom and to attract the Indian companies to invest in Bahrain.”
Two leading Indian businessmen based in the Gulf, Mr. Yusuffali M.A. Managing Director of EMKE Lulu Group of Companies and Dr. Ravi Pillai Chairman of RP Group of Companies have backed Bahrain as their preferred investment destination.
Mr. Yusuffali said, “We want to send a message to everyone including those planning to enter Bahrain that their investments are secure and there is no need to worry. I have invested in several major projects because the economy is strong”.
It is noteworthy that the Lulu chain of hypermarkets owned by Mr. Yusuffali employs 22,000 Indians in the Middle East.
Dr. Pillai said that he also has invested a hefty amount in schools and other projects and that “situation was well under control under the wise leadership.”
Both the leaders believe that Bahrain is on the path to economic progress, and therefore, the right place to invest for business.