J.J. Singh, the President of the Indo Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a special interview for KG Legal Kiełtyka Gładkowski

“Our mission is to effectively support business in Polish – Indian relationships” – said J.J. Singh, the President of the Indo Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a special interview for KG Legal Kiełtyka Gładkowski. The entire interview, recorded on 10 July 2014 in the seat of the Chamber in Warsaw, was published in KG Legal Business Portal in Press Room section.

Mr Singh, is it easy for foreigners to do business in Poland?

I have been living in Poland since 1989 and on that basis I can emphatically say that yes. There are no major problems in doing business in Poland, at least there are no issues that would not be otherwise observed in other countries. I notice also that there are a number of new investments made by Indian entrepreneurs in Poland. These investors express their content with the legal and commercial conditions for doing business in Poland. They emphasise that there is a well-observed support of the local government, and the larger projects are additionally supported by the Ministry of Economy.

Yet, as I presume, there are also some problems. Where, in your opinion, could there be implemented some ad hoc facilitations?

Let me answer this by providing an example. One company that is a member of our Chamber and has been investing for several years in Poland decided to expand its investments in one of the special economic zones in Poland. Due to the specific nature in which the economic zones operate, the investor encountered a number of legal problems in the course of the investment process related to the specific status of the economic zone. The Ministry of Economy was very accommodating to our intervention on this investment. It can be therefore seen that each investment naturally entails some obstacles, sometimes of economic and sometimes of legal nature. Yet, all cases that we observe among entrepreneurs in the Polish market confirm that these problems can be easily solved.

Mr. Singh, could you briefly comment on the Indo Polish Chamber of Commerce? How long has it been present in Poland and how many members have joined it so far?

The Chamber was established in 2006 thanks to the sponsors and companies – founders. The structure of the Chamber’s membership is now mixed. Currently the majority of members, namely up to 80% of them, are the Indian entrepreneurs. The remaining members of our Chamber are Polish entities. In turn, almost half of the Indian members of our Chamber (approximately 40%) should be classified as large companies, such as ArcelorMittal.

The goal of the Chamber is to support our members in the investment processes in Poland and India. We advise Indian entities investing in Poland as well as Polish investors in their projects in India, already at the stage of their business ideas. We provide direct counseling to our members in respect of general and preliminary investment issues. Then, if the necessity of professional counseling support arises at the stage of implementing a given investment, such entity can be provided with an indirect support by the Chamber, namely we assist in directing such an investor to an appropriate member of our Chamber, for example, a consulting firm. It is how we see the key role of the Chamber. We help our members in networking and searching for the most suitable business partners, having in mind their specialization and the scale of their business projects. The recommendation granted by the Chamber often results in further cooperation of these business partners on preferential terms. It should be emphasised that the Chamber offers tools for the entities that search for investment support, whereby we always have in mind the economics of the projects and the effectiveness of the measures employed by our partners.

Another form of the Chamber’s activity are delegations that we organise in Poland and India. We make every effort to ensure that they are held three times a year. This year there have already taken place two delegations, and the third is scheduled at the end of the year. In this respect, we also operate in a broader formula of larger delegations of Indian businessmen to Poland. The activity of the Chamber in such cases consists in organising seminars, panel discussions, networking and B2B meetings. An example here can be the India Show organised on a large scale in Poznań in June this year. There were about 120 Indian companies related to various fields of engineering, including new technologies. The delegation from India visited Poland for five days. The project received a respectable diplomatic support of the Ambassador of India in Poland and the representatives of the Polish Chamber of Commerce.

So, as I understand, there is an active role of economic diplomacy?

Yes, this activity is of particular importance, since it applies both to the cooperation between the Chamber and the Embassy of India as well as the very close relationships with the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, naturally, the representatives of the Polish Embassy in India. We are convinced that this kind of diplomacy has measurable and direct impact on the effectiveness of business investments.

What criteria must be met in order to join the Chamber?

There are no strict criteria for the membership. We are glad to have as members both individual entities and entrepreneurs interested in Polish-Indian business. Our activity, history, goals and mission can be traced on our website. How to find out more? Well, we issue a monthly newsletter, which contains current information on the activities of the Chamber and its members. Of course, as in any of such organizations, there is an annual membership fee. The application process is not complicated and it is initiated by filing membership application. We try to stimulate the activity and the interaction between the members of the Chamber, particularly by organizing internal meetings in the Chamber. This promotes the search for suitable business partners. Therefore, networking is the essence of our activity.

What sphere and what areas of business and economic activity in Poland are of particular interest to investors from India?

Currently the most active sectors here are energy and mining. The example of Polish – Indian business relations in this regard may be this year’s Polish business delegation to India (Kolkata and Delhi) under the patronage of the Ministry of Economy (Mr. Jerzy Witold Pietrewicz – the Secretary of State) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ms. Katarzyna Kacperczyk – the Undersecretary of State for Non-European Policy, Public and Economic Diplomacy), which was attended by about 80 Polish companies. The meeting brought measurable results, since it is already now that two major Indian investors have expressed interest in Polish mining technologies. The Chamber also perceives the activities of the new Government of India aimed at economic development. The current statements made by the government relate to the investments in Indian railway infrastructure. The government’s objectives are long-term investment programs aimed at implementing rolling stock modernization system. In this regard we should emphasize great opportunities of Polish entrepreneurs due to their technologies and experience of Polish – Indian cooperation in the 70s and 80s in these fields. We see great opportunities in this respect for Polish companies. Therefore, we invite them to cooperate, because we have accurate and helpful information about the said investment.

Why is it beneficial for Polish entrepreneurs to join Indo – Polish Chamber of Commerce?

I will provide a simple answer. We know the economic situation in Europe and India. We are familiar with the needs of the Asian market. I can say, based on my experience, that the Indian market is not yet completely examined by the Polish investors. Hence, our role is to facilitate the expansion on the Indian market through our contacts and knowledge.

Do you think that the problems associated with the issue of taxation and export may also be encountered in the Indian market?

We should definitely be aware of the problems connected with investments, for example in tax matters. However, in this regard we can observe mutual intentions of lifting the barriers, which can be seen even on the example of avoidance of double tax agreement between India and Poland. Nevertheless, the emerging problems should be analysed from the perspective of the presence of consulting and legal firms as well as from the perspective of the activity of our Chamber, where the aim is to provide assistance in solving these problems. Another form of activity of our Chamber in this respect are thematic seminars, such as, for example, recently held in Zabrze. We believe that one should look for new business partners also in other centres than only large urban agglomerations. Until recently, business promotion strategy focused mainly on cities such as Wrocław, Poznań or Warsaw.

So the Chamber sees potential in the Silesian agglomeration?

Yes, together with the Ministry of Economy we reach the local business by providing investment opportunities in India.

As I understand, the Chamber highly values not only local but rather global strategy?

Yes, this is our important task.

Mr. Singh, from the perspective of an objective observer, how did Poland benefit from its membership in the EU?

From the perspective of several decades of Indo-Polish cooperation, there were undoubtedly considerable benefits in this respect. Since the moment Poland joined the EU, the Indian investors have perceived it as a gateway to Europe. Currently, it is easier to do business in Poland and the Polish market opens the entire EU market. Therefore, many Indian companies want to invest here. They are viewed as serious players. When looking only at our Chamber there are as many as 29 of them. They have chosen Poland because this country offers well trained staff, familiar with foreign languages, advanced technical know-how and advantageous location, with relatively low operating costs, compared to, for example, Germany or France. Based on my experience I can say that Poland effectively uses EU funds, hence it gained a strong position not only in Central Europe, but in Europe in general.

We are now approaching a new EU funds perspective for the period 2014 – 2020. Do you think that the new funds will contribute to increased cooperation between India and Poland?

I do believe so. Indian investors are aware of those European funds. They see opportunities in undertaking new investments in Poland with the support of the EU funds, and thus the potential to create new workplaces here.

How many members have joined the Chamber so far?

Currently, there are over 100 members. When compared to the German or American Chambers of Commerce, this number may be viewed as relatively low, yet it reflects the extent of the involvement of Indian business in Poland. It should be noted that the Chamber still develops its activity and the number of members increases every year. This is reflected in Polish-Indian joint ventures which bring benefits to both countries.

Mr. Singh, thank you very much for very valuable comments.

Thank you very much.

Let us touch upon some legal issues. What kind of legal problems would you say Indian foreign companies could encounter in Poland?

To my mind the biggest problems can be encountered at the stage of setting up companies and in the course of investments in Poland. In such cases the law that applies is the Polish law. Certain legal aspects are then not clear for Indian investors, because they operate within the common law system which is still prevailing in India. This problem is most visible when establishing joint venture businesses between Polish and Indian entities. In such case Indian investors always aim to have the British law as pertaining one, while the Polish company tries to make the Polish law applicable one, hence there arise disputes and in most cases the best solution is to apply the international law which is most convenient for both parties. Many problems do occur when new companies with Indian capital are formed in Poland. Some of these problems concern the appointment of executive directors. Having in mind cross border character of these projects, we can encounter here the problems connected with visas, stay permits, residence permits, etc. One of chief executive directors of one of our members, for example, was forced to go back to India due to serious problems with visa extension. A number of companies address our Chamber with such problems and we can then offer relevant advice and assistance.

If we could focus on outsourcing, do you observe a growing tendency in setting up outsourcing businesses with Indian capital in Poland?

Yes, if you look at the map of Indian outsourcing, we will find five big players and I must note that all of them are based in Poland, namely in Kraków, Wrocław, Poznań, Łódź and in Warsaw. These companies hire mostly Polish staff and only the top management is Indian. We can observe a very large number of clients for these companies, mostly from Scandinavia, Germany and UK. This shows that Poland has a potential of very well-educated staff, having a good command of foreign languages, hence foreign companies very often choose Poland as their headquarters in order to optimise labour costs.

Recently there can be observed intensified cooperation between research, scientific and academic centres and business entities, as can be seen on the example of R&D projects. To your mind, it this also common in case of Indian and Polish cooperation?

Yes, undoubtedly. This phenomenon has been well observed for a long time, yet only recently Indian scientists have expressed their growing interest in the cooperation with the Polish academic centres. There is a simple explanation to that: know-how, experience and the possibility of sharing knowledge. One of the best examples in this respect can be this year visit to Kolkata where during the energy summit the participants signed the understanding regarding mutual cooperation between Polish and Indian academics, scientist and students in the area of mining technology. Moreover, at the end of this year Kraków will host the first group of students from India. The aim of this visit will be experience and knowledge exchange. India is now very interested in new technologies on deep level mining surface level.

As I believe, the most crucial legal aspects connected with this cooperation will concern contract law, intellectual property and patent law?

Yes, that is right. To my mind, the Polish companies that enter Indian market can also encounter some legal problems connected with new technologies and know-how as well as patent law. Therefore, I believe that both Polish and Indian law firms that specialise in cross border cases should offer their assistance in this respect. The Polish investors are more and more aware of the fact that the Indian market offers well-developed legal services and a wide range of legal provisions that aim at protecting the interests of entrepreneurs.

How do you view the role of the Chamber in supporting this activity and cooperation?

The Chamber every quarter organises thematic seminars. For example, the next seminar, planned for September, will be devoted to the issue of food and agriculture. These seminars are attended by Polish and Indian experts who provide practical guidelines for Polish companies which aim to expand their activity on the Indian market. This is how we view the role of our Chamber – we inform and support entrepreneurs in their investments in Indian market. We try to reach with our mission not only larger business centres but also smaller cities, since we are positive that there are a number of entrepreneurs with a considerable investment potential.

It is good to know that the Chamber also supports smaller business centres.

Yes, we are open to new business partners and at present we perceive new opportunities in smaller towns. We are interested in those entrepreneurs and businesses that plan to enter new markets with new investments.

We can therefore sum up that where there is potential, the Chamber will provide its support.