Chinese envoy's biz call: help the small fish

The consul general of China, Ma Zhanwu (second from left), releases study reports on media perception along with officials of Observer Research Foundation and a representative of the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences at a city hotel on Wednesday

Calcutta: Small businesses, and not just big investors, are crucial to the government's call for Make in India work, suggested the consul general of China in Calcutta.

Ma Zhanwu said in a river, big fish need small fish to survive.

"In a market if the small fish do well the big fish get the confidence to come and invest. If they see no small business, they will not get the confidence. This is simple logic. So pay attention to the smaller businessmen and the big industries will come," he said at a session on investment opportunities at Think Tank Conference on connectivity, trade relations and investment opportunities between China and eastern India, organised by Observer Research Foundation and the consulate general of China in Calcutta.

"Government officials pay a lot of attention to big businesses with fat pockets. They get a warm welcome. But small investors have a difficult time in India," he said.

Big investors, he said, "get appointments with the Prime Minister".

"One has met Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi five times," he said, referring to Wang Jianlin, the founder of the conglomerate company Dalian Wanda Group, China's largest real estate development company and one of the world's largest movie theatre operators. In contrast, "small investors find it difficult to get a meeting with WBIDC (West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation) officials".

According to him, the failure rate of Chinese investors in India is as high as 50 to 60 per cent.

"Twenty per cent break even and barely 15 per cent succeed. This is not encouraging. In contrast, the Indians I have spoken to, who have invested in China, say their success rate is 99 per cent."

The consul general's biggest grouse seems to be the "difficult time" Chinese investors are facing at the Calcutta airport. "Doing business or having smooth communication in India is difficult. At the airport, they are getting questioned even if they have a valid visa. Some have been denied entry. Of course, on principle, immigration officers have the right to do that. But when the government is welcoming investors, it is difficult to understand why the attitude at the airport is different."

Zhanwu felt that if the state government invites investors, "they have the responsibility to help them, not leave them crying". He called for government-appointed intermediaries, speaking foreign languages at the airport, to familiarise investors with local rules and facilitate their work.


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