By R. Viswanathan - Yes. India's exports to Colombia have crossed the billion dollar mark, reaching 1.124 billion dollars in 2012. Colombia is the third biggest destination of India's exports to Latin America after Brazil and Mexico.
The rate of increase of India's exports to Colombia has been impressive in recent years. The exports have more than doubled in the last three years from 504 million dollars in 2009, 686m in 2010 and 976m dollars in 2011.
Major export items in 2012 were: motor cycles (285 million dollars), vehicles (126 million), cotton yarn and fabrics (130m), organic chemicals (78m) and pharmaceuticals (59m). Besides Bajaj, TVS, Tata and Hero and even Reva electric cars have established their brands in the country.
In addition to exports, Indian IT/BPO companies such as TCS, Infosys, Genpact and Sutherland have operations in Colombia. A group of four young Indians have set up a successful and growing IT company in Bogota called as Sophos Solutions which provides banking solutions. Three of the founders of this company are married to Colombians. They are proof for my theory that the risk of doing business with Latin America is...falling in love.
ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) has invested a billion dollars in oil. If you thought India is a poor competitor and cousin of China in foreign investments, here is a surprise. OVL's investment in the Colombian oil field is a 50/50 joint venture with the Chinese company Sinopec. More surprise: the original owner of the oil field from whom OVL and Sinopec bought was an Indian based in US. Reliance also has some off-shore concessions in Colombia.
United Phosphorous Ltd (UPL) has acquired a local company manufacturing agrochemicals. Praj from Pune has implemented contracts worth 30 million dollars for setting up ethanol plants.
Some Indian companies including Renuka Energy are exploring opportunities for investment in mining. Colombia is one of the largest exporters of coal in the world. India has started importing coal from Colombia.
India's imports from Colombia in 2012 were 1.363 million dollars in 2012. Of these, 1.283m (94%) were crude oil. Emeralds, of course are an important item of import.
The Colombian economy is in an unstoppable growth trajectory. The GDP expansion was 4.5% in 2012 and the prospects are better for 2013. The macroeconomic fundamentals are strong and healthy.
Colombia has come out (almost) of its domestic curses of guerrilla warfare, drug trafficking and bad image of crimes including kidnapping. The guerrillas are on the run. The government has an upper hand and is taking more and more control of the guerrilla occupied territories in an irreversible manner. This means more land is now available for exploration of oil and minerals as well as agricultural and industrial expansion.
Medellín, which was notorious as the den of drug lords, is now a peaceful and thriving industrial and business centre. The government of President Juan Manuel Santos is business-friendly, predictable, open and transparent in trade policies and is proactive in welcoming foreign investment.
Colombia is now threatening to overthrow Argentina as the third largest economy of Latin America. I can say with confidence that the Colombian political and business leaders have what it takes to achieve their goal.