Guess where US businesses are turning to now for new opportunities in India: to Bihar, the new turnaround success story, and, depending on the outcome of the coming elections, West Bengal.
"We would like to meet Nitish Kumar who has just won a sweeping mandate in favour of progress," Ron Somers, president of the United States India Business Council (USIBC), told Hindustan Times.
"Ours will be the first business delegation from the US to visit Bihar," he said, adding, "likely in the second half of the year." The intention is to expose US companies to business opportunities in a state that would welcome them, he said.This is sure to come as a boost for Kumar, who has of late been showing up at all the right places — the Pravasi Divas, for instance — to woo businesses much as the chief ministers of historically more aggressive states have done.
US is one of the largest foreign direct investors in India. The total US investments till July 2008 were $7.96 billion. FDI inflows from USA are about 8% of actual FDI inflows into India in rupees.
The USIBC, which is the leading advocacy organisation for promoting business ties between the two countries, believes the time has come for exploring business opportunities in the hinterland of the two countries.
Bihar and West Bengal are a part of this same narrative.
Somers said the interest in India is also moving to traditionally less enthusiastic states in the American heartland. "I have just come from Ohio, where a conference on business opportunities in India was attended by companies from all over, including Indiana," he said.
"There is a yearning and a hunger for doing with business India," Somers said, "across American and in parts of the country that have not had the benefit of being exposed to the India story."
In 2011, the USIBC, will redouble its efforts in reaching out across America and touch the hinterland. "As part of that effort," Somers said, "we have already launched a major initiative on the Capitol Hill (the US Congress)."
Armed with nothing more than a one-page brochure — just right for the attention span on the Hill — Somers has been meeting new senators and members of the House of Representatives, selling the India story.
If a company in your district wants to invest in India, he tells them, the USIBC will be happy to help. "And if an Indian company comes knocking at your door to invest in your state, be ready for that too."
"Last year, Indian companies invested more in America than American companies did in India," said Somers, reeling off the investments: Reliance "up and down the East Coast" and Essar in Minnesota and in Virginia.
"And I could go on…"