Made edgy by the global slowdown, scores of Americans and Europeans are being drawn to Happening Place India, says Kunal Majumder
WHEN US-based Sarah Hine and her partners decided to launch a company to tackle counterfeit drugs, she had two options: India and Africa. “After assessing both places we decided on India,” says Sarah, talking about last summer’s launch of PharmaSecure. “For one, India is soon expected to account for 15 percent of the world’s active pharma ingredients. For another, it has a huge domestic market.”
Like Sarah, Marc Treves, a shopping centre consultant from Switzerland, too launched his real estate consultancy in India last January. “There were job cuts and I was asked to move to Hong Kong. But I decided to stay back in Delhi and launch an enterprise with colleagues from my former company.” He formed Ideas Consultancy and Advisory with his Indian partner and has been involved with a number of retail projects like Ambience Mall and Select City Mall.
Theirs are not isolated cases. There’s a whole new crop of entrepreneurs who find India an attractive investment destination. Not only are they entering sectors like real estate, retail and pharmaceuticals, but are also introducing such innovative services as cycle-tours, concept café and fashion brands. Jack Leenaars, a Dutch citizen, has launched a cycle-tour service in Delhi: ‘Delhi by Cycle’ offers a guided sight-seeing tour of major landmarks in the Walled City.
He says he got the idea from a friend who ran a similar service in Bangkok. “When I started this concept, I wanted to create a unique street experience here,” says Leenaars, who first came to India as a journalist.
Often, the reason for choosing India above all others is its romantic appeal. Dutch couple Alexander and Lalita de Goederen, for instance, besides finding India a promising investment hub, also like India a lot. It’s that simple. “Plus we had a connection through my father. He studied Indian classical music and dance in Benares,” says Lalita, who set up the first Bagel café in Gurgaon in June this year. Bagel is a Polish bread, popular in the US and Europe. “I was surprised to find that so many people knew about Bagel here. Customers come to our café from various parts of Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). Most of them are NRIs and foreigners. The others come mainly to experiment,” she adds.
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Her husband Alexander formed Bricks India, a real estate company, along with a Canadian of Indian origin and a Dutch partner. “We started at a really bad time. Our entry into the market coincided with the global economic slowdown, but we found we were better off in India than in Europe, where things are even worse,” says Alexander.