While Hans De Boer, president, Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers termed the four-century-old trade relationship between India and the Netherlands, as “janam-janam ka saath,” the recent visit and the sheer size of the 120-member delegation from the Netherlands to India, headed by its Prime Minister (PM) Mark Rutte and the warm welcome it received from PM Narendra Modi speak volumes about the trade synergies both the countries accord to each other.
Speaking of the intent and extent of the collaboration between the two countries, Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, said, “This is the third time in the past couple of years that meetings of the highest level between both the countries have taken place. It also demonstrates the priority for both, as this is also our largest-ever trade mission to India.”
Later, Sigrid Kaag also launched the much awaited #StartupLink between India and the Netherlands in partnership with Startup India on May 25. Developed by Startup India in collaboration with the Netherlands Embassy the platform provides access to relevant information to networking, pilot opportunities and many more. Exploring Indian or Dutch market, the platform will help startups in terms of policy and tax understandings, tax exemptions if any, funding, incubation facilities and more.
SigridKaag said, “Technology is transforming human lives. However, the transformation is limited to those having access to the technology. In India, there is a healthy population of people who don’t have access to it. And so, we are here, to enable the access to a wider segment of society.”
During a brief press meet, Inc42 spoke to SigridKaag and other delegates to understand more about the #StartupLink and the key developments that are set to take place as part of the MoUs signed between India and Netherlands.
Strengthening Startup Ecosystems In India And The Netherlands
Responding to the queries of Inc42 about the delegation’s agenda, the Netherlands Consulate General of South India (Temp) Jaap Werner said that the partnership between the two countries was being multiplied on several fronts to strengthen the trade and startup ecosystem in both. This includes deepening the knowledge sharing, technology transfer, trades and so on.
While blockchain, AI, ML, IoT and cybersecurity are some of the common tech platforms where Sigrid Kaag said Indian and Dutch startups are expected to collaborate. Which are the verticals where both the countries’ startups are expected to collaborate or explore the each-other’s ecosystem?
To which, Sigrid Kaag stated, “We are here to support the ideas. Sometimes to support even in terms of tax, financial ads, loans, but the idea is to strengthen the mechanism, technically a detailed proposal to let startups explore each other’s markets, as freely as possible.”
This is important as startups take their own time to turn profitable. Startups need to go for a long-term goal rather than short term. In the trial-and-error method lies the next best idea, and the ecosystem must support and mitigate the ideas.
“The important matter is that startuppers need to hold the startup idea alive. That’s why incubators are there. Under #StartupLink, we have connected the incubators as well. The idea is to make the journey of each startup simpler through supported and supportive manner.”
“I do appreciate the undying nature of entrepreneurship here.”
“As far as verticals are concerned, we have already marked nine top sectors for the collaboration. This includes healthcare, water, agriculture, waste management, ecommerce, financial services, steel and textile,” she added.
Tech Summit To Encourage And Listen To Startup Ideas
Under the #StartupLink, one of the possible ways to encourage startups in identified fields will be organising Tech Summits on a regular basis that will see the participation of startups from both the countries.
Speaking to Inc42, De Boer mentioned that during their delegate’s meeting with the India counterparts headed by PM Modi, they talked about the possibility of organising a high-tech summit, most probably in Bengaluru. The idea, according to him, is to bridge the issues along with all the stakeholders. “
For instance, the tech summit that could see participation from big corporates can also be an apt platform where 100 shortlisted startups from both the countries could pitch their ideas and get funded,” he said.
Impending Challenges In Indo-Dutch Startup Collaboration
While both the countries have a rich history of collaborations, what are the existing challenges that must be addressed to pave way for the trades between the two and to make it as free as possible?
Sigrid Kaag had the answers. She said, “Prime Minister Modi had raised some important issues in Brussels, during an India-EU Summit. This is regarding the trade and investment agreements between India and Europe. And, we are committed to obviously engage as we think it’s very important.”
She further explained that globally speaking, there are challenges around international trading rules, especially those relating to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as the approaches of by some governments result in unilateral decisions. “The Netherlands is concerned about this as it wants to keep up the system that has been built. The Netherlands believes that the WTO should be reformed. But, this has to be done through negotiations,” she added.
“Now, India is a country that is very active multilaterally within the international ecosystem. So, we have also spoken about this. This is a challenge and a very important moment in time,” she said.
Kaag’s remarks are important in the context of the EU wanting India to follow EU trade sanction rules as well. However, India recently has clarified that it follows only UN-made sanctions.
For instance, the EU and the US have imposed restrictions on cooperation with Iran in foreign trade and other sectors, including fossil fuel. However, India does not follow these restrictions, as they’re not mandated by the UN.
The Common Goals
With a number of signed between the two countries, the partnership aimed to tackle a number of issues. This includes employment, climate change, waste management and more.
Sigrid Kaag stated, “What we can do together is to create more jobs, new trades, and sustainable development for both the countries. Both India and the Netherlands have signed the COP21 programme. And hence, energy and waste management are some of the areas where both should work together to achieve the success.”
On being asked about the significant MoUs signed between the two countries, Sigrid Kaag said, “Over 130 companies and 240 participants, this is a sign of our commitment. The political leadership is behind this.”
“The MoUs have been signed in the areas of education (between the universities), waste management, ehealth, etc. The valuation so far is $170 Mn.”
Under the umbrella of #StartupLink, a delegation of 10-12 Dutch startups is also expected to visit India later this year and take part in a series of B2B and B2G meetings, and exposure trips, along with exploring networking and pilot opportunities.
On a humorous note, De Boer said, “Yesterday, while meeting the Indian PM Narendra Modi, I said, it can’t be a coincidence that we have come here along with half of our ministers and the economy of the Netherlands saw a significant upsurge there.”
The PM Rutte’s visit to India, with #StartupLink has undoubtedly strengthened the startup channel between the two countries’ startup ecosystems. However, the success of the platform #StartupLink like Startup Delta is very much dependent on the offline support it gets in terms of incubation programmes, tax exemptions, open access to the market and funding.