British Columbia starting liaison office in Chandigarh

April 28th, 2009 - 12:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Alkesh Sharma
Chandigarh, April 28 (IANS) Despite the global economic meltdown, the government of Canada’s British Columbia (BC) province is all set to establish a business investment and skills liaison office here to foster entrepreneurs and to encourage trade and investment from northern Indian states in BC and vice-versa.

“India is unquestionably emerging as one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies. Despite the gloom of recession all across the countries, it is going somewhat steadily and has shown some promising indications,” D.J. Sandhu, BC in-market business investment and skills liaison representative here, told IANS.

“There is tremendous potential to increase trade relations between BC and northern states of India especially Punjab. We would explore the prospective areas and facilitate entrepreneurs from both countries to invest in those identified areas.”

Sandhu - whose office will open in July - said that plenty of opportunities were available in BC owing to its vast area and an assortment of unexplored fields there.

“BC occupies nearly one million square km, and is even larger than the combined area of California, Oregon and Washington states of the US and the combined area of France and Germany,” he pointed out.

The population of BC is around 4.4 million, of which about 350,000 have their roots in Punjab.

“The new outreach office here will help entrepreneurs from Punjab to invest and migrate to British Columbia for setting up businesses there,” Sandhu added. “There is vast scope in the fields of agri-business, tourism, aviation and horticulture in both Punjab and BC.”

The provincial government’s aim is to attract investment and entrepreneurs from all the northern states including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have significant linkages with organisations like PHD Chambers, CII, TiE and CRIID (business and industry groups) and we would seek their help in recognising the genuine entrepreneurs. We have received countless inquiries from people in BC who also want to invest here,” Sandhu said.

“Bilateral trade between India and Canada has doubled in the last four years. Presently it is approximately $4 billion and growing at very encouraging pace.”

India’s major exports to Canada include jewellery, diamonds, chemicals, textiles, clothing and various manufactured products. Canada’s exports to India are dominated by newsprint, pulp and paper, metals and agricultural products.

Sandhu said bilateral trade between BC and India is estimated around $400 million and there is a possibility to easily enhance it by 10 to 15 percent annually.

Sandhu is a professor of business studies in the University of the Fraser Valley in BC, and has over 25 years’ experience in teaching, marketing and management consulting.

He said: “The BC government will invest Canadian $150,000 (Rs.6 million) to support the new position in Chandigarh and to set up their office here. This amount adds to our allocation of Canadian $2.5 million in 2007 in this direction.”

Crystal Sawyer, manager of India operations, said: “There is a very strong Indo-Canadian community residing in BC, who are taking keen interest in this project and want this initiative to become a big hit. They also conduct various fund-raising activities to contribute in this project.

“In 2007, Canadian $1.25 million each was contributed by the BC government and the community to boost trade relations between the two countries. This amount of Canadian $2.5 million was allocated for the next five years.”

Already many entrepreneurs from BC have started taking interest in investing in Punjab. A group of people from there has opened a residential school named British Columbia Academy (BCA) in Mohali in Punjab, around 10 km from here.

“We have invested Rs.20 crore (Rs. 200 million) in BCA and we are advertising about it in the UK, the US and in Canada as there are many Indian families who want to send their children back for studies,” Anup Shahi, chairman of the group, told IANS.

Shahi, who has been residing in BC for the last 30 years, said: “There are many people there who want to invest back in India but they do not know the right channel. But now this initiative of the BC government would certainly encourage them.”

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at

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