Courting Bollywood and selling Wales in India

April 15th, 2012 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Sounds like gobbledygook! Well, not exactly. It’s a village in Wales which sports the longest place name in Europe, says a smiling Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, while pitching to attract more business and Bollywood films to the picturesque British province.

The tongue-twisting name of the Welsh village, Jones seem to indicate, is part of the challenge in promoting Wales as a business and entertainment hub in India. Indians go to London, Scotland and Ireland, but Wales is still not high in public visibility, Jones, who came with a large delegation last week, told IANS in an interview.

Next time you are in London, take a train or drive down to Wales which has the highest number of castles per square kilometre in the world and is much cheaper than London, said the 45-year-old Jones.

Besides, there are over 20 Indian restaurants serving authentic Indian food, he said.

“We are going to host the famous World Music Exhibition and the Dylan Thomas festival celebrating the poetical gifts of the Welsh poet next year,” he said.

But Jones made it clear he was not here on his maiden visit to India just on tourism promotion. He wants to get more Indian businesses to come to Wales, which has some of the finest quality of coal and a first-class infrastructure. Indian giants like Tata and Wockhardt have a well-entrenched presence in Wales, employing hundreds of Welsh residents. Jones met Tata Steel chairman Balasubramanian Muthuraman in Mumbai and made a forceful pitch for Indian investments. Tata employs over 4,000 Welsh residents at its steel facilities in Wales, home to around three million people.

“We would like Indian collaboration and investments in diverse areas like renewable energy, construction, tourism, life sciences, aeronautics and advanced manufacturing,” he said. “Labour is not cheap here, but there are other incentives. The decision-making is much quicker and if it’s a sizeable investment, you can rest assured that a minister will take care of it,” he added.

And yes, Jones wants to cash in on the Bollywood magic to showcase Wales, the place where the iconic Hollywood movies “Lawrence of Arabia” and “First Night” were shot. Wales, he said, is no stranger to Bollywood either. Films like “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” has been shot in the breathtakingly elemental landscape in the province.

“It’s not just castles and scenery, but Wales has a well-equipped production facility. BBC has a large production facility in Wales. We can’t offer tax breaks, but there are many reasons to shoot in Wales,” he said.

The India connection to Wales is nascent, but it’s set to grow stronger, said Jones. There are around 300 Indian students in Wales studying an assortment of subjects, with law and medicine topping the list.

Jones is hoping for more educational tie-ups with Indian educational institutions, a subject he discussed with Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal.

How is India seen in Wales? “Well, we see India as a dynamic and upcoming country with a lot of entrepreneurial energy,” said Jones. “The bonds are going to get stronger in days to come.”

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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