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BW Businessworld

For A Global Footprint

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Historically, India has been no stranger to international trade. In the 18th century, Europeans travelled for months by ship to come to the Indian subcontinent to buy spices, cotton and other goods, which they then took back and sold at huge profits. Later, after it was colonised, and the Industrial Revolution took place in Europe, India became more of an importer. After Independence, the country briefly showed a big spurt in exports, which then slowed in the 1960s and 1970s — as did imports — largely because of the socialist and import substitution policies followed by the governments of those days. Things improved in the 1980s, though it was not until the economic reforms of the 1990s that Indian global trade really began flourishing.

Currently, exports are estimated to account for about 22 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Gems and jewellery, software services, textiles, engineering goods and chemicals form the bulk of Indian exports. Crude oil and capital goods form the bulk of Indian imports. India's biggest trading partners are the US, the European Union, the West Asian countries and China.

The past year was rather mixed for Indian exporters and importers. The declining rupee was supposed to make Indian exports more competitive, but the fact that the global recovery had not picked up pace subdued opportunities. The falling rupee caused a fair amount of heartburn to our importers.

Succeeding in global markets takes special skills and hard work. Each market has its peculiarities and local regulations. Currency rate fluctuations add to the risk. You could be a great exporter with extremely competitive pricing but still lose out if you have hedged your currency badly. That applies to importers as well.

BW conducted a study of India's best exporters in a few prominent sectors. Associate editor Anup Jayaram worked with process partners PwC India to shortlist the outstanding exporters. Then an eminent panel of jurors — Shyamal Ghosh, former telecom secretary and former director general of foreign trade, noted economist and chairman of Oxus Investments Surjit S. Bhalla and Bipul Chatterjee, deputy executive director of CUTS International, chose the final winners.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 19-03-2012)