NEW DELHI: India’s top business federation is preparing to open its office in Riyadh after leading a high-powered delegation to the Kingdom to explore the possibilities offered by Saudi megaprojects.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, India’s largest and oldest trade association, organized the first trip of the country’s top CEOs and government officials to Riyadh and the site of the flagship multibillion-dollar NEOM project in Tabuk, on Feb. 18-21.
The visit was in the wake of the growth of Saudi-Indian ties during India’s presidency of the G20 last year, which was followed by the state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi-India Business Forum in September.
During the forum, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih and his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, agreed to open chamber of commerce offices in their respective countries.
From the Indian side, the office in the Saudi capital will be led by an FICCI member, the federation’s secretary general S.K. Pathak told Arab News.
“We have already identified the location. We are just waiting for the paperwork, and we will launch. This will be in addition to our other offices in GCC. It’s a matter of weeks,” he said in an interview in Delhi on Wednesday.
The office will facilitate better business interactions between Indian companies and those based in the Kingdom.
“Whether you are a FICCI member or not, we are all Team India. Anyone from the Indian industry wanting to have ties in Saudi Arabia, this office will help you. That’s the objective,” Pathak said, adding that following last week’s visit there had already been multiple inquiries from companies interested in the Saudi market, and especially NEOM.
The FICCI delegation met NEOM leaders and executives responsible for projects such as The Line linear smart city, the floating Oxagon city, Trojena futuristic ski resort, Sindalah island resort, TONOMUS — the world’s first ecosystem of cognitive technologies — and ENOWA, which leads the development of NEOM’s sustainable energy and water systems.
“The NEOM project itself is a trillion-dollar project. It’s going to be a multi-decade project, and there is so much that India and Indian companies can do there,” Pathak said. “We have been flooded by inquiries from FICCI members and many who want to become FICCI members saying they also want to participate in this business opportunity.”
There was also an opportunity to learn, he said. The way water will be recycled in NEOM, which is set across desert valleys, and the smart city and biotechnological services designed for the site, were relevant to India too.
“That’s a great lesson for all Indian cities,” Pathak said. “It is quite an exciting opportunity for anyone in infrastructure and services to go and look at.”
Under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, increasing opportunities have been available for Indian companies and the number of them operating in the Saudi market has grown from 400 in 2019 to 2,900 in 2023. Their biggest presence is in construction, information technology, health, oil and gas, telecommunications and financial services.
“This is a great time for India, and we are looking at the next 10 years, 25 years being a very good time for Indian business,” Pathak said. “Vision 2030 gives us the confidence that India and Saudi will grow even closer together.”