Korea welcomed a number of delegates from the Indian state of Karnataka to Seoul, at the Millennium Seoul Hilton hotel. Several dignitaries from the state government were personally present to promote their home state, including Mr. V. Umesh, Principal Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Industries of Karnataka; the Honorable Mr. Ganesh Karnic, Deputy Chairperson of the NRI Cell; and His Excellency Mr. Murugesh R. Nirani, Honorable Minister for Large and Medium Industries. Also in attendance were a panel of Korean experts on India, including Dr. Hyosun Kwon of Samsung, Mr. Paul Jeong of JLC International, Mr. Y. Kim of BTN Company, and Dr. Cho Young Sang of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
The theme was best summed up by Counselor Rajasekhar of the Indian Embassy, who conducted the event as Moderator. He said: "The whole state is going through great transformation. This is a transformation from a land of snake-charmers to a land of mouse-charmers." Computer mice, that is. Mr. Umesh presented a solid overview of the state of Karnataka. He noted that the map of the state looks remarkably similar in shape to South Korea, and it holds 52 million people, also approximately the same as South Korea. However, there is roughly twice as much landmass. Mr. Umesh went on to note that Karnataka is known as the Silicon Valley of India due to its large number of technology-focused universities, which create a skilled workforce of talented engineers. These are the same engineers who often go to the US to provide skilled labor, and to Korea as well. Its reputation and infrastructure have been able to attract $47.5 billion dollars in investment in 2007 and 2008. The state is not only focused on IT, however. It is also focused on manufacturing. There are specialized zones for six different industries, of which IT is only one. There are also Steel Zones, Cement Zones, Food Zones, Auto Zones, and Garment Zones which are scheduled for aid with the new industrial policy of the Karnataka government, which will unfold over the next 5 years.
No financial crisis
His Excellency Skand R. Tayal, Ambassador of India, also made a special address. He mentioned an interesting point, which was; "The conservative banking system in India has not been influenced by the global financial crisis." He said that India's economy was as strong as ever, with no downturn, and explained that another contributing factor was that their economy is not export-driven, but is mostly focused on India itself. The country is self-supporting. H.E. Tayal also said that while all of India is showing remarkable growth in the past few years, Karnataka has a superior rate of growth compared with the other Indian states.
Counselor Rajasekhar, after taking the podium once again, made another insightful comment by saying; "India- Korea business is bigger than India- France business, or India-Russia, or India-Japan. Korea and India are closer than you might think." He also noted that this visit to Korea, the first for officials of Karnataka, is solid evidence showing that the global economic epicenter is shifting to East Asia and away from the West.
Next, from Samsung, Dr. Hyosun Kwon spoke about her company's involvement in Karnataka. Samsung began its involvement in Karnataka 12 years ago. Now, it has 5,300 employees working in 2 manufacturing bases. The two areas are famous for their high productivity, which have helped to make Samsung a household name in India. Also, there is now a very talented pool of Indian researchers and managers which can be used to train newer Samsung employees. There are also two R&D centers in India, one of which is in Bangalore. It is specialized in communications software for all Samsung products. Now, Indian centers are involved with making most of the consumer electronics in Korea. Dr. Kwon said that Samsung is completely satisfied with all aspects of its operations in Karnataka.
Mr. Paul Jeong also spoke, both representing his company JCL International, and in his capacity as Secretary-General of the Global Knowledge Platform. He first told a personal anecdote about going to open a business first in India 12 years ago, and confessed that he had been the most influential person in getting Samsung to open work in Karnataka. He made the point that the strengths of Koreans are the weaknesses of Indians, and the opposite holds true as well. He said that it was a mutually beneficial partnership and India should be a higher priority for Korean businesses.
Another speaker was Mr. Y. Kim of BTN Co. He outlined some more critical aspects of business with India. He first showed that while there are many foreign businesses in Karnataka, most of them are not Korean. In fact, in a direct comparison between Korea and Japan, he showed that while there are 10 large corporations from Korea in the state, there are over 76 companies from Japan present. Also, the 10 Korean companies in Karnataka were focused on the IT sector only, while the Japanese companies were in multiple different manufacturing sectors. He went on to say that there was approximately the same number of Korean businesses as Japanese businesses in India overall, so he asked why there were some discrepancies in Karnataka specifically.
In answering his own question, he pointed out that there were some significant barriers to entry in Karnataka for Korean businesses. The first was not enough or incorrect information about legal systems in the area for Korean businesses. In trying to find out about local systems, Korean businesses who did not have a native speaker on staff were mostly out of luck. A second problem was poor understanding of Korean and Indian staff. Even if Korean businesses hired local staff, there were too many misunderstandings and too much interference with the essential message.
He went on to propose some solutions for these problems, in the embodiment of an official government office called a Collaboration Center, which would help small and mediumsized Korean businesses with the difficulties of integrating themselves into the local area. The center could bring together Indian human resources and Korean marketing to create successful conglomerate companies. The center could also provide Korean language training for Indian engineers, in a similar way to a program that already provides Japanese language training. Finally, he proposed to set up an Honorary Commercial Attache in Korea for Karnataka, to help with international relations.
In a surprisingly decisive move, a few minutes later His Excellency Mr. Murugesh Nirani announced that Mr. Paul Jeong had been appointed as Honorary Consul to advise Karnataka on Korean matters. H.E. Nirani also said that steps would be taken to address the other concerns that were brought up in the meeting.
After the presentations were finished, the delegates adjourned to speak privately with each other, and to eat a lunch specially prepared by noted chefs flown in for this occasion from Karnataka.