Nagpur: Nagpurians will feel proud to know that a distinguished Corporate captain of the city had recently represented India at the just concluded SAARC nations meet in Nepal.
Mr. Hakimuddin Ali, MD of Calderys Responsible for all India and SAARC business for Calderys India Refractories Ltd, (Erstwhile ACC Refractories, Ace Calderys) has the proud distinction of being appointed as Executive Committee member SAARC Chamber of Commerce. In this capacity he attended the first SAARC Chamber of commerce and industries meet in Kathmandu that happened as a precursor to the political meet between Foreign Ministers that happened two days later at Pokhara.
At the two days meet attended by Hakimuddin he met other SAARC nations business leaders and also Apex body members of their chamber of commerce and industry. There was a lot of discussion and interaction about how to develop and increase trade and commerce between the South Asian nations that comprise SAARC.
They were also met by Mr. Thapa, Deputy PM of Nepal.
Just back from Nepal, Hakimuddin met with Nagpur Today Associate Editor Sunita Mudaliar for a chat over coffee. ( Caldery’s has a lovely office on the top floor of a new business complex that has a huge terrace with a lovely view of the Nagpur skyline. This is where employees and guests also gravitate for coffee and conversation).
Excerpts of the chat –
How was the experience at Nepal?
The actual experience was very good but the journey was fraught with tension underlying the problems that are preventing free movement between SAARC nations that is a must for trade to increase. Despite the Nepal authorities having mentioned that Indians can travel to Nepal without a passport if they have any other Government id proof Ali faced a lot of hassles in the actual journey, beginning from the Delhi Airport. (His passport has been given for a visa issue.) First he was prevented from boarding the Air India Flight, then the naturalization office at the airport and then the same drama repeated when he finally reached Kathmandu. It took a lot of convincing and meeting senior people before he was allowed to travel.
“My experience became a talking point at the conference since it underlined how constrained various formalities are between us and our neighbors. Why can we not have ease of travel and communication as is the case with Europe? They even have a common currency!” says Hakimuddin.
“I had all these problems despite having a SAARC visa that is issued to all CCI members.”
To make trade and other interaction free between member nations SAARC has set up a Chamber of Commerce and Industries with H.Q. in Islamabad some years ago. Under its aegis they representatives of industry are supposed to meet once a year in one of the SAARC nations. This was the first meeting Ali attended as CCI Executive member.
What was the objective of setting up CCI?
It was done to facilitate and improve trade between member nations. One of the endevours is to set up a integrated custom list of codification of goods. If their is a common coding there will be great ease in import and export.
Another goal is to make road transport easy and simple between the various countries, wherever possible. For example, between India and Pakistan, India and Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. And open sea routes between India and Sri Lanka.
There is tremendous trade potential between India and Pakistan but right now it all has to be routed through Dubai.
“When the two nations can come together to play cricket, why not to trade?” Asks Hakimuddin. He also mentioned the travel constraints faced within the two countries for their respective citizens.
As the present status of our trade with Bangladesh and Nepal, there is lot of potential and trade can grow. The right conditions have to be created.
One surprise this SAARC meet threw up was the trade readiness demonstrated by the new regime in Afghanistan.
“They are eager to increase trade not just with India but other nations. We shall most probably have a CCI meeting in Afghanistan this year” informed Ali.
In his own way Hakimuddin Ali is uniquely placed to opine about international trade since he handles it for his own company not just all over India but in S Asia, middle east and Africa too. He is a much travelled businessman and says India still has a long way to go in providing “ease of business”.
“China is leaps and bounds ahead of us in this respect” he says.
He also opines that though India has made tremendous progress in the IT sector and has the largest pool of engineers, it is yet to leverage with advantage where it comes to governance specially tax collection.
If a google map can give you exact directions to go from one house in Nagpur to another, why can NMC not have this city map to ‘map’ tax payers and defaulters?
If every house owner is brought into the tax paying bracket, NMC taxes can be brought down from the huge 40% slab and still more money will be collected!
“We are on the right path nevertheless and as an Indian I feel proud when our PM is greeted so warmly in all these nations world wide. ” Concludes Hakimuddin Ali.