Rajesh Kumar Sachdeva: Bulgaria Emerging as Destination for Indian Film Industry
It is heartening to learn that some Bulgarian and Indian companies in the IT field are exploring cooperation through joint ventures/technology transfer and investment, India’s Ambassador to Bulgaria, H.E. Mr Rajesh Kumar Sachdeva, has told Novinite.
Mr Sachdeva is among the nominees in our annual Personality in the News poll where voting will continue until February 20.
Having arrived in Bulgaria in the first half of September 2014, he has been a member of the Indian Foreign Service for more than 30 years and has served as a diplomat in various capacities in Egypt, Yemen, The Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Singapore. His last foreign assignment was as Ambassador of India to Cambodia (2008-2012).
Your Excellency, which are the key bilateral issues between India and Bulgaria the Embassy is working on at the moment?
Relations between India and Bulgaria have traditionally been warm and friendly. Diplomatic relations were established in 1954. Over last six decades, the two countries have signed numerous bilateral agreements to lay solid foundation for bilateral cooperation based on principles of mutual understanding and continuity. In addition to efforts of the two governments, there are many cultural, academic, commercial and scientific institutes/organisations in India and Bulgaria which have contributed immensely in promotion of these friendly ties at either people-to-people level or at institute to institute level. Currently, the Embassy is exerting efforts to further strengthen friendly bilateral relationship by exploring additional opportunities for bilateral business and cultural exchanges, and increasing people-to-people contacts.
In which area lies, in your opinion, the biggest potential to deepen bilateral relations that for different reasons has remained untapped?
In my view, there exist substantial potential to deepen bilateral cooperation in tourism and business sectors. Bilateral trade, though gradually increasing, is well below its potential. There is a lot of scope for expanding the current bilateral trade basket as well as for enhancing the quantum in the existing items of export and import. Geographical distance, absence of direct connectivity and lack of awareness of business opportunities or touristic attractions could be possible reasons for modest figures of bilateral trade and investment as well as tourist travels between the two countries. Both India and Bulgaria are popular touristic destinations with numerous attractive cultural heritages, beautiful beaches and other fascinating geographical features. On the business front, Bulgaria with its strategic location, EU membership, modest cost and skilled manpower, is an attractive trade and investment destination, whereas India (USD 2 T economy) which happens to be the world’s fastest growing economy, offers a huge market (1.3 billion people) both for trade and investment. Governments of both countries are keen to explore ways to further strengthen economic relationship and promote tourist traffic between the two countries.
A number of initiatives have been undertaken by our Embassy in Sofia and the Bulgarian Embassy in New Delhi in cooperation with various business chambers, trade bodies, tourism promotion boards to reach out to business establishments and to public, in general, for creating awareness of business opportunities and tourism attractions. I wish to commend untiring efforts of recently established Indian-Bulgarian Business Chamber (IBBC), which has undertaken number of initiatives to reach out to business establishments in both the countries. In last one year, IBBC had held well attended business forums in Sofia (February, 2016), Plovdiv (June, 2016) and Varna (October, 2016) and also arranged participation of a high powered business delegation for a business seminar in New Delhi (December, 2016). In last few years, it is heartening to learn of some successful business stories and also witness growth in tourist traffic between the two countries. I am certain that continuation of such business/tourism related events would provide a big boost to bilateral economic and touristic relationship. In my view, liberalization of visa regime both for tourism purposes and business travel would be an added incentive to encourage Indian businessmen and tourists to consider including Bulgaria in their future travel plans.
Bulgaria appears to have become the scenery for a number of Bollywood productions. What makes it attractive as a location and setting? Does this increased interest of filmmakers bring about other Indians to Bulgaria - tourists for example?
It is true that Bulgaria, with its famous cultural heritages, beautiful mountains, the picturesque Black-Sea coast, has become an attractive destination not only for Bollywood but also other regional film Industries of India. The other possible reasons for Bulgaria emerging as a preferred destination for Indian film industry are availability of technical equipments, skilled manpower, modest cost and requisite infrastructure including studios for film shooting. These films are playing an important role towards tourism promotion for Bulgaria not only among Indians but also among Indian diaspora across the world. In addition to the promotion of Bulgarian tourism, the makers of these Indian films have also contributed to the Bulgarian economy with the stay of their team in Bulgaria for shooting schedule extending for many weeks. I believe that the Indian tourists travel figures to Bulgaria have substantially increased in last few years. We welcome various ongoing initiatives by Bulgarian agencies and authorities to promote Bulgaria as year round touristic destination with focus on beaches, ski resorts, cultural heritages and spas. A mix of these touristic attractions as well as interesting shopping and food options in Bulgaria should encourage many more Indians to consider Bulgaria as an interesting touristic option.
India is famous for its IT talents, while Bulgaria, despite being an emerging force in the sector, lags behind in educating and training skilled tech graduates. How are the two countries cooperating in the sector?
Bulgaria is performing extremely well in the field of Information Technology (IT) as increasing number of multi-nationals and even an Indian company have invested in this field. I understand Bulgaria offers skilled manpower as well as well developed infrastructure and good broadband speed for efficient functioning of the business processing offices and other IT related units. The two countries have established a Joint Working Group(JWG) ‘India - Bulgaria Joint Forum on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT Forum)’ for cooperation in the field of IT. It is heartening to learn that some Bulgarian and Indian companies in IT field are exploring cooperation through joint ventures/technology transfer and investment. As regards cooperation in the field of education and training in IT sector, the Indian Institute of Hardware Technologies (IIHT), a Bangalore based IT Services and Training organization, has established a Training Center in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in September 2016 in partnership with Technology and Innovations Corporation PLC, Bulgaria.
Many point to corruption and the lack of skilled enough labour pool as the main drawbacks to doing business here. From the Indian investors' perspective, does this hold true or they see other issues as more pressing?
Bulgaria with its strategic location, EU membership, skilled manpower, modest cost, and various tax incentives, has the potential to emerge as a gateway for business in Europe for interested Indian companies. However, due to the long distance, limited knowledge of the market potential and absence of direct air-connectivity, Bulgaria fails to figure in the list of preferred trade and investment destination for many Indian companies. Consequent to ongoing efforts to promote enhanced economic cooperation between the two countries, we are witnessing increased business exploratory visits in last few years. I expect continuation of this trend and am hopeful of substantial increase in bilateral trade/investment figures in the coming years. As per my understanding, huge opportunities for business ties exist in IT, business processing, pharmaceuticals, agriculture/agro-processing, manufacturing, real estate and tourism sectors.
If you were to describe Bulgaria in three words, what would these be?
Friendly, picturesque and exciting!
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