'GST will be fantastic for India, as it will ease the process of doing business here'
When it was at Scania India, I fought a lot to have 50 percent females and 50 percent males
As India gears up for the GST shift, multinational firms are giving the move a big thumbs-up. In a candid interview with Firstpost Contributing Editor Rupali Mehra, Director of Scania Sustainable City Solutions Anders Grundströmer, says GST will ease the process of doing business in India as different tax rates for different states was a big obstacle.
Grundströmer, who until recently headed Scania's operations in India, also reacts to news of Tesla eyeing the Indian market and what it means for sustainable transport solutions in India.
What have been your biggest takeaways as far as India goes? Where can the Swedish transport system and sustainable transport pitch in?
What I realised in India is that it is a huge nation. It is actually not just a country, it is a continent with 27 different states and autonomous regions. So to do business in India is like doing business in 27 countries. And when I was there I talked very much about changing the tax system so we can make one market out of India. The biggest obstacles or takeaway for us is that the potential is huge, but there are so many problems to move goods. If you have a production in Bangalore like we do, and we want to sell a truck in another part of India, there are many obstacles and taxes and things like that. That is really killing the business a little bit.
Well, luckily we have GST coming now in India...
Absolutely, that is super important. I have talked about GST during my three years in India. India has talked about it for many years. Now it is finally happening. I am very grateful that the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing this now. Because I think it will be fantastic for India.
In the last few years India and Sweden have signed a list of agreements in the area of science and technology, renewable energy. What is your organisation's vision for the next 10 years?
My vision has always been that we can help India to be more sustainable. We introduced our ethonol buses during my time there, where we take agricultural waste and turn it into ethonol and run buses on that. Now we are taking the next step with bio-methane, where we take sludge from the sewage plants and produce bio-gas from it and run buses on that. I think that is a very smart solution for a smart city in India, because you get rid of your waste problem and you get domestic energy. So we say, 'local waste to local fuel to local transportation'. That's smart, to do it that way. The technology also is well proven and we have lot of partners working along with us. That is our vision – to be leaders in sustainable transport solutions in India and elsewhere in the world.
Often problems that a country like Sweden faces, and it's solutions, may not be the same as solutions needed in India.
Yes, it is a big difference. If we take India for instance. India has 18 percent of the world population but only 4 percent of the fresh water in the world. Due to illegal dumping and bad routines to handle waste, 30 percent of the fresh water is destroyed, and people get sick. I think just delivering buses and trucks like that is not enough in nation like India. You also have to have corporate social responsibility. In this India can learn a lot from Sweden. Even though Sweden is a much smaller country than India, I think we have a lot technology and know-how over the years that India could benefit from and take a giant leap from the situation the country is in today and how it can be tomorrow. The pollution faced by the big cities today can be solved by us..
Going forward, could India become a major export manufacturing hub for your company?
Absolutely. I think so.
And what timeline are you looking at?
You mentioned it yourself, the next 10 years. I think we already have many suppliers in India. There are many promising companies supplying to Scania. They need a little bit more quality awareness, if I may say so. And also social responsibility. When it was at Scania India, I fought a lot to have 50 percent females and 50 percent males.Well that is really important. In fact another Swedish company Ikea is saying that too.
Elon Musk had tweeted 'Tesla is in talks with the Indian government to requesting temporary relief on import restrictions until a factory is built' in India. If Tesla does come to India, does it really heat up the sustainable transport solutions in India, thereby encouraging more companies to come in?
Absolutely. I think Tesla has done a great job bringing sustainability on the agenda, especially electrification. I think he [Elon Musk] has a point. I think it is a little too complicated to manufacture, import and export out of India. The procedures need to be much easier and should help people to establish themselves there and make it easier for companies to do business in India, using Indian products within our core products. There is also a need for more sustainable products. You know how trucks and buses in India are versus the Scania buses. There is a big difference. So that's what we should look for in India. I feel the government could ease rules for import and export from India. At present it is complicated.
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