On Tuesday, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau engaged in a fireside chat with ICICI Bank managing director and CEO Chanda Kochhar at the India-Canada Business Forum (co-organised by Indo-Canadian Business Chamber) in Mumbai. While the debate over the protocol surrounding government officials meeting Trudeau continued to rage, business delegates assembled in Mumbai eagerly awaited his talk.
Dressed in a light blue shirt with a red tie and folded sleeves, Trudeau seemed relaxed, despite the constant meetings with business leaders and entrepreneurs earlier in the day. Arriving around 15 minutes after the scheduled start of the interview, Trudeau insisted he had a very good reason for being late. After some gentle prodding from Kochhar, Trudeau revealed he'd spent the past few hours chatting with women entrepreneurs.
“It was a very good learning session for me. They shared their stories about managing work and family life. We discussed the gender gap and payment parity. It is important to recognise that a lot remains to be done for equality,” said Trudeau.
Even though Canada has a codified law on gender parity, Trudeau said there was much scope for improvement, especially when it came to the wage difference between men and women. Urging the assembled business leaders to hire more women in top positions in their organisations, Trudeau added, “It’s not just a nice thing to do, but actually a smart thing to do.”
Trudeau on India - Canada partnership
Trudeau spoke of the similarities between India and Canada and the tremendous opportunities to collaborate on various fronts. Calling it a win-win, Trudeau said he wasn’t just interested in business ties, but was more focussed on people-to-people relationships which ought to lead the way forward. He spoke highly of the Indian-Canadian diaspora and the fact that over 125,000 Indian students were studying in Canada. Kochhar touched upon the immense opportunities in the areas of infrastructure, saying Canadian companies had great scope to work with their Indian counterparts.
Earlier in the day, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the chairperson of Biocon Limited, said both India and Canada have plenty of skill and talent. “We have to build a technology corridor between India and Canada. The United States has created a good ecosystem with that. The risk appetite created in the United States needs to be re emulated in other countries. Risk sharing can be an interesting model and both India and Canada can look at bringing new innovative ideas to the market. We should be focusing on technology diplomacy,” she added.
India-Canada trade is worth just $8 billion, a fraction of the $100 billion trade between India and the United States, Jaspal Bindra, executive chairman, Centrum, said. Acknowledging the scope for improvement, Trudeau said many of the Canadian delegation were in talks with interested parties. “We want to make sure that people realise there is a tremendous unrealised potential between the two countries,” said Trudeau.
The Canadian government has planned to invest in Innovation Superclusters to help Indian companies (as well as other global companies) network with the right kind of partners in Canada, so as to assist with areas which have immense potential for growth. These, according to Trudeau, would enable the creation of a multiplier effect on innovation and growth.
'Wanted to highlight India's extraordinary diversity'
Even before Trudeau’s visit, it is safe to say that he is, in India, counted among the most popular world leaders. He has been engaging with the Indian-Canadian community at many forums and has even done the bhangra.
On this week-long visit, Trudeau has visited prominent Indian monuments such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar, the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, and is expected to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar. He also addressed students at the IIM Ahmedabad.
Trudeau reminisced about his first visit to India with his father, 35 years ago, and said it was a pleasure to see the Taj Mahal again, this time, through the eyes of his children.
Trudeau also lauded India's diversity. “I wanted to highlight the extraordinary diversity in India to my kids. One of the things that I really wanted to show to my children is that you are able to go to a mandir, to the Golden Temple, to a mosque and then to a church on the same day. It’s a pleasure to see such harmony. This highlights the diversity and pluralism of India, which isn't without its challenges,” he added. “India should be leading the way on diversity and living harmoniously.”
'Proud to be signing trade agreements'
Speaking on trade agreements, Trudeau mentioned the importance of being open to international trade. Trudeau has been instrumental in signing trade agreements with the European Union, China, and has also announced that Canada would be working with 10 countries (excluding the US) at revising the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“At a time when the world is turning away from trade, we are proud to be signing trade agreements. We know that trade leads to growth. But these agreements have to impact the public and small traders operating in Canada positively. We ensure that they benefit from our international trade agreements,” said Trudeau. He also touched upon the topic of immigration and how Canada is opening up. “Openness to international talent is a positive advantage in the world trade,” he added.
While acknowledging the potential threat in the form of artificial intelligence taking over jobs and the global supply chain, Trudeau stated that there is no point fighting future trends. “We are investing heavily in artificial intelligence, automation, self-driving cars, healthcare and so on. We want more young people taking advantage of our universities. We've decided that we want to be a part of the future and I see a similar philosophy being practiced here in India which is quite exciting,” he said.
Trudeau will be addressing a similar business forum in New Delhi on Wednesday, but is expected to deliver a more formal address to the political leadership. He ended the chat on a curious note: Stressing the importance of curiousity.
“I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who inculcated the importance of curiosity. I am curious to learn what leads to business success, what leads to personal success. I have a lot of questions about India that I am hoping to get answered during the remainder of my stay. I am also looking forward to how India can be a better partner of Canada and vice versa,” Trudeau said.
Updated Date: Feb 20, 2018 20:48 PM