Development Fund envisions in a new report the future of Estonia-India economic relations
Estonian Development Fund has published a foresight report titled “Estonia-India: The future of relations”. The report follows a yearlong foresight project to present opportunities for advancing mutual business and economic cooperation between the two countries. The report also features recommendations for realizing the proposed opportunities, which form a good basis for launching the activities of the Embassy of Estonia in New Delhi among others.
Development Fund conducted the Estonia-India foresight project in collaboration with the Embassy of India in Finland and Estonia. The objective was to identify the future opportunities for business and economic co-operation between the two countries, develop pilot projects and advance contact networks in both countries to initiate co-operation.
“Estonia-India relations hold great potential and for both countries, when looking at the need and interest for co-operation emerging from trends,” said director of the foresight project, Mr Siim Sikkut. “Despite the difference in size, long distance and low levels of current business relations between Estonia and India, they can both offer what the other increasingly needs.” For Indian investors, Estonia can be a gateway to European markets and the Indian market offers plenty of business opportunities for Estonian companies of various sectors and areas. In the Development Fund’s view, the best possibilities for creating mutually beneficial partnerships and getting access to the market in India arise in the business of ICT, biotech and cleantech.
Yet, the business exchange between the two countries has been modest to date. That is why there is a need to increase person-to-person contact and establish joint initiatives on a wider scale. Accordingly, deepening of co-operation in education and research should hold a priority between Estonia and India, as it enables the exchange of knowledge as well as creates business and trade in the long-term. Another important enabler of business and collaboration is the development of travel connections and tourism.
The governments have leading roles to play within all these directions, to activate interests and pave the way to kick-start co-operation. Several concrete follow-up initiatives have grown out of Development Fund’s foresight work, allowing co-operation ideas to be brought to life. These suggestions form a good basis for launching the activities of the Embassy of Estonia in India as it is currently being set up.
The Indian side also attaches great value to the report and its recommendations. “The foresight project is not an end-point, but rather the beginning of broader co-operation,” said H.E. Aladyian Manickam, Ambassador of the Republic of India in Finland and Estonia. “It is very important now to take the steps proposed in the report and to do so in all the fields of activity.” For example, arising from the foresight work a bilateral aviation agreement and also ICT and biotech co-operation memorandums are currently under negotiation between the two governments; the Estonian universities are planning a joint India visit together with Estonia’s Minister of Education and Research in the fall of 2012; various Estonian entrepreneurs look forward to joining a delegation to India once the Estonian embassy opens there; etc.
The conclusions and recommendations of the foresight project are based on a thorough analysis of future trends of business and economy in India and Estonia, undertaken by the Estonian Development Fund. Various seminars, workshops and meetings in both Estonia and India were held throughout the course of the project. By participating at such events, experts and decision-makers from business, academia and government took part in formulating the conclusions of the foresight work as well as the planning of follow-up initiatives.
“Although we hereby propose a vision and suggestions for advancing co-operation with India – one of the leaders of global economy of the future – the foresight results do offer lessons in a wider sense, too,” said Sikkut. “Estonia-India foresight project was a pilot project of sorts for the Government of Estonia in how it is at all possible to identify our interests in distant and less-known markets, and how to build collaboration accordingly.”
The report and various background and interim materials of the Estonia-India foresight project are available at Development Fund website: http://www.arengufond.ee/eng/foresight/india
Estonian Development Fund is a foresight think-tank and venture capital fund established by Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia), with the objectives of opening up future opportunities for the Estonian economy through foresight work and investing into innovative and ambitious Estonian technology companies.
Foresight Director at Estonian Development Fund
Postimees: India offers the next train for Estonia to jump on
When Estonian businesspeople look towards Asia, they usually think first of China. However, that country has many suitors and there is little interest in newcomers; there are better hopes for Estonian companies in India.
According to forecasts, India’s economy should grow to become the fifth largest in the world by 2025, thereby becoming larger than Germany’s, for example.
According to Citibank, by 2050 India may even be the largest economy in the world. Therefore, now is the right time to see how we can establish closer relations with India. “In the case of India, there has been a favourable coincidence of circumstances.
The Indian government developed an interest towards Estonia,” said Siim Sikkut, the head of the Development Fund’s Estonia-India foresight project.
He added that, in the case of India, Estonian companies are more interested in getting acquainted, while the Indian side is already ready to start conducting business. Sikkut observed that the goal is not only to have Estonian companies enter the Indian market but also to cooperate in the fields of science and education.
Interested in Estonia’s IT experience
In the scientific sphere, Estonia has some fields of activity in which we are world leaders. “The most drum-beating occurs in the field of cyber security and this has also been heard in India.
A large younger generation is growing up in there, with very few good schools to go to. They are increasingly interested in going abroad. Families are also becoming richer and they can afford this,” Sikkut said about the opportunities for educational cooperation. Indian companies are also interested in IT-related cooperation, since Estonia has specific experience of interest to India.
“The most basic opportunities are in the field of e-governance solutions. Although Estonia and India are not comparable in size, their people have come here to become acquainted with e-governance. We cannot write code for them, but just providing them with specific consulting can be sufficiently good business for our companies.” “India is a large country, and we are looking for cooperation opportunities in very different fields of activity.
Estonia has a good standing in the fields of software, energy, waste management and sustainable energy,” Aladiyan Manickam, India’s Ambassador in Estonia and Finland noted. “We are planning a series of seminars in Tallinn, in order to convince Indian companies to establish offices in Estonia,” Manickam added.
Sikkut confirms that Tallinn could be a good anchor location for Indian companies that want to expand their activities in the Baltic Sea Region and the rest of Europe. Naturally, Estonia is not the only one hatching such ideas.
In the autumn, The Economist also noted that the British, unashamedly, are welcoming back the former subjects of their empire as bosses and business owners. Some Estonian companies have already made their first movements towards India.
The main products moving from Estonia to India include electrical machinery and equipment, paper pulp and wastes, ferrous metals, and high-precision equipment. In 2010, 97 companies from Estonia exported to India. The lion’s share of the export turnover was provided by companies that have historical ties with India, such as ArcelorMittal, or Horizon Pulp and Paper, whose owner has Indian roots.
However, there are also local companies who have turned their gaze towards India. For instance, Viisnurk’s export relations with India date back to 1998. However, between 2003 and 2008, relations were very timid because production volumes were only sufficient for the domestic and near-by markets.
“In 2008, we began actively searching for partners from farther away again, and one of the places we focused on was India. Since we already knew how our products could be utilised in this market, it was not complicated for us to find the right contacts,” Anu Krimm, Viisnurk’s sales director said. Viisnurk is yet to sign any long-term contracts, as each transaction is handled separately.
“Since India is very price sensitive, it is not possible to make long-term contracts because the cost of maritime transport is constantly fluctuating, and there are many competitive offers from other European manufacturers,” Krimm said.
Viisnurk sells fibreboard panels to India for use in construction and the manufacture of bulletin boards. “We mostly operate through agents who have experience of international trade; know English; and also know the local conditions and business practices,” Krimm said.
Information exchange is fast
Asper Biotech, which provides gene tests, has also tried to establish itself in India in the last three to four years. “We cooperate with scientific research institutions in India. We do not have any powerful partners or large clients, but have some smaller clients.
However, all business is important and we have gained certain experience. But the country is large and there is significant room for development,” noted production manager Eva-Maria Lass.
According to Sikkut, business becomes profitable when a branch is established in India, and subcontractors are also found there. In 2007, MS Balti Trafo, which operates in Vändra and produces small transformers and inductive components, decided to open its own factory in India. They sell a small amount in India, but most of the goods are shipped to Europe.
According to Jaanus Luberg, the managing director of the company, there is room for improvement in the Indian business environment. For instance, the laws are complicated; protectionism and over-regulation are prevalent; the laws differ by state; and, as a result of all this, corruption is rampant.
“Information exchange and achieving agreements with Indian businesspeople goes quickly; purchasing decisions are made relatively promptly – be they positive or negative,” said Krimm.
Business will definitely get a boost when Estonia opens its embassy in New Delhi in the autumn. However, there are also counter-opinions. Instead of the Far East or South America, Estonian companies should focus their attention on the untapped opportunities in Europe, thinks Taavi Laur, the head of the Estonian branch of UniCredit.
“It seems to me that when speaking about potential export markets, too much attention is paid to the Far East or South America, while there are countries closer to home where opportunities have yet to be utilised,” Laur opines.
This article appeared in daily newspaper Postimees on 16 January 2012.
FinEst Startup Development Programme to encourage entrepreneurship in Estonia and Southern-Finland
FinEst Startup Development Programme to encourage entrepreneurship in Estonia and Southern-Finland.
Estonian Development Fund together with Aalto University School of Economics Small Business Center (Finland), Enterprise Estonia, BDA Consulting and Technopolis Ülemiste launched Finnish-Estonian cross-border cooperation project “FinEst Startup Development Programme” to encourage entrepreneurship in the region.
The project targets entrepreneurial-minded people and startups in areas such as IT & mobile, biotechnology, energy and environment and creative industries, offering them a range of practical seminars, workshops and mentoring and networking opportunities.
Project partners play an active part in developing the startup ecosystem in the region and have joined forces in order to increase the impact of the planned activities.
Estonian Development Fund, the state venture fund, has during the past 4 years, played a substantial role in the development of Estonian startups by offering them venture financing. BDA is the organizer of Estonia’s most prominent business plan contest “Ajujaht”, Enterprise Estonia offers financial support measures for businesses, Technopol Ülemiste is a technology and business incubator and Aalto University School of Economics Small Business Center is one of the biggest and active business centers in Southern Finland.
During the next two years, 13 larger seminars and training events shall be held concentrating on different aspects of building new business e.g. business modeling, team composition, market entry etc. Additionally, monthly networking events shall be held.
The project kick-off seminar shall take place on December 1-2 in Tallinn. More information available soon at www.fineststartups.eu and www.arengufond.ee.
Project is co-funded from EU Regional Development Fund Central Baltic INTERREG IVA programme.
Mari-Liis Lind, Project coordinator, mariliis.lind[A]arengufond.ee
Estonian Development Fund sparks discussion of Estonia’s future relations with Asia
The Estonian Development Fund and the Foreign Affairs Committee of Riigikogu, the Estonian Parliament, jointly held a future strategy seminar titled „Rise of Asia: Impact and Strategic Choices for Estonia“on September 30th, 2011. The seminar led to a discussion paper on choices of how Estonia could deepen its economic and commercial ties with key Asian economies, and this paper is now open for global consultation.
„The ’Rise of Asia’ is possibly the biggest megatrend affecting the world economy and the global political landscape in the future,“ Ott Pärna, CEO of Estonian Development Fund, said when opening the seminar. „If we will not orient ourselves towards this region, we will risk losing out on a great deal of future growth opportunities.“
Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of Riigikogu, also emphasized in his speech that time has come to carefully consider and set aim for Asia-opportunities. „Unless we make the decision today and prioritize this direction, Estonia can miss the train that is already moving and fast,“ he said. The Foreign Affairs Committee of Riigikogu is holding a year-long series of briefings and consultations on possible national ’Asia strategy’. The results of this enquiry will be compiled in a report to be presented in spring 2012.
The seminar participants were a cross-sectoral group of 30 decision-makers and opinion-leaders drawn from parliament, governmental institutions, universities and private sector. They jointly elaborated on three possible alternatives of Estonia’s future economic engagement with Asia, considering relevant impacts and courses of action.
One option could be ’accelerated engagement’, a rapid build-up of activities across a range of countries and sectors; another option could be ‘cautious engagement’ of gradual build-up of relations focusing on a few key countries and sectors. Third alternative could be ‘no engagement’, when focus would be retained purely on Estonian relations with European neighbours and there would be only reactive responding as ad hoc opportunities come from Asia to Estonia.
The summary of these discussions have been compiled into a consultation paper to spark ideas and encourage wider debate on Estonia’s options for engagement with Asia, going beyond the seminar. The paper can be found at: http://www.arengufond.ee/upload/Editor/aasia/EDF_Asia_seminar_summary_30sept2011.pdf.
Estonian Development Fund will maintain this document as an open discussion paper, and welcomes all comments and reactions to the ideas raised in it to e-mail siim.sikkut[A]arengufond.ee.
The seminar was led and facilitated by global futurist and Asia strategy expert Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Research. Mr Talwar and his team also prepared a set of four possible scenarios for Asia’s development over the next decade to inform the discussion. These scenarios are included in the discussion paper. To discuss the scenarios, feel free to contact Rohit Talwar at rohit[A]fastfuture.com.
A videocast of Rohit’s presentation at the seminar and the slides can be viewed at http://www.arengufond.ee/eng/videocasts/videocast2054.
Further information: Siim Sikkut, Economic Expert at Estonian Development Fund, siim.sikkut[a]arengufond.ee
Estonian Development Fund is a foresight think-tank and venture capital fund established by Riigikogu with the aim of opening up future opportunities for the Estonian economy and investing into innovative and ambitious Estonian technology companies. Future of economic relations between Estonian and Asia is one of the foresight topics for Estonian Development Fund in 2011.
Ott Pärna: A good time to change the league
Ott Pärna, CEO of the Estonian Development Fund, writes that Estonia is in a sufficiently good state to break free from the role of Scandinavia’s small brother. We could become an important international hub around the Baltic sea and Scandinavia and for that purpose we have to find our own growth areas like the film industry in Hollywood and the design industry in South Korea.
We are currently in an interesting situation in Estonia in regard to setting new meaningful objectives. On the one hand, we are located in the periphery of the European Union and next to Russia; on the other hand, we are part of the Nordic region, a region where most of the newest technologies in Europe are developed, where financial discipline is good and which is likely to become for example together with Germany and Holland a new growth hub in Europe. It is ours to decide how important a role Estonia will play in all this.
We have overcome the crisis but still remain as “South Finland”. Currently, the highest level of our economy is to be a good service provider for Scandinavia but not an equal partner. However, we do not want to remain Scandinavia’s little brother. There are several countries in the world where almost half of their population of working age earn their living abroad and where the local economy enlivens once a year during the time of year-end celebrations when they come home to visit.
We are like a three-pronged fork: we have ambitious economic and social objectives, and we have good macroeconomic and budgetary policies, strong institutions, low levels of corruption and a state functioning based on the rule of law; at the same time, the complexity, strategic role and internationality of our businesses is very low. For example, the productivity of our exporting electronics industry is ten per cent of that in Sweden, the monthly average wages in our processing industry is considerably – below one thousand euro – and the largest portion of our exports is generated by around one hundred companies of which two thirds are controlled by foreign investors. Although the latter is not a bad thing, the complexity of the work they perform here is not decided here and it depends on how good the people we have here are.
How we emerge from this situation is one of the most important future issues for Estonia. A universal model does not exist on what to apply. OECD has made a very appropriate proposal in connection with state governance in Estonia in this year’s report, saying that Estonia has to tailor its development solutions itself.
To become a partner that is taken seriously in Scandinavia, we have to become a place where interesting and globally important things happen. The synonym for characterising hubs is energy and the key word is a fostering social and physical infrastructure. It is easier to become a hub for historic trading centres (e.g. London, Amsterdam and Hong Kong) or culturally and enterprisingly active regions (San Francisco, Copenhagen and Mumbai).
Hubs are attractive to a wide range of ambitious doers and world citizens. They include students and professors, businessmen and investors, persons involved in culture, physicians and scientists, architects and developers, professionals and bankers, conference and business tourists, but also marathon runners, shoppers and back-packers. Surveys have shown that a majority of very mobile employees choose their place of employment by the location, not the organisation or company. This is why modern-wise businesses choose their location by the region where their future employees would like to live. So, the film industry is concentrated in Hollywood, the design industry of the East and Southeast Asia in South Korea, etc. In this way, Estonia in future should become a hub for its own growth areas.
Now then, the area around the Baltic Sea needs a much more global and differently thinking hub but this will not develop by itself. Tallinn is a unique city where the largest cruise ships land almost in the centre of the city bringing tens of thousands of affluent clients to us every week without any special invitation. Presently, the height of our capacity is to sell them amber in the harbour kiosks. In ten, but why not already in five years, tourists from faraway countries should disembark their ship to go straight into a musical theatre, opera theatre, conference centre, top hotel, department store or casino. We have the clients today but as a country or a city we do not make a good sale, if expressed in the words of a businessman.
There are five perspectives from which to develop more specific solutions that can be highlighted based on the world’s experience, expert opinions and foresight of the Estonian Development Fund.
Firstly, there is experimental economic policy where for example instead of following a precise recipe the private and public sectors learn and experiment together. In order to find solutions for the exports of financial intermediation services for Estonia, we have launched FinanceEstonia.eu as a cooperative effort together with the private sector. This is a cooperative and voluntary platform of the private and public sector with more than 20 members to date, the objective of which is to introduce Estonian financial services and related support services to the international arena, to attract more international headquarters into Estonia, etc. The financial intermediation sector in Estonia accounts for around four per cent of the GDP of domestic market, which is quite optimal. We have still enough space for growth in this relatively high added value sector in regard to export markets, i.e. supporting our own companies in their effort to go to the world and developing it as a separate economic sector. We are about to launch a similar initiative called MedicineEstonia with the aim of developing the export of medical services, products and technologies.
There are several business areas in Estonia where by combining the knowledge and ambitions of the private and public sectors new competitive advantages can be found and very specific things can be made happen. The mentioned sector may be green economy, international trade and logistics but also agriculture and processing industry, to mention more traditional sectors. No matter in which area we want to become an important doer in the Baltic Sea region, we need a circle of partners from more distant markets. We have to be able to bring new quality and cooperative relations into this area.
Secondly, strategic growth areas. The general business environment has been quite well tuned in Estonia, meaning that it is hard to offer new universal arguments. In this respect, an effort to help a small country to the top resembles the task of the clocksmith who has to deal with a whole system comprising small details that have to function together. I mainly consider these details to be human capital, education and science, negotiation time of countries top leaders and state’s cooperative relations.
I have been often asked whether Estonia should set black and white sector focuses. My general opinion is still that it should not. Estonia is too small and the number of companies involved in one sector is too small to set very important educational and other priorities.
I also doubt the wisdom of prioritising the development of a narrow selection of basic technologies because it is very unlikely that we are able, according to the probability theory, to surpass countries that are 10, 100 and 1,000 times larger than we are in that our solution would make a scientific and business breakthrough in the world. This does not mean that we should not deal with basic technologies because this is the basis of world level science and higher education, and there are also some technologies witch are cross-disciplinary like ICT.
The growth areas in this respect are a symbiosis of the global demand and megatrends, the technological capacity of the country, the economic realities and ambitions at individual, company and state level. One example from the world is the clean tech and sustainable energy that have become one of the main investment targets of venture capitalists. The green industry offers growth opportunities for the processing industry, service industry and IT business in Estonia.
Similar opportunities are born from the wellness and health care economy that offer challenges that call for solutions in almost every sector of the economy. In principle, more than a half of Europeans are presently ready to consume health care services in a foreign country whereas only four per cent have actually done so. By 2050, more than half of the population of Finland and Sweden will be older than 65 years who in addition to medical services are active participants in the employment market and are sufficiently prosperous to use wellness and health care services. Why should Estonia not become a regional health care centre, or so-called HUB, which was one of the most ambitious visions that was developed from the export foresight projects of health care services by the Estonian Development Fund.
The third perspective involves the structural changes policy, which is in essence a set of different steps serving a common objective of updating the economy and moving towards business areas and functions that produce higher added value. The structural changes policy has four facets that all need attention: firstly, modern businesses are becoming more complex in the value chain; secondly, modern businesses move into more intricate sectors based on their experience (e.g. from oil shale to oil shale chemistry, from wood to forest machinery and forest chemistry); thirdly, the import of business areas and companies that provide higher added value through foreign investments; fourthly, the development of new and globally ambitious start-up companies from scratch, which is the function of the Development Fund today as a venture capital fund and in which Estonia has quite good success stories from all over the world to tell.
In the latter case the key issue for us is to figure out what to do to provide an environment where such companies could grow in Estonia and to ensure that their number is five or ten times larger than today. To that end, on the one hand, we need more business angles and capitalised venture capital funds; on the other hand, our smallness causes us to take a look abroad and attract strong start-up companies from there. Estonia already has a set of arguments to become the Start-Up Nation in this region but this requires at least ten years of continuous work – it has taken more than 50 years to build Silicon Valley.
The above introduces the fourth important topic, which is the cross-sectorial talent policy. The development trends in the world force us to believe that the global competition for quality employees – the war for talents – will become even more intensive. In such a situation, the educational system is not the sole place where one can seek solutions for the lack of labour force because faster and more flexible ways, such as the application of selective immigration policy, must be found.
The Estonian Development Fund came to similar conclusions in connection with the foresight of the usage of IT in increasing the competitiveness of the economy. We lack about 20,000 IT specialists on the employment market compared to the Nordic countries if we want to have a similar proportion to them in each sector of economy as in the Nordic countries. However fact is that less than four hundred students of IT specialities graduate every year.
We have to increase the volume, internalization and in certain areas the quality of IT education. Secondly, international interdisciplinary programmes must be initiated in the most important application areas of IT, such as energy, healthcare, logistics, etc., where around half of the students and professors participating are from outside Estonia. In the name of the new academic generations, we have to send our best students to the world’s leading IT universities and programmes to study. Fourthly, we have to find a way to solve the lack of IT specialists with selective immigration.
In order for our companies to develop and to ensure that we do not lose in the global talent rally, we need an integrated talent policy across policies areas and better-targeted talent pool management. We promise that the talent foresight launched by the Estonian Development Fund will prove necessary background information for Estonian national talent policy.
The fifth important topic is the understanding of the world’s development trends. Our success in the world directly depends on how much we know about the world. How well we understand the inevitable processes taking place in the world. I dare say that regardless of the bleak backdrop of the world economy and the future of the euro area there are many bright colours or trends in the world that are both challenges and great opportunities for fast companies and smart countries. In order to offer all Estonians a more structured overview of the plethora of opportunities in the world, the foresight team of the Estonian Development Fund leads the trends blog www.fututuba.ee. The blog introduces fresh surveys and stories on future workplaces, sprouting business opportunities, the future of energy sector, green economy, aging, distant markets, urbanisation, novel governance methods, foreign investments, consumption, migration, and more.
Now, the moment for Estonia has arrived and we just have to seize it. The world and Europe are experiencing several systemic crises and have to resolve many erroneous calculations and mistakes made in the past. Estonia on the contrary is in a quite good state to make a determined change of the league in the vortex of the changing world.
Article was published in newspaper "Postimees" (in Estonian) on 23-rd of September, 2011 and it is based on the speech given by Ott Pärna to the Estonian Parliament (22-nd of September, 2011).