CEO visit to India

Centre for Australia India Relations CEO, Tim Thomas at the opening of the Australia Country Pavilion at the Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet.
Author Centre for Australia-India Relations
Date 25 January 24

The Centre’s CEO, Tim Thomas, visited Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Kerala in early January 2024 to advance core priorities in these three key Indian states and lead the Australian delegation to two major economic summits.

The Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet (GIM), held in Chennai from 7 – 8 January and Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VG), held in Ahmedabad from 10 – 12 January were occasions for strengthening relationships with influential stakeholders and decision-makers, showcasing Australian capabilities in key sectors for the Indian economy, and advancing opportunities for growing investment and collaboration between Australian and Indian businesses and research institutions. Importantly, the summits and associated side events also allowed the visiting Australian business delegates to gain insights into the dynamics between business and government in India and engage in person with potential partners.

Australia was a country partner for both summits, affording high profile at events that attract high-level representation from business and politics from across India and globally. As primary host for the Australian pavilions at the summits, the Centre played an integral role in enabling a high-quality Team Australia presence. The pavilions were a focal point for the visiting delegations, and a platform to showcase Australian strengths, opportunities for trade and investment, and generate interest from Indian businesses. The pavilions attracted a significant number of visitors: around 1,000 at GIM and over 400 at VG – including Prime Minister Modi!

Beyond the pavilions, the Centre provided an umbrella for the states and territories, federal government agencies, together with several major business associations to coalesce around, highlighting our emerging role as the connective tissue in the bilateral relationship. The Centre was delighted to carry out its mandate on this unique occasion to help Australia achieve such an impact at these summits.

 

Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet

Tamil Nadu is India’s second largest state economy and an important hub for advanced manufacturing and green energy, which creates opportunities for Australian critical minerals, technology, and research. A significant Australian delegation of over 60 people attended the GIM, supported by the governments of Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and Northern Territory, underscoring the high level of interest in deepening connections with this dynamic Indian state.

As part of the official program, there was an Australia country session, and an additional dedicated WA state session, featuring Dr Jagadish (Jags) Krishnan MLA representing the WA government, which  bolstered Australia’s profile considerably. The GIM offered avenues for valuable engagements with Tamil Nadu Ministers, particularly Dr. T.R.B. Rajaa, Minister for Industries, Investment Promotion, and Commerce.

Centre CEO Tim Thomas and Australia's High Commissioner to India, Philip Green OAM at the Australian pavilion at the Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet

Vibrant Gujarat Summit

The home state of Prime Minister Modi, Gujarat is growing rapidly and experiencing large scale investment across key sectors, including advanced manufacturing, renewables, and electric vehicles, which opens up education, research and commercialisation opportunities for Australia.

The 10th Vibrant Gujarat summit was a spectacle demonstrating India’s economic ambition. The event attracted a record number of attendees (130,000), including many of the titans of Indian industry. There was a substantial Australian delegation of more than 80 people across 36 sectors and a strong Australian flavour to the program, which included an Australia country session and CAIR CEO Tim Thomas speaking on a high-level panel on Developing Global Networks for Skill Development.

A major highlight on the sidelines of VG was the inauguration of the Deakin University campus at GIFT City. This was a demonstration of Australia’s importance to India’s ambitions for educating its workforce and an exemplar of how Australia can be at the forefront of realising new opportunities in India. The fact that an Australian university is the first foreign university to establish a campus in India, within the GIFT City, is a significant milestone which has received much media attention.

Other notable events that the Centre participated in included meetings with Indian political figures, including the Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, a side meeting focused on education and skills under the banner of the Australia-India CEO Forum; and the launch of the Deakin University Leadership Series together with the India Australia Business and Community Alliance.

Centre CEO Tim Thomas meeting Indian Minister of Education and Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship at Vibrant Gujarat

Kerala

This was the first visit by the Centre to Kerala, making it the sixth state the Centre has visited in India. There are significant opportunities for deepening economic and research connections, particularly in agriculture, healthcare, and space. The Centre’s engagements in Kerala highlighted the importance of getting out beyond the main cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. CEO Tim Thomas met with key state government ministers and decision makers, university leaders, as well as startups and entrepreneurs from key sectors.

 

Key takeaways

This was the third visit by the Centre to India since its establishment as we progress towards objectives outlined in our inaugural Strategic Plan. The visit was a unique opportunity for the Centre to support greater two-way business engagement, collaboration between the states and territories, the work of the Australia-India CEO Forum, as well as greater two-way research and innovation collaboration. It was a significant investment in deepening substantial and sustainable relationships forged during previous visits, which will be essential for the Centre to achieve its objectives over the medium and long term.

It was particularly gratifying to see so many Australian SMEs travelling to GIM and VG to learn more about the Indian market, build relationships and ongoing connections, particularly given the challenging time of year. It was also notable that diaspora businesses played a pivotal role in the Australian delegations, highlighting how important our diaspora leaders are as champions for building stronger commercial ties with India.

Centre CEO Tim Thomas and Australia delegates at the Australia Country Session Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet