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Alabama and India unite for business

By BRIAN LAWSON
Times Business Writer brian.lawson@htimes.com

With the economies of India and Alabama booming, the timing is “perfect” to foster partnerships and business expansion, said Huntsville business leader Ashok Singhal.

Singhal, a native of India and co-founder and president of Huntsville’s CFD Research Corp., is organizing the second annual Alabama India Business Partnership dinner that will be held tonight at the Marriott Huntsville.

The AIBP dinner will feature S.M. Gavai, India’s consul general for Houston, and Sunjay Kapur, vice chair and managing director of SIXT, an India-based car rental company.

India has more than 1 billion people and economic growth that has hovered near 9 percent annually for several years.

The country’s pool of technical talent is well-known, and the growing economy has helped the country become not just a magnet for outsourced work but a center for original design engineering.

“But we are very new to design,” Kapur said, “so we have an opportunity to leverage our engineering knowledge base to the West, which can bring its experience with systems and processes.”

SIXT’s parent company, Sona, makes steering systems and has partnerships in Japan, India and Brazil. Kapur said it’s interested in expanded U.S. relationships. Sona has a partnership with a Japanese company that works with Toyota, so the automaker’s presence here is of particular interest.

He urges Alabama businesses interested in India to seek partnerships with Indian companies.

“If you’re going into a country like India,” he said, “you need local knowledge.”

Singhal, whose company does advanced computer simulations, said Gov. Bob Riley’s economic plan calls for opening a trade office in India. Singhal said areas of possible collaboration include: using the Port of Huntsville as a hub for trade; embracing telemedicine, or using medical expertise from distant locations; and forming pharmaceutical partnerships.

“When I came here 30 years ago, I had to struggle to explain to people about this poor country that I came from,” Singhal said. “Alabama has had the same struggle with its image over the years, with social and economic issues.

“But Alabama’s image has improved in the last decade, and India has experienced the same thing.”

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