India all set to become EBRD’s 69th member
An interview with Nandita Parshad, Managing Director, Energy and Natural Resources, at London-headquartered European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The multilateral institution, set up in 1991 to promote private and entrepreneurial initiative in emerging Europe, recently approved India as its 69th member. As someone at the heart of this historic development, Parshad gives ‘India Global Business’ an insight.
What does India’s membership of EBRD signify?
It has been almost 26 years since India has been flirting with the idea of joining EBRD. What’s happened in the last five years or more is that we have started to see Indian companies coming into our region. We have been building relationships through our business development activities with a lot of Indian corporates. It has been a lot of those corporates who have been lobbying Delhi for this.
Indian companies, both large and medium-sized, are more and more going global, even within our region of operation such as Turkey, Egypt and former Soviet Union countries. One thing the Indian ministry of finance would have felt is that this is a good way of promoting our companies.
Even though India is not a recipient of this IFI [international financial institutions], they could see the benefit of membership and to have a seat at the table. India is increasingly playing a major role in shaping strategy at a global level.
The shareholders have cleared India’s membership and now India will have to decide which constituency on our board represents it. China, for example, is with the Netherlands. The expectation is that the membership process should be completed in time for our annual meeting in Jordan in May.
How do you see this impacting Indian engagement in EBRD regions?
The Mahindra and Tata Group are among some of the companies active in our region. Automotive parts is among the key sectors. In Morocco, we have a company based out of Pune that is looking at setting up an auto parts unit. It is not surprising, with automotive being a booming industry in India. The other areas are pharmaceuticals, agri-business, steel, energy and renewables and information technology.
Steel pipes in Macedonia, steel in Georgia, renewables in Kazakhstan, pharma in Mongolia, tractors in Turkey – Indian companies are present across a broad spectrum of industries.
With the membership, we hope we can now do more systematic and more structured business development and outreach programmes in India. This will get the word out about our ability to not just provide the financing but also the local knowledge. We know these countries extremely well, we know the investment climate and will be able to share that know-how.
EBRD presence on the finance side helps bring comfort to the companies investing in the region. The biggest advocates of EBRD tend to be companies that have worked with us and have the experience.
How do you see EBRD’s MoU with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) play out?
The first International Solar Alliance summit in New Delhi is a big step forward. The aim of he alliance was to really scale up affordable solar but there is a geographical limitation on it, which is countries between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. For us, the only country of operation we have within that is Egypt. It is good in a way because Egypt is one of the countries where we have really had a hugely successful scaled up solar effort.
At the moment, India really is one of the largest players in the solar space.
Our message is that we actively support the scaling up of solar. In recent years, we have seen how sharply the cost of solar has fallen and how competitive solar can be as a source of energy. We are also promoting competitive processes for solar projects and working very hard to come up with a set of guidelines for our countries. So, what we have to offer is sharing best practice and the kind of products we are developing to scale up solar financing.
What is the role of the private sector within that?
EBRD’s forte is with the private sector and our initiatives are geared towards working out how we can get the private sector to action projects. We work with governments to develop the processes, procedures and the regulatory framework with the objective of making it attractive for the private sector.
Solar as a play lends itself to the private sector but the role of the government is to ensure an attractive investment climate. Institutions like us come in and help the private sector get the projects built.
We are also getting Indian companies investing in solar. Probably two of the most competitive players in the EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] side globally are out of India – Sterling & Wilson and Mahindra Solar. Some of the big tenders in the Middle East that have come in at some incredibly competitive prices have these companies behind them. Indians have really understood how to physically do these projects in a very cost-effective way. The lessons learnt in India are being taken beyond the borders of the country.
Many have also been partners with the EBRD. India is generating scale and the whole drive of costs going down for solar is as a result of countries like India offering these large-scale opportunities.
How does being a Global Indian impact your decision-making?
I was born and raised in Calcutta [Kolkata] but my parents hail from Delhi and that is where they are based. I came to the UK to work at EBRD but travel regularly and continue to have a strong connect with India.
I have been supporting some organisations around educational projects in my own small way, particularly in Calcutta – a city close to my heart – and Dehradun. They are all charities I know and the people who are running it and my focus area has been primary education and the girl child.
India’s EBRD membership is a highlight.