Fabian Stiefvater: "India is one of the most attractive cleantech markets in the world."

India is committed to renewable energy and waste management. The government promotes environmentally friendly and sustainable technologies, but India is dependent on expertise and investors from abroad. An interview with Fabien Stiefvater, Head of Swiss Business Hub India, about the potential of Swiss cleantech solutions in India.

Fabian Stiefvater, Head of Swiss Business Hub India
Fabian Stiefvater, Head of Swiss Business Hub India

Fabien Stiefvater, India is growing rapidly and will be making large investments in cleantech projects in the coming years. How can Swiss companies make a strong, sustainable entry into the Indian market?
Cleantech solutions and renewable energies are indeed becoming increasingly important in India. By 2027, 60% of electricity production will be generated from non-fossil fuels. For this reason, India is looking for foreign investors to provide the capital for constructing renewable energy plants. India is focusing primarily on wind and solar energy; the Kamuthi solar park in the south of the country went into operation in 2016. When it was commissioned, the plant had the highest capacity of any solar park in the world. The potential for Swiss cleantech companies in India is thus huge. One way that businesses can become part of the market is by working with system integrators. This is particularly worthwhile for large government projects. Another way to gain a foothold in the Indian market is to cooperate with Indian manufacturers or start-ups in the cleantech sector.

Are Swiss developments even in demand in India? What reputation do Swiss products have in India?
Swiss products and technologies are highly valued in India. One reason is that various Swiss brands such as Nestlé, Novartis, Roche and Schindler have already made a name for themselves in India. Swiss companies have a particularly good reputation in the fields of mechanical engineering, industrial equipment and precision instruments – where a high value is placed on quality and reliability. 

It is an opportune time for Swiss cleantech companies to export technologies and products to India.

Which areas currently present good business opportunities for Swiss exporters?
There are business opportunities in all of the cleantech sub-sectors, from energy efficiency and waste management to energy production. More specifically, engineering, procurement and design services for biological processes are in demand, as are waste-to-energy technologies, monitoring systems and testing facilities. In the solar energy area, there's a demand for energy storage solutions, hybrid power systems and interactive grid projects. The bioenergy sector is looking for solutions in combustion technology and ethanol production. The Indian government regularly publishes public tenders on the internet. Swiss SMEs can find concrete business opportunities on the following websites: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs – Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

What makes it worthwhile for Swiss SMEs to offer their solutions in India?
India has set itself the ambitious target of building plants for 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022. It's also trying to strengthen its manufacturing industry with the "Make in India" initiative. These two factors signal the opportune time for Swiss cleantech companies to export both technologies and products to India, and meet the emerging market demands. India is also the second-most attractive market in the world according to the EY Index, which assesses the attractiveness of countries in terms of renewable energy.

What differences do Swiss businesses have to pay attention to if they want to export to India or cooperate with Indian companies? 
The Indian market is very price sensitive. At present, Indian currency is rather weak against the Swiss franc, and import tariffs in India are very high. The combination of these facts means that export-oriented Swiss businesses that do their manufacturing in Switzerland have become less competitive in the Indian market. A free trade agreement with India would be key for Swiss industry.

How can the Swiss Business Hub India support Swiss cleantech companies in India?
At the Swiss Business Hub, we help Swiss exporters find a suitable distribution partner and carry out market analyses, we assist with regulatory problems, company start-ups and recruitment, help businesses take part in major cleantech conferences in India and facilitate pilot projects – we support Swiss exporters in many different ways. Our goal is to help Swiss businesses export to India, to make a strong market entry and to expand their markets. One of our associates at the Swiss Business Hub also travels to Switzerland several times a year to advise companies personally.

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