$100 billion untapped trade across India-Menat corridor: HSBC

$51 billion export potential for Menat markets into India, according to HSBC analysis


Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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A container ship at Jebel Ali Port, in Dubai. — File photo
A container ship at Jebel Ali Port, in Dubai. — File photo

Published: Tue 30 Jan 2024, 9:38 PM

Last updated: Tue 30 Jan 2024, 9:49 PM

The Middle East’s ambitious transformation plans, and the region’s youthful demographics – more than half of whom are under 30 years age – is attracting Indian investment, at pace. Data from the International Trade Centre (ITC) and HSBC analysis show an estimated $61 billion export opportunity for India to tap the key Menat markets, with top destinations including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Türkiye.

Patricia Gomes, Regional Head of Commercial Banking, Middle East North Africa and Türkiye (Menat), HSBC Bank Middle East, said: “Buoyed by strong mutual interests, solid economic fundamentals and enduring historical ties, corporates and investors are looking at an extensive set of opportunities in both directions.”

Indian corporates succeeding in the Middle East

The HSBC. India-Menat Corridor Outlook: Harnessing Natural Synergies considers the current state of trade and investment and the key growth opportunities between India and five countries in Menat; Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye and the UAE.

India’s increasing strengths as a food and agricultural producer and exporter are re-positioning the India-GCC trade and investments relationship. Technology developments are transforming the GCC’s food and agriculture industry, and considerable sums are being invested to promote food security; the India-UAE Food Corridor has seen over $7 billion of investment since plans were initiated in 2019.

Patricia Gomes, Regional Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC MENAT
Patricia Gomes, Regional Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC MENAT

The Indian diaspora in the GCC is deepening regional capital, talent and technology ties. Around 8.8 million Non-Resident Indians now reside in the GCC, and represent the largest real estate investors in Dubai, overtaking British expats.

Outside of the GCC, India continues to do lucrative business in new areas of the economy with the other countries of the Menat. In Egypt, Indian companies are investing in green hydrogen and electric vehicles, as well as in more traditional sectors such as food industries, chemicals, and tourism. India’s automobile companies are also present in Türkiye, where Indian manufacturers have also poured investments into the packaging materials industry.

India’s strong economic fundamentals are attracting Menat corporates expanding trading relationships overseas, with estimated export potential over $51 billion from key Menat countries into India.

Understanding India’s expansive physical landscape is also helping Menat corporates to narrow down their investment opportunities. Tier-1 cities are key drivers of India’s economic growth; just six of these eight cities contributed 28 per cent of India’s GDP in 2022. However, India’s Tier-2 cities hold much potential too, the report showed.

Gomes added: “India’s Tier-2 cities are an untapped opportunity for Menat corporates considering lower operational costs, niches for specific industrial activities, or shifting ancillary operations.”

While India is still a close trading partner for the Menat region in goods such as spices, gold, and textiles, the South Asian country is also rising in global prominence in manufacturing, technology, and science. India’s digital economy presents multiple opportunities for Menat corporates, underpinned by strong growth forecasts from 0.5 per cent share of GDP in 2010 to 13 per cent by 2030.

Trade agreements hold further promise

The trade and investment relationship between India and Menat are set to increase also because of free trade agreements.

Ajay Sharma, Country Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC India, said: “As free trade agreements and bilateral agreements ramp up between India and Menat countries, global supply chains are being reshaped, and trade policies for the green transition are adapted. Now is the time for corporates and investors along the India-Menat Corridor to explore the latent potential for further collaboration.”

In 2022, the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) was negotiated and concluded in just 88 days, reducing or eliminating tariffs in over 80 per cent of bilateral product lines. Meanwhile, the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), announced in September 2023, is a further trade proposal which would connect the Middle East and Europe to India by new rail and shipping links.

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