Minister For Communications And Information Technology
Hon Paul Swain
Address To Federation Of Indian Chambers Of Commerce And Industry (Ficci)
Monday 3 December 2001 – 1pm (7.30pm Nz Time)
Mr Chairman, members of FICCI, High Commissioner, distinguished guests.
I am delighted to be in India and to be making my first stop in Mumbai - a city I have long wanted to visit. I’ve been
lucky enough to spend the weekend here, which has given me a great snapshot of possibly India’s most truly international
city. Your hospitality to my delegation and me is greatly appreciated.
There are two reasons why I join you today: Firstly as New Zealand’s IT and Communications Minister I have made it a
priority to come to India to learn what has made India the world leader it is in software engineering, and other
information, communications and telecommunications skills.
Secondly, I want to give you a glimpse today of a New Zealand that is innovative and technologically savvy. New Zealand
too is riding the knowledge wave and, like India, we are transforming our economy into one where knowledge and
information both add and generate new value.
The government has since coming into power made significant advances in this transformation such as:
Establishing Industry New Zealand as a government agency for business development.
Reforming major aspects of business law – competition policy, telecommunications policy and intellectual property law.
Introducing electronic commerce and electronic government strategies.
Enhancing New Zealand’s venture capital market and providing support for business incubators.
And providing a strategic focus for our tertiary education system to help meet the demands of our growing economy.
Innovative New Zealand links in India
Getting back to New Zealand as an innovative and technologically savvy country. Let’s take a look at a few places where
you might be surprised to find New Zealand.
Let’s start with your wallet. Take a look at your credit card. It was probably made in New Zealand. A New Zealand
company, Security Plastics has over 70% of the market share for credit cards in India.
OK, now think about the last Indian movie you saw:
Our High Commissioner tells me that when she turns on her TV she is often regaled by very familiar NZ scenery as
backdrops to Indian movies and TV programmes.
As the movie making capital of India you might be interested to know that over 70 Indian film crews have been in New
They are not alone: In a few weeks time, the release of one of the most anticipated western made film of recent memory
will take place. The three part trilogy was directed by a New Zealander, shot in New Zealand and used state of the art
IT - much of it developed in New Zealand - for its special effects. The total budget is over 400 million US$ making it
the most expensive single film production ever. The film? Lord of the Rings. (Keep an eye out for it!)
Now, take a train on Western Railways and you might discover that a New Zealand company, Tait Electronics, has
installed new phones in Western Railways trains to link them with a sophisticated new control centre in Mumbai.
And if you need medical treatment or a washing machine for your clothes, you might turn to one of our smartest
companies, Fisher and Paykel, which recently opened an office in India and which has a strong reputation for intelligent
whiteware goods and sophisticated healthcare equipment.
Across a range of fields, these examples highlight New Zealand’s smart, modern, innovative economy with a history of
leading edge expertise.
The Indian IT sector is also recognising this:
Tata Consultancy Services has an (active) office in New Zealand with more than a 100 people working on site with a
major insurance company, Tower Insurance.
Indian education provider KarROX and New Zealand’s Auckland Institute of Studies have formed a joint venture to
introduce to New Zealand a range of KarROX’s high end training programmes and to develop operations through a series of
franchise centres in New Zealand and elsewhere in the Asia/Pacific region.
There are a number of other Indian IT companies with direct links - service or product based - with New Zealand.
Infowavz, a Mumbai based call centre, with New Zealand equity and management participation. QED Software, with an
application software development centre in Bangalore. Versaware, an electronic publishing firm in Pune, with a New
Zealand CEO. Leading Indian IT companies like HCL Infosystems, Pentasoft Technologies and Kale Consultants have an
active presence in the New Zealand market.
A nation of innovators
So where does New Zealand’s innovation come from?
Firstly, New Zealand is geographically isolated. New Zealanders are traders. We have to be. We earn our living by
selling overseas what we produce in New Zealand. Most of our agricultural production is exported. Agriculture makes up
about 16% of New Zealand’s GDP, 16% of total employment and more than 60% of exports by value. Over 90% of our dairy
products, meat and wool exports go offshore.
We have to be smart to compete in the world, even in our traditional area of commodity exports. New Zealand is far away
from most of its major markets and faces protectionism in markets and subsidisation of production and exports by other
Faced with these natural disadvantages and impediments, New Zealand turned to innovation to overcome these. It probably
started with the invention of refrigerated shipping in 1882 and hasn’t stopped since.
New Zealand producers receive no subsidies whatsoever. They are exposed to foreign competition. Over 90% of New
Zealand’s current applied duty rates are zero. Half of India’s exports to New Zealand, for example, attract duties of
1.1% or less.
Currently two way trade between India and New Zealand is $US150 million. Freeing up trade can only improve that
New Zealand like all countries has spent considerable effort adding value to our commodity products. Greater
international trade liberalization will obviously benefit our economy as well as those who trade with us.
Secondly, New Zealand is a nation of migrants. Even the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, arrived only 1000
years ago. The ancestors of most New Zealanders arrived in the last 160 years. This includes a sizeable Indian
community, the first of whom arrived over 100 years ago.
Thirdly we are also world-renowned travellers. Migrants and travellers bring new ideas and fresh approaches to a
society. Like India, we too have a diaspora. Over 400,000 New Zealanders - that’s equivalent to 10% of our population -
live in Australia. New Zealanders are found in all walks of life around the world. Not to mention India, where the CEO
of Virgin Atlantic in India, the CEO of De Beers, the head of UNAIDS and the head of the International Federation of Red
Cross South Asia office are all New Zealanders.
And need I say it, John Wright, one of New Zealand’s best opening batsmen, is currently coach of the India cricket
We are working on a diaspora project whereby New Zealanders overseas will be encouraged to keep in contact with each
other and New Zealand, and to act as ambassadors for our country. India already has a very successful diaspora programme
which we can learn from.
An essential factor for an innovative and productive population is education. New Zealand offers an education equal to
that available anywhere. Over 35,000 foreign students are enrolled at New Zealand institutions. The number of Indian
students is growing fast. This financial year we are expecting a further 1500 students to join the estimated 1000 Indian
students already studying in New Zealand.
There seems to be a perception in some quarters that this is because New Zealand has at last opened its doors to Indian
students. In fact, our doors have always been open, and students from Asia in particular but also from elsewhere have
been enjoying the benefits for decades. We are pleased that Indian students are joining the party, and warmly welcome
We also welcome Indian tourists – and they seem to like us. Over 11,000 Indian holidaymakers and business people
visited New Zealand in the year to September - an increase of over 47% over the previous year. Despite the recent tragic
events that have affected tourism worldwide, we expect interest in New Zealand to remain fairly robust.
New Zealand too is actively recruiting skilled migrants. We see India as a place where we can find the sort of people
we like and need. We are particularly interested in IT professionals. The New Zealand IT sector offers excellent
opportunities for software developers and engineers. We expect a 200% increase in the number of applications for
permanent residency from India this year and many will work as IT profiessionals.
Other knowledge based links with India
So where else does New Zealand innovation and versatility appear in India?
The New Zealand engineering firm, Beca, recently won another contract to manage the construction of part of India’s
quadrilateral road project. Another, Meritec, recently set up an office to offer similar consultancy services in the
Airways Corporation of New Zealand was involved in upgrading the air traffic control system in Kolkata.
TVNZ International won the contract to roll out digital TV in Australia. They are now seeking to assist Indian
companies to introduce digital TV services in rural India.
Cardex New Zealand in association with Digital Alarm Technologies India is providing sophisticated security control
systems to some of India’s largest corporates.
We are seeing innovation even in traditional areas such as forestry. Timber exports are an area we see growing in
future with India’s need matching our supply. To demonstrate the versatility of our product, my Trade Commissioner here,
armed with a hammer and nails, recently travelled to Bhuj and in a single day he and another New Zealander from Fletcher
Forests, with assistance from an Indian workforce, built a wooden kitset house shipped from New Zealand for disaster
relief. The all up cost including transportation was only 50,000 rupees. We have an excellent timber resource in New
Zealand which could assist India at a time when you are addressing your own timber conservation issues.
Some people might say innovation and the competitive spirit runs in our veins.
Sir Edmund Hillary - known I’m sure to all of you - is perhaps the most famous embodiment of this spirit. First - with
Tenzing - to climb Mt Everest.
And many of you know the exploits of Sir Richard Hadlee.
New Zealand is also of course an international leader in yacht design and building. People come from all over Europe and
the US to have their world class yachts designed and built in New Zealand. This explains partly why New Zealand still
holds the Americas Cup. And these days the international television coverage you see of yacht racing frequently uses
graphics technology developed by a small IT company in New Zealand with a big international reputation.
Learning from India
As I said at the outset, I have two reasons for being in India: to learn from India and to promote New Zealand as an
innovative and technologically savvy economy.
India is now one of the world’s foremost producers of IT skills, and it is important to have a good relationship and to
learn from such an IT powerhouse. It’s not surprising that I have a representative from Waikato University in my
delegation looking for opportunities to develop links. In Delhi I will be visiting a range of private and public
education institutions, including the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology.
I will be discussing digital divide issues, a divide which we in New Zealand are also conscious of trying to close.
Access to information - not least through information technology - is an essential factor in building (and maintaining)
an educated and productive workforce.
I will also be meeting your IT Minister, Pramod Mahajan. He visited New Zealand earlier this year and we have much to
talk about. Including regulatory issues such as ensuring that a competitive environment exists in the rapidly converging
industries of information technology and telecommunications.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be in India. I look forward to seeing far greater links develop between our
two countries in the coming years, based on innovation, trade and rapidly increasing people-to-people links.
Please note: India is six ½ hours behind NZ Time.