26 July 2021

Key insights

India: India's status as a trading nation is on the rise. The country’s score for digital and sustainable trade facilitation jumped from 78.5% in 2019 to 90.3% in 2021, according to the latest global survey by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (UNESCAP). India’s exports rose in June for the seventh month in row, to reach US$32.5 billion. This reflects growth in exports of petroleum products, gems and jewellery, and chemicals.


Bangladesh
: Average inflation in 2020 hit 5.6%, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). This was fractionally higher than the Central Bank’s target rate of 5.4%. Economists attribute current inflation to increases in the price of rice in the domestic market, and rising prices for edible oil rates in overseas markets. Pandemic-led disruptions in the global supply chain and an increase in demand will put upward pressure on inflation in the short term.

Sri Lanka: The country’s foreign exchange crisis continues unabated. Sri Lanka’s imports grew to US$1.6 billion in May 2021 from US$993 million a year earlier, according to official data. Banks have formally advised customers including embassies and high commissions that there is limited availability for foreign exchange. Sri Lanka’s economy is highly dependent on tourism and remittances. It has been severely impacted by COVID-19 and the current hiatus in long-haul tourism.

Market opportunities

Transport & logistics

The airline industry is staging a strong recovery. Airlines in India look set to achieve 80% of pre-COVID-19 capacity between October and December 2021.  

Health

The pandemic has accelerated plans for changes in how the Government and private companies deliver healthcare. There has been an increased focus on telemedicine services and the government also issued new guidelines to make telemedicine legal practice in India. This is creating opportunities for Australian digital health providers. Austrade has partnered with India based Sathguru Management Consultants to identify opportunities in the Digital Health sector.

Healthcare expenditure has increased significantly through the latest pandemic surge. The country’s annual budget announced a massive increase in health spending. The finance minister has said that spending on health should double to 2.2 trillion rupees, partly to fund the country’s vaccination drive. The budget also lifted caps on overseas investment in India’s insurance industry.

Sales of vitamin C supplements grew by more than 100% in 2020, compared to 2019. The overall vitamins category grew by 20% and reached 3 billion pills in 2020. This reflects growing opportunities for Australian supplements exporters, many of which are increasingly expanding their presence in India. E-commerce is a proven route to market in this sector.

A recent conference organised by Austrade South Asia convened stakeholders from the Australian and Indian healthcare industries. Major opportunities were identified, including:

  • clinical data management
  • the use of clinical decision-support tools
  • healthcare quality standards
  • healthcare training.   

Successful partnerships between Australian and Indian medical organisations show potential for cross-border collaboration. Deakin University has teamed with AIIMS Jodhpur and IIT Jodhpur to begin clinical trials of medical devices for patients with neurological disorders. The program is the result of a collaborative research program between Deakin and institutes in India. 

India’s drug and vaccine manufacturing industry is interested in partnering with institutions in Australia for joint collaboration, in-licensing and research. 

Clinical research and pharmaceuticals companies are showing renewed interest in conducting clinical trials and joint research in Australia. According to sources, Indian medical care organisations continue to be receptive to Australian digital health products. Meanwhile, clinical research companies are collaborating well with Australian universities. 

Education

Austrade is launching a Study Australia Virtual Education Showcase on 4 August. The showcase will position Australian capability in online education and edtech to Indian students, heads of institutions and edtech companies. The event is intended to trigger discussions that will lead to partnerships between Australian organisations, Indian education and the edtech sector. 

James Cook University (JCU) has teamed with one of India’s largest online higher education companies – UpGrad – to launch a hybrid study abroad program. Students will study one year online through UpGrad and will then move to on-campus study with JCU in the second year. This could become a showcase for Australian online education capabilities and its ability to adapt.

Amazon India has launched Amazon Academy, an online platform to help students prepare for their entrance exams to engineering colleges. Amazon’s entry into the edtech sector demonstrates the growth potential of the sector. It also creates collaboration opportunities for Australian edtech companies and institutes. 

Deakin University has signed a MoU with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Jodhpur. The MoU focusses on academic and research collaboration in Artificial intelligence, medical devices and cyber-physical systems. The partnership is designed to trigger joint academic programs for working professionals and Indian students at IIT Jodhpur. Doctoral students will gain joint PhD supervision.

Schools and training institutions will retain an interest in emerging cloud-based technologies and learning management systems (LMSs) when regular education activities return, according to a new edtech report. It says cloud technologies and LMSs are now acknowledged to deliver key benefits. These include: a wide impact on teaching resources, good learning outcomes, and the ability to focus on teacher-centric products.

A number of edtech platforms, such as Toppr, Udemy, Vedantu and WhiteHat Jr, have introduced skills-based ‘add-on’ courses. Their objective is to retain relevance as face-to-face learning resumes. This presents an opportunity for Australian edtech providers to explore partnerships in India. Austrade India is actively exploring partnership opportunities for Australian edtech companies in after-school education. 

Resources

The Indian Government is liberalises the mining sector, creating opportunities for METS exports. Changes include:

  • New mine operating models.
  • The auctioning off of existing mines.
  • Policy reforms to improve productivity and safety.
  • Policy reforms to attract investment.

Austrade advisors are helping Australian METS companies identify opportunities. For further information, please contact Varun Kukreti, Business Development Manager, Kolkata.

Austrade is working with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to explore opportunities for critical minerals. Conversations include offtake, investments and technology collaboration. The current focus is to understand the short, medium and long term opportunities, and align Australian supply capabilities and forge partnerships.  

An acute shortage of iron ore threatens India’s steel industry – currently the world’s second largest. This creates potential demand for iron ore consignments from Australia. Meanwhile, a huge increase in coal mining operations is likely to trigger demand for METS technologies. 

Coal India Limited has approved 32 coal mining projects in the last fiscal year. Of these, 24 are expansion projects and the remaining 8 are greenfield projects. These entail an estimated capital spend of A$8.38 billion. The chairman of Coal India recently noted that the company is moving away from investments in new mines, and towards investments in technology for efficiency and improvement of existing mines. This represents a huge opportunity for Australian METS suppliers.  

METS opportunities should be easier to pursue. A new, online ‘single window clearance system’ for coal mines has been launched that covers 19 major approvals for different departments. This new system is expected to reduce the time required to manage approvals, from auction to production. Austrade is supporting numerous Australian METS companies, including by helping to make connections.
Agribusiness and food

Demand for Australian lamb and wine remains soft, with many high-end hotels and restaurants operating at low occupancy rates. Some states are still restricting numbers at gatherings. In Delhi and surrounding regions, weddings are limited to 50 people, whereas typically these attract 400–600 guests.

Major e-commerce platforms in India are looking for high quality and gourmet products. This increases opportunities for Australian manufacturers to export products like canola oil, oats, muesli, protein bars, and plant-based milk. India remains the single largest export market for Australian almonds. South India is a particular focus.  

At least six brands of Australian Manuka honey are now available in India. Sales grew by approximately 18% in 2020. Austrade is working with retailers, importers and Australian exporters to increase the number of Australian food products in India.

Fruit importers note increased demand for apples, citrus and table grapes, and are keen to fulfil this demand with Australian produce. Citrus Australia is currently developing a five-year export strategy in which India will prominently figure.

According to the Indian Gelatine Manufacturers’ Association, there is an ongoing monthly shortage of 5,000 tonnes of crushed cattle bones in India. Indian industry is experiencing challenges in sourcing raw material. The gelatine is used in the pharmaceuticals export industry.  

Food trends

Packaged food products have witnessed a 30–50 % spike in consumer demand during the pandemic. There has been a major shift in demand from unbranded to branded products. This has helped lift sales of Australian products across categories like snacks, cookies, ready-to-eat foods, protein rich foods, and immune system-boosting produce.

According to food importers, anxiety about COVID-19 is driving consumers to seek healthier food. Consumers are cutting back on sugar and salt, and are focused on preventive healthcare and ‘mindful eating’. This indicates the potential for disruption in the food and beverages sector, and increased opportunities for ‘free from’ products from Australia. Organic exporters face stiffer barriers to market entry owing to a lack of recognition of Australia’s organic standards.

Beverages

The Indian Armed Forces have stopped purchases of imported liquor including wines. This is part of the central governments ‘localisation’ drive. The forces typically procure 100,000 cases of imported spirits and wines per year, and Australian brands currently have a 33% share of the imported wine market.

Australia’s award-winning Barokes Wines has launched its ‘wine in a can’ range in India. The brand is being imported by a Mumbai-based company and distributed across liquor retail chains in major cities. Austrade is working on a wine-export diversification strategy to aid Australian beverages exporters.

A Mumbai-based importer has recorded a 300% increase in sales of almond-milk products since the onset of the pandemic. This appears to indicate that Indian consumers are seeking healthier food and beverage options. This new trend opens export opportunities for Australian nut-milk exporters.

Retail

Austrade is helping Australian lifestyle brands to launch successfully in India, including via e-commerce platforms. Brands currently available in India include Smiggle, Typo, Fab Slabs and aussieBum. Assistance includes helping to shape market entry, and advice on import tariffs and distribution channels. Austrade can also help brands find local partners, and has contacts with e-commerce platforms. 

According to Nykaa, India’s largest omni-channel beauty retailer, COVID-19 continues to impact offline stores, with some shutting down. However, increasing online sales have helped recover some losses. Nykaa is using virtual reality shopping technology to give a real-life shopping experience to customers. Australian brands such as Swisse, Sand & Sky and Natio are now present on Nykka sites. 

E-commerce

To date, 35 Australian exporters have used the ‘Australian Store’ on Amazon India to enter and test the market.

A record 2.8% of all FMCG sales were executed via e-commerce in 2020, up from 1.9% the year before. Large Indian manufacturers like Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Nestle, and Marico report that the contribution of e-commerce to their sales doubled in 2020. This retail shift in FMCG is expected to continue. 

The use of videos and similar content on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat is driving traffic to e-commerce platforms in India. Australian brands like Swisse, Sand & Sky, Orgran Foods continue to engage in social media to build brand equity in India. 

Australian snack makers are expanding onto online platforms. The Muesli brand Carman’s is now selling via Amazon and Flipkart, having launched in February. The breakfast cereal market in India is estimated to be worth A$320m and growing at a CAGR of 18%.

According to industry think-tank Unicommerce, e-commerce order volumes grew by 36% in the fourth quarter of 2020, year on year. Gross merchandise value sold via e-commerce grew by 30% in the same quarter. The report says that personal care, and beauty & wellness were the two biggest category beneficiaries, with volumes growing by 95% and 46% respectively. Fast moving consumer goods and healthcare products also grew quickly. 

Overseas e-commerce companies will be subject to an equalisation levy of 2% on earnings from sales of goods in India. This will not apply to domestic transactions – for example, as executed by Amazon India – as they pay local taxes. The new levy will impact the viability of cross border transactions as the levy is placed on the whole value of the transaction. This could impact cross border e-commerce sales in fashion, high value skincare products, supplements and nutraceuticals. 

Technology

Spending on IT in India slowed down slightly in Quarter 2, 2020, according to recent research by Gartner. The second wave of COVID-19 and associated lockdowns are likely responsible. Full year growth is still expected to hit 8%, however. Gartner forecasts that spending on IT will reach $92.7 billion in 2021 and $98.6 billion in 2022. Enterprise software will be the biggest growth area. Australian companies targeting this segment can benefit by partnering with the larger IT Indian firms. 

The buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) market in India is growing at a CAGR of 36% and is expected to reach US$100 billion by the end of 2023. Several fintech companies are targeting the Millennial and Gen Z demographic. This trend creates fresh opportunities for Australian businesses. 

COVID-19 has expedited the adoption of fintech in India’s banking sector. Banks and other non-banking financial companies are investing in multiple areas of digital infrastructure, from app security to customer journeys. For Australian Fintechs, this presents an opportunity to tap into the Indian market by showcasing their niche technologies to relevant decision makers.

There are a growing number of partnerships between the Mumbai Fintech Hub and Fintech Australia. India's largest banks and insurance companies are investing in digital-economy technologies – including online banking and trading, and cyber security.

Insurance and insuretech companies are preparing for a post-pandemic future. Austrade is assisting with introductions from Australian insurance companies to potential partners in India. 

Renewable energy

There are growing opportunities for Australian companies to contribute to India’s renewable power sector. This includes power trading, power-storage technologies, photo-voltaic manufacturing and wind energy. There are also opportunities to provide smart-metering and demand-side management solutions.

India aims to de-carbonise passenger vehicles and other transport modes – including by using hydrogen – and to generate 450GW of power from renewable sources by 2030. Austrade is exploring opportunities in storage solutions, LNG, hydrogen, renewables, and digital innovations and technology advancements. 

The regulatory commissions in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka have approved a Green Power Tariff, which enables distribution companies to offer renewable energy to consumers. Tata Power Distribution will offer 100% green power to those willing to pay A$0.01 per unit. Indian companies will be seeking grid management and traceability solutions using blockchain.

The new National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHEM) policy will direct state-owned firms to develop proposals for green hydrogen projects by partnering with private sector renewable energy producers. NHEM will likely mandate industries that produce fertilizers, steel and petrochemicals to increase usage of ‘green’ hydrogen. Indian companies currently lack the requisite expertise in this segment and have reached out to Australia to bridge the gap – including in the production of ‘green’ ammonia. 

The Indian Government is accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) in India. Several opportunities have been identified, including: 

  • advisory services in safety and regulation
  • collaborative research in EV technologies
  • recharging infrastructure.  

India will accelerate efforts to move towards a gas-based economy, according to Prime Minister Modi. However, the country will still prioritise energy security. Likely trends will include a cleaner use of fossil fuels particularly petroleum and coal, and a greater reliance on domestic sources to drive bio-fuels. 

As part of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Delhi authorities have opened a hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas (HCNG) plant and dispensing station in New Delhi. A six-month trial in a fleet of 50 buses has started across the capital city. Austrade is working closely with key hydrogen-industry stakeholders in India, which includes policy making bodies like NITI Aayog and Hydrogen Association of India (HAI). It also includes commercial entities such as ReNew Power, ACME India and Reliance Industries. 

India looks set to increase investment in LNG infrastructure to accommodate greater imports. The Government of India’s goal is to increase LNG’s contribution to India’s energy mix from 6% to 15% by 2030. Further details are available in this market insight. 

The Government will invest A$830 million in the solar panel-manufacturing sector under the production linked incentive (PLI) scheme. The sector is now deemed ‘strategic’, and the policy aims to make solar supply chains more resilient. One company, Renew Power, has plans for both solar PV and possibly battery-manufacturing capabilities. Renew is assessing potential Australian technology tie-ups. 

Policy think tank, NITI Aayog, has launched an initiative under the ‘Advanced Chemistry Cell’ to bring production-linked incentives (PLIs) to manufacturers. India aims to have 50 GWh of battery-manufacturing capacity by 2026. Australian companies are well-positioned to supply much-needed material, including lithium, cobalt and nickel. Energy storage initiatives also present opportunities for strategic partnerships. At A$3.3 billion, PLI incentives for the advanced chemistry cell battery-storage industry are comparatively high. 

Australia is forging links with India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), resulting in a recent, widely attended virtual expo. The event indicates growing opportunities for Australian companies in India’s renewables sectors. 

Construction & infrastructure

Austrade has delivered the first of three rail sector webinars which focus on India’s dedicated freight corridor (DFC) project. The webinar showcased opportunities as well as Australian capabilities in heavy-haul rail. Opportunities include:

  • Conditioning monitoring & asset inspection solutions
  • Vehicle-track interaction solution
  • O&M cost reduction solutions
  • Collaboration in setting up of the Heavy Haul Institute. 

Key industry stakeholders including Hitachi and GMR are open to exploring opportunities that arise from the DFC project with overseas companies, including Australian companies.  

India’s smart warehousing industry is poised for rapid growth. Overseas companies report that warehousing space is a great opportunity for investors and operators. This also applies to tech companies with warehousing solutions that use internet-of-things systems and smart devices. Logistics companies operating in India anticipate growth.

The Indian Government intends to disbar overseas companies from bidding for government procurement contracts that are worth up to A$40 million. The Government’s objective is to encourage foreign companies to establish subsidiaries in India, and to help Indian companies become global brands via international partnerships. 

Austrade and DFAT are working with Macquarie Infrastructure, which is now a major Australian investor in the Indian highways. The collaboration will showcase the best of Australian technologies and services in road safety to the Indian government. This project will create significant downstream opportunities for Australian SMEs. 

Defence & manufacturing

The Government has announced a scrappage policy for commercial vehicles older than 15 years and passenger vehicles older than 20 years. It will trigger the creation of automated testing infrastructure and scrap yards. This creates partnership and collaboration opportunities for Australian technology companies. The policy is likely to encourage adoption of alternative fuel technologies including electric vehicle, hydrogen and LNG.  

Reports from Australian companies in India that are in contact with Indian defence and aerospace primes say they are optimistic about the prospects for future opportunities. This may indicate a positive spirit for collaboration despite a recent shift towards import substitution. 

The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced an import embargo on 101 defence-related items. This is a major push by India’s defence to reduce importation costs and support indigenous capabilities. The policy will be implemented progressively until 2024. The implication for Australian defence companies looking to export to India is that they will likely need to find local manufacturing/value-add partners, and share intellectual property.

India has accelerated its purchases of weapons in the wake of border tensions with China. For Australia, the Australia–India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will help build connections with India’s defence sector and lays the foundation for enhanced collaboration and development. 

The Japanese Government has added India to its manufacturing re-location scheme. This means companies that re-locate manufacturing from China to India may now be eligible for subsidies. The Japanese government wants to help its companies diversify their supply chains. 

Bangladesh

Food

Australian premium dry and packed food products are now available with major online retail platforms in Bangladesh. Only four to five different brands were available via online platforms in 2020. Now there are 12. This trend is helping Australian food products into market. These include: breakfast cereal and muesli, liquid milk, jam, honey, pasta, sauce, cheese, juice. Austrade is working closely with Bangladesh ecommerce companies and importers.

The hospitality industry will recover slowly from the pandemic, according to forecasts. This is impacting Australian businesses as Australian meat, sea food, cheese, butter, jam and other premium foodstuffs are consumed in five-star hotels in Bangladesh. Importers are currently gaining few orders from five-star hotels. Some importers have temporarily suspended trade. However, importers that supply retail markets report that business is more favourable.  

Wheat consumption has doubled in the past six years thanks to changing food habits and increased demand for bakery. Bangladesh imported 6.73 million tonnes (mt) of wheat last financial year compared to 3.1 mt in 2014–15. Imported whole grains are gaining in popularity due to perceived health benefits. Approximately 85 percent of Bangladesh’s annual wheat demand of ~7.7 mt is met by imports, which is increasing thanks to the absence of tariffs. 

Australia has a minor share of Bangladeshi wheat trade, with the bulk of Australian exports to South Asia heading to India. Austrade is working with exporters to increase wheat exports to Bangladesh, undertaking outreach to bakery and other wheat-processing companies. Australia is also Bangladesh’s primary source of chickpeas. 

Fruit imports are on the rise, with Australian citrus, apples and grapes in high demand. Australia is one of the major sources of grapes and citrus in Bangladesh with exports worth A$7.6 million in 2019. Supply chain upgrades will expand opportunities to export strawberries, blueberries and stone fruit to Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has introduced quality compliance checks and mandatory testing for food products like oats, cornflakes, potato chips, flavored milk, and baby food. The BSTI is focused on consumer protection, and will introduce QR codes and its own brand stamp to help ensure quality. The new testing rule is expected to delay the launch of some Australian brands in Bangladesh.

Demand from the food manufacturing sector will likely increase by 40% up to 2025, according to local sources. Bangladesh imported 1.5 million tonnes of milk powder in the 2019–20 financial year, and imports were projected to grow by 18 % in the 2020–21 financial year. 

Most Australian brands continue to be sold via supermarkets, and sales have grown 40–50% during the pandemic. Unimart – a premium supermarket chain – has expanded its digital offerings with an omni-channel solution for Australian brands. Unimart is working with Austrade to import more brands from Australia.

Education & skills training

Monash College has received the Government’s approval to launch an international education study centre to offer pathway and diploma programs. This centre will be the first of its kind in Bangladesh. It will help to establish Australian higher education in Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi Government has signed contracts for major infrastructure projects, creating demand for skilled project-delivery personnel. A number of Australian universities have been engaged in Bangladesh to offer skills training for some key government projects. Advisors expect further opportunities for Australian institutions to engage in capacity building training. 

Agriculture

Bangladesh is currently the second largest importer of cotton in the world, with ready-made garments accounting for nearly 80% of the country’s export revenue. This equates to imports of eight million bales per year. Consumption of cotton by Bangladeshi mills has recently increased by more than 10% per year. 

Australian cotton exports to Bangladesh are expected to grow substantially during 2020–21. Cotton imports grew by about 9% to 7.5 million bales (16.27 million MT) in 2019–20, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Australia exported A$200 million-worth of cotton to Bangladesh in 2018–19.

Austrade is working with Australian cotton exporters to help them resume shipments as local mills restart. Austrade is re-engaging key buyers.

Technology & e-commerce

The e-commerce market is currently worth A$1.7 billion and projected to be worth A$4.5 billion by 2025. Austrade is working with leading e-commerce platforms to introduce more Australian brands across top-selling categories such as shelf-stable processed food, personal care items, health supplements and wellness foods, such as gluten-free snacks.

The Bangladesh Government has proposed new e-commerce guidelines to protect consumers and develop the e-commerce sector. E-commerce has experienced a boom amid the pandemic and new guidelines will relate to delivery time limits, reimbursement and failed deliveries. Alibaba-backed Daraz says the move will substantially improve confidence amongst Bangladesh consumers. The e-commerce market in Bangladesh is currently worth $A1.7 billion and is projected to be worth A$4.5 billion by 2025. 

Consumers are embracing e-commerce. The federal government is investing in logistics and supply chain improvements to promote the e-commerce market. 

Defence & manufacturing

The Japanese Government has added Bangladesh to its manufacturing re-location scheme. This means companies that re-locate manufacturing from China to Bangladesh or India may now be eligible for subsidies. The Japanese government wants to help its companies diversify their supply chains. 

Sri Lanka

Logistics

The Government plans to make Sri Lanka a commodity trading and value-add hub, using ports in Colombo and Hambantota.
Food & Agriculture

The Federal Government is expected to issue new meat import licenses – in particular, for beef – as it contemplates a ban on the slaughter of cattle for religious reasons. Food importers anticipate an increase in beef imports alongside import duty reductions. With a population of 21 million, Sri Lanka currently consumes around 37.8 million tonnes per year, excluding demand from the hospitality industry. 

Australia is currently the largest beef exporter to Sri Lanka, supplying 1,000 tonnes out a total 1,116 tonnes last financial year. The slaughter ban is expected to benefit Australia, which has an established beef-export supply chain. Exports from Australia reach Sri Lanka quickly: in 3–4 weeks as compared to 8 weeks from competitors such as the US.

Sri Lanka is Australia’s second largest lentil market after India and Australia meets more than half of the country’s demand. Australian lentils are also re-exported from Sri Lanka after being split and re-packaged. Demand for high-quality, whole lentils will likely increase as the Government encourages development of a domestic food-processing industry. 

The Sri Lankan Government has introduced new import duties on imported fresh, frozen and dried fish. 

The Sri Lankan Government has unveiled an ambitious plan to increase milk production in the country by importing dairy cows and developing private-public partnerships to increase milk production. Austrade is working with local companies in scoping out export opportunities for dairy technology and services companies.

Fast moving consumer goods

Austrade is helping companies pursue e-commerce strategies in Sri Lanka. Australian brands such as Edgell, Leggo’s, Sanitarium and FruitCo have listed their products on the new Keells e-commerce platform. Keells Super is the second largest supermarket chain in Sri Lanka. Thanks to the pandemic, e-commerce purchases in the FMCG category are expected to grow rapidly. 

Education

The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has emphasised the need to reform the country’s education system and wants student-centric education system to replace exam-centric education. The objective is to encourage more students to attend university. 

Contact: Tejaswi Rathore