Today I went to a seminar titled, ‘Doing Business with Belgium – Your Gateway to Europe’ at Taj Coromandel, Nungambakkam, Chennai. The Council General, Mr. Bart De Groof, Consulate General of Chennai (speaking in the below photo) was among a handful of dignitaries who participated and spoke about trade opportunities for Indians in Belgium and vice versa.
The location of Belgium in Europe is central as it is surrounded by major countries like France, Netherlands, Germany & Luxembourg. That’s why all the speakers stressed on the point that Belgium, more importantly, its capital Brussels, could be the central hub/distribution point for Indian businessmen aspiring to do business in the entire European Union market including the UK.
Belgium has recently introduced direct flights from Mumbai to Brussels, and it also provides faster access to major European capitals both by train and by flight. They told us that Belgium provides access to a qualified workforce with lower minimum wages compared to the neighboring countries. It seems the cost of living in Belgium is also relatively less. Something to note for Indians: Belgium has a double-taxation treaty with India.
Belgium is not only famous for chocolates, waffles, Tintin & fries but is also popular for its diamonds, mirrors, and leather shoes. They mentioned that a huge community of Indians (particularly Gujaratis) have already settled in Belgium and hold a sizable market share in the diamonds business. Of late, many Indian IT companies have setup operations in the country.
Belgium has a dedicated chamber of commerce for South India and has direct Council presence at Chennai and Bangalore. They also offer the following incentives for new companies wanting to open centers in their country by 2020 –
- First employee (could be the highest paid one too) is tax-free for life.
- Tax exemption for the next five employees for three years.
- Brussels foreign investors hub offers their facilities for free for up to three months for companies wanting to evaluate Belgium to set up their operations.
It seems the Indo-Belgian Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce will shortly open portals to enable buying/selling and acquisition between Indian & Belgian businesses. Listing in these portals is free of cost, according to a speaker. There is an Assist Asia consultancy to help Indians connect with people in the Belgian market.
Belgium seems to be enthusiastic about promoting more cross-country trading between India & Belgium. Are the Indian businesses ready?