Australian Consul-general in Mumbai
- What is your current role?
I’ve been Consul-general in Mumbai since the middle of 2010. Prior to that I was in Canberra heading the Pacific Task Force during the year we shared CHOGM.
- What are your day-to-day activities as Consul-general in Mumbai?
As Consul-general you’re really managing a process that has many functions. We obviously have a trade promotion and trade investment function. We also have the consular functions like issuing passports to Australians, in addition to a policy area. One of the major tasks for that at the moment is what in commercial terms would be called a branding exercise - building a stronger and more positive image of Australia in India. The bilateral relationship with India in recent years has been somewhat thin, so we’re trying develop a range of linkages that will involve as many people as possible from both sides.
- What is your advice to Australian businesses going to India?
One of the most important differences between Indians and Australians is a question of patience. Things occur comparatively slowly in India and if we are to operate here we have to learn patience. Australians are not good at being patient. The advice I give to businesspeople when they come into India is first take your time. But the first, second and third most important things are due diligence, due diligence and due diligence. The most important decision that businesses make is who they partner with. If you make the right decision then things will work, if you make the wrong decision then it’s very difficult to rectify the situation.
- How important is Mumbai to the Indian economy?
Mumbai is the city in India that makes things happen and Delhi is the city that stops things happening. Mumbai provides 30% of the income tax collected in India. It’s the financial centre, it’s the headquarters of most of the big corporates so it’s a city of money and because of that the city is more cosmopolitan. It has a wider range of cultural activities and more restaurants and bars. It has a different feel to many of the other cities of India.
- How can cultural links between Australia and India be increased?
We have a number of educational linkages but we have a dearth in the cultural, sporting and social areas. Our objective is to broaden the relationship and to find ways to change the image of Australia. Indians have a very outdated image of Australia and Australians have a very outdated image of India.
The government has a role to play in this but its also about educating the media to carry other sorts of stories rather than what they see as pure news stories, which are often rather negative stories. We have got to find ways of getting the positive side of India through to Australia and of Australia through to India.
Cricket sometimes is a maligned element however it is something very useful because Indians are highly interested in cricket. They have three 24 hour cricket TV stations. It is a stepping stone to build the relationship and we have got to use that to move forward and get people to Australia.
Consul General Steve Waters responds in detail to some of the above questions.