Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
State officials will aggressively pursue opening an office in India in the coming year if funds permit, said Craig Lesser, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“India is on our agenda for 2007 and beyond,” Mr. Lesser said at an Oct. 31 business conference organized by the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce at Georgia State University’s Speaker’s Auditorium.

“There is absolutely no reason for us not to pursue an aggressive Indian strategy, except for one – resources,” Mr. Lesser told an audience of some 50 businesspeople with ties to India. “Funding is going to be a critical issue.”

A Georgia office in India would be the state’s 12th international office, following on the heels of a site in Beijing that is expected to open in the first quarter of 2007. State legislators appropriated $250,000 to start up the Beijing office, which includes costs associated with hiring a local employee and designating space for a new office, according to the department.

Local businesspeople should encourage state legislators to also put aside funding for a similar office in India, Mr. Lesser told conference attendees, who had gathered to learn more about doing business in India.

Also attending the conference was V.S. Seshadri, Indian minister of commerce to the United States, who was enthusiastic about a stronger business relationship with Georgia.

“The state of Georgia is well poised to be a good partner with India,” said Mr. Seshadri, who in the coming months will be leaving his post at the Indian Embassy in Washington to become his country’s ambassador to Slovenia.

During a presentation at the conference, he said that India is looking to U.S. investors as it improves its agricultural research capabilities, as well as its power, telecommunications and transportation infrastructure.

Creating links in the logistics industry and building on common business interests could be beneficial to the economy of both locales, Mr. Lesser said.

“We can find links together through ports, airports and commercial interests… and ensure that we own those relationships,” he said.

As an example, he suggested that Georgia and India build on their common ties with the Seoul, Korea-based Kia Motors Corp.

Kia, which is expected to open a $1.2 billion plant in West Point by 2009, is also considering opening a manufacturing plant in India. Hyundai Motors Co., which like Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, already has a manufacturing plant in India and is the second largest car manufacturer in the country.

Additionally, Mr. Lesser urged Delta Air Lines Inc. to open a direct flight between Atlanta and a city in India to encourage economic activity. The airline opened its first route to Mumbai from New York Nov. 1.

State officials have been focused on securing a Delta route between Atlanta and Beijing as well as fostering stronger business and political ties with China.

But increased business ties with India will also benefit the state, and an active, organized Indian community in Atlanta could help build the state’s relationship with the country, according to Kenneth Cutshaw, honorary consul general for India in Atlanta.

After Mr. Lesser’s presentation, Indian chamber representatives even extended state officials an invitation to join them on a 10-day trade mission to the country in January.

According to Mr. Lesser, Georgia’s exports to India have nearly doubled since 2000, increasing from $83 million to $160 million in 2005. By the end of the second quarter of 2006, Georgia had already exported $87 million worth of products. Top exports to India include computer products, electronics, heavy machines and chemicals.

Ten India-based companies have also invested in Georgia including software producer Infosys Technologies Ltd., tractor manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and pharmaceuticals research company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.

In addition to Mr. Lesser and Mr. Seshardi, the conference attendees also heard from representatives from law firm Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia State.

For more information on the conference, contact Susan Stottlemyer, executive director of the chamber at