India has launched a major private sector initiative called the Saudi-India Business Network (SIBN) with the goal of advancing economic and commercial cooperation with Saudi Arabia. The SIBN will go a long way in promoting commercial engagement between the Kingdom and India with focus on supporting initiatives and business outreach programs to strengthen ties in different sectors.
The embassy of India in Riyadh held a virtual launching ceremony, wherein Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed inaugurated the network’s website available on http://sibnksa.com/. The event began with his address during which he apprised that the embassy is launching the SIBN as part of the growing economic and commercial ties between India and the Kingdom.
“Since the bilateral relations have witnessed an upward trajectory in recent times in almost all spheres and both the countries are now strategic partners, it is very important and timely that the business leaders of both countries work closely under an institutionalized mechanism to further this relationship,” said Ambassador Dr Sayeed.
The event, conducted by Ritu Yadav of Indian embassy, was attended virtually by about 200 Saudi and Indian businessmen including top-notch business executives, journalists and leaders of the Indian community. Hamna Mariyam Khan joined the virtual launching ceremony from Indian Consulate in Jeddah and gave vote of thanks. Both Yadav and Khan are also chief coordinating officers of SIBN.
Addressing the launching ceremony, Ambassador Dr Sayeed said “it will be a country-wide expansion of SIBN organization already functioning in Jeddah for the last many years which has proved to be a successful model conducting several activities by the business communities of both countries.”
The newly-proposed SIBN will have chapters based in Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah with a national executive committee and chapter-wise committees. The ambassador, with long time experience of having worked in Saudi Arabia, explained that the expansion of the network was a necessity and long overdue as the economic relations between the two friendly nations have grown multifold and the bilateral commercial activities have spread across the kingdom.
The move to set up SIBN chapters in three major cities of the Kingdom is significant keeping in view the progressively growing relations between Riyadh and New Delhi. The two-way trade between the Kingdom and India exceeded $33 billion during 2019-2020 financial year with India’s exports to the Kingdom registering an increase of 13%, rising to US$ 6.2 billion from US$ 5.5 billion last year. India emerged as the second-largest trading partner of Saudi Arabia in 2019, a testimony to India’s favoured status as an economic partner of the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia continues to play a pivotal role as a reliable and long-term energy partner of India.
To this end, it is important to mention that mutual investments between the two countries have been increasing consistently. There are 476 Indian companies present in the Kingdom which have made investments to the tune of $ 1.1 billion. Last year, the largest number of FDI licenses issued by the Saudi Ministry of Investment was to the Indian companies.
Moreover, important interactions between the leadership of the two countries have been taking place virtually, such as the G-20 Virtual Summit that was held in March. As part of the roll-out of the Strategic Partnership Council, the two sides held meetings under the Joint Working Groups of IT & technology, Agriculture & Food Security, and Energy & Industry.
Spelling out details of the SIBN, Ambassador Dr Sayeed said that the SIBN will consist of prominent Indian businessmen and professionals based in the Kingdom and their Saudi counterparts engaged with India. The ambassador further pointed out that the organization aims to provide a platform for the promotion of trade and commerce in different sectors and encourage two-way investments. He added it would act as “an interface to apprise Indian companies of the vast opportunities being offered in the Kingdom and the same to the Saudi business community in India”.
Speaking on this occasion, SIBN President Abdullah M. Kassabi, chief executive of Al Musheera Group, thanked the envoy for taking forth the network to a pan-Saudi level. He emphasized that existence of this unique platform will facilitate collaboration among the business entities of the both the countries and thus help in pushing the bilateral economic relations. President of the regional chapter of SIBN in Riyadh Khaled Al Aboodi, a prominent economist with 35 years of work experience with multilateral development finance institutions and private sector, congratulated the embassy for making SIBN’s launching ceremony a success while adapting to the COVID situation.
Mazen Batterjee, chairman of Batterjee Holding Company, who will now lead the regional chapter of SIBN in Jeddah shared his experience of being connected with SIBN since 2006. He agreed with the ambassador regarding the importance of the network’s expansion while adding that it will provide much needed support to the business people of Saudi Arabia and India throughout the country.
In his address, President of the Dammam chapter of SIBN Hassan Al Qahtani, Founder and CEO of AWJ Energy, highlighted the significance of including Dammam as a regional chapter as the Eastern Province is a major hub of industrial activities. The program also included introductory speeches by office bearers of the regional committees. A brief presentation about SIBN is available at https://youtu.be/ru8srEUsH0Q.
The event was also addressed by top officials as well as Saudi and Indian community stalwarts like Johar Gagannagari, Suddeek Ahmed, Nadeem Tarin, Owais Ahmed, Rajiv Shukla, Adil Sanai, Hassan Al-Qahtani, Vijay Soni, Ravi Krishnan, Maha Alateeki, Sudhir Sreedharan, Naushad Ansari, and Abood Bamokarah.