India’s first ethical sourcing platform has been devised by a Canadian company, Plastics for Change. It uses mobile technology to reduce plastic pollution, create resilient livelihoods and enable global brands and manufacturers to source high-quality plastic from responsible supply chains. The company is developing partnerships with plastic aggregation centers across India that would benefit from price stabilization, working capital finance, standard operating procedures. Locally, it has partnered with Hasiru Dala, a Bengaluru-based waste management services company.
This, says Nicole Girard, Consul General for Canada in Bengaluru, is just one example of several partnerships between Canadian and local Indian partners in areas such as:
- development of SMART solutions for the transportation and transit industry
- development of AI-driven traffic video analytics software for automated road safety analysis
- commercialization of inexpensive battery-free energy harvesting sensors with AI capabilities
- implementation of customer identity management platforms to integrate social media into client web sites
– Nicole Girard, Consul General for Canada in Bengaluru
These initiatives are the result of the Canadian International Innovation Program that helps Canadian startups with their tech adaptation/ validation/ co-development in the Indian market. Going Global Innovation is another Canadian funding program that supports R&D collaboration with India. It enables Canadian startups and universities to pursue joint R&D opportunities abroad to support commercialization of Canadian technology. Both programs enable Indian start-ups to access new technologies and innovation partners to scale up their own businesses.
Canada wants Indians to come there to study and work; at the end of 2018, India was Canada’s largest source of international students (around 170,000 in 2018) and also its fastest-growing tourism market (up 15% in 2018). In the state of Karnataka itself, there are over 70 known MoUs across 8 cities with 40 Canadian education institutions. Notable examples in Bengaluru include the University of British Columbia with Tech Mahindra (data analytics) and University of Alberta with Infosys (global academic partnerships).
Points out Girard, “Canada has emerged as an innovation powerhouse, anchored by world-class universities and growing clusters of emerging technologies such as AI, Cybersecurity, Fintech, and Cleantech. Over 500 AI companies, largely startups, are based in Canada to access local talent and global markets. Toronto now has the world’s highest concentration of AI startups, Montreal has the world’s highest concentration of Deep Learning students and researchers. Other cities, such as Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa, are also developing world-class AI clusters of their own.”
The Government of Canada plans to expand the Canadian Technology Accelerator program overseas, and it would include a new location in India by 2020, which would support more Canadian and Indian startups engaging in each other’s innovation ecosystems.
Bengaluru is certainly a key centre for Canada’s bilateral initiatives, and now has the 6th Indian hub established under the successful Canada-India Accelerator Program (CIAP), at an innovation centre to support Canadian tech startups started by the Carleton University (of Ottawa, Canada) and the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-B). In 2018, five Bengaluru-based startups travelled to Canada as winners of the Zone Startups ‘Next Big Idea’ contest. Their bespoke program comprised soft-landing, meeting with sector experts, investor connects, business development opportunities, mentoring & networking. “We hope to see even greater success from Bengaluru startups in 2019”, says Girard. The Consulate is working with a local Indian VC firm to fund Canadian startups to support efforts to address social and environmental challenges in India.
Sums up Girard, “Our message to Indian startups has been unwavering: Canada is the ideal location to scale-up a global tech startup for these four compelling reasons:
- Access to global markets – Canada has free trade agreements with countries representing over half the world’s GDP. Increasingly, Indian companies are choosing Canada as their preferred location to serve the North American market.
- Access to talent – Canada has the most educated and ethnically diverse workforce in the world; over 55% of the population having a post-secondary education. Our network of high-quality universities and research institutes position Canada to be a leader in the development of exponential technologies, such as AI, Robotics, and Quantum Computing.
- Access to innovation ecosystems – competitive business fundamentals have attracted a growing number of global tech giants to Canada. In 2018 alone, over 20 AI foreign expansions into Canada were announced, including key investments by GM, Microsoft, Samsung, LG, Intel, Uber, and Facebook.
- Access to quality of life – Canada is currently viewed as a hotbed for talent and innovation thanks to its open immigration policy and acceptance of diversity. One in five Canadians are foreign-born and 1.3M Canadians (~ 3% of the population) trace their roots back to India.
Simultaneously, the Consulate-General in Bengaluru is working hard to encourage more Canadian companies to look beyond traditional business centres in Mumbai and Delhi to increase their engagement in South India. There are currently 60+ Canadian firms active in Karnataka and Girard wants this number to go up.