By Vishnu Makhijani
Helsinki : Finland, the land of Nokia, could soon import mobile phones from India.
"I can foresee a day when Finland could begin importing mobile phones from India", where Nokia has set up a $150 million manufacturing plant near Chennai, said Matti Pietarinen, deputy director general in the Finnish ministry of trade and industry.
"I can foresee a situation where Nokia begins sourcing more expensive models (from its Chennai facility) for European and US markets and less expensive ones for Asia and the Middle East," Pietarinen told IANS in an interview here.
Nokia, which has plans to develop India as one of its major exporting hubs, plans to sell four billion handsets globally by 2010, a majority of which will be in emerging Asian markets like India and China.
India is strategically a very important market for Nokia. The telecom industry in India is growing at a rate like never before, with some three million mobile handsets being purchased every month.
Nokia is not the only factor in pushing Finland-India trade that currently stands at a little over 400 million euros (Rs.21 billion), the balance tilting in favour of this Nordic nation.
"The prospects are positive," Pietarinen maintained, though he would not hazard an estimate on what the figures could rise to.
"I would say the prospects are rather positive in the short and medium term and in the long term anything can happen," he added.
During 2005, the last year for which complete figures are available, Finland's exports to India stood at 275 million euros, with power generating machinery and equipment accounting for a major share of the pie at 63 million euros.
Paper and paperboard accounted for 42 million euros, specialised machinery for 39 million euros, general industrial machinery for 28 million euros, telecommunications and sound recording equipment for 27 million euros, and electrical machinery and parts for 21 million euros.
Of Finland's imports of 132 million euros from India, apparent and clothing accounted for 20 million euros, textile yarn, fabrics and made up articles for eight million euros, medicinal and pharmaceutical products for seven million euros, and organic chemicals for five million euros.
"The focus is slowly shifting away from textiles," Pietarinen noted, pointing to the increasing numbers of Indian companies that have begun to invest in Finland.
The most notable of these is Tata Consultancy Services, one of the largest Indian companies present in the Finnish market that at any given time employs around 100 locals.
This apart, Infosys Technologies has been operating in Finland since 2006, while Wipro Technologies has strengthened its presence here with the acquisition of a Finnish mobile software company.
In the reverse direction, more than 70 Finnish countries currently operate in India, up from 30 at the beginning of the decade, while another 100-odd firms export their products to India or operate in the market through local agents.
It's not only Nokia that has managed to establish a foothold in the Indian market. For instance, energy major Wartsila that started production in the mid-1980s, has managed to garner a market share of 70 percent for its power plants.
Finpro, the Finland Trade Centre in India, is now working to diversify the portfolio by encouraging Finnish investments in areas like IT and communication technology, infrastructure and logistics, retail, healthcare and well-being, energy and environment, and forestry.
Then, there is the tie-up between the Himalayan Ski Village (HSV), a 350 million euro resort US billionaire Alfred Ford is setting up near Manali in Himachal Pradesh and a slew of Finnish companies in the areas of environmentally sustainable tourism, ecological snow management, resort development, ski equipment and best operational practices.
"Finland reached out to us and made it easy for us to connect with their businesses," said HSV managing director John Sims of the Finpro-facilitated effort.
After a series of meetings, a "matchmaking" seminar is to be held in India in October followed by the formal launching of FINEC or Finnish Ecological Construction for India that will focus on developing ski resorts in India, explained Ville Skinnari, an official who is involved in the project.
Skinnari is the director for business development for Naturpolis, the semi-government Nordic Business Centre located in the municipality of Kuusamo in the Lapland area of northern Finland.
"As you can see, the sky is the limited for our economic interaction," ministry official Pietarinen pointed out.