LAHORE: Woodworks company Interwood Mobel (IWM) Pakistan has set up a subsidiary in India and has become the first Pakistani company to enter into a joint venture with an Indian company. Having received “an overwhelming response” to its maiden showroom in Amritsar under the banner of IWM India, the company is gearing up to open the second showroom in Chandigarh.
The move comes at a time both the South Asian neighbours are desperately striving to normalize trade relations, even in the face of opposition from some political and business actors on both sides of the border, in line with the Aman ki Asha peace effort jointly initiated by the Jang Group and Times of India.
According to Farooq A Malik, chairman of IWM Pakistan and India, despite the hiccups and visa-related issues faced by the people of the two countries, IWM Pakistan is continuing with its untiring efforts to increase the exports of Pakistan-made wooden items in India. “The potential is huge,” he said.
“Interwood is competing with all Indian local, Chinese and Malaysian products in India with its competitive prices and quality of goods offered,” Malik said, adding that despite 30 to 33 percent duties paid by the Pakistani wood work company in India, the price is still competitive due to its quality.
“Some of the Sri Lankan brands are providing C-category wooden products in India as compared to Pakistani A-category stuff at the same price, thus making the Pakistani product the most attractive option for Indian users,” he further added.
“To begin with, we focused on the Amritsar market but after getting an overwhelming response, we are expanding business to other parts of Indian Punjab, reaching Chandigarh and Ludhiana too,” said Malik.
Tapping the Indian Punjab markets makes sense for those traders looking to cross the Wagah-Attari border. The connectivity ensures that items produced in Pakistan’s Punjab can reach India within three to four days.
“The items imported from China, Sri Lanka or Malaysia to Indian Punjab take too much time and thus, doing business with Pakistan is more productive than other parts of the world,” said Shamsher Singh Mavi, a builder from Ludhiana who was part of a 20-member delegation of the Ludhiana Builders Association currently in Lahore for a three-day visit at the invitation of IWM.
The invite was designed to introduce builders to the range of IWM products so as to make deeper inroads into the Indian construction industry.
“IWM Pakistan products are far ahead of any similar product produced anywhere in the world,” said Malik. “IWM Pakistan is using the finest materials in the world and producing wooden items on modern Italian and German machines,” he said. “We use imported raw materials and therefore our products are at par with European and US standards,” Malik said, trotting out figures to illustrate his prices competitiveness over rivals.
According to Malik, the Indian consumer is willing to pay for good quality products but remains unaware about A-category wooden stuff due to its non availability. “They are buying C-category products at A-category rate, but now the IWM India is introducing quality wooden objects to Indian consumers. And our price, quality, designing and product development give Pakistan an edge over its competitors.”
However, despite these successes, Malik remains frustrated by the visa issue, citing it as the biggest hurdle in improving Pak-India relations. “The stamped visa of my son was cancelled and my daughter has been issued a police reporting visa in the past. Even our employees who are to be trained in Pakistan are often not issued visas.”
“With an easy visa regime our experts and labourers could go to India to install equipment and transfer knowledge,” said Malik. “I had asked the Prime Minister of Pakistan during his visit to an Interwood showroom to ensure the smooth issuance of visa to Indian business community. When Indian businesspersons come to Pakistan to do business, the benefits will be transferred across the border, which will change the mindset of Indian authorities with regards to the visa issuance.”
Echoing similar concerns, Harvenar Singh Virdi, president of LBA, said that Indians who want to meet Pakistanis cannot do so because of the visa restrictions.
An Indian in Pakistan
LAHORE: Twenty-two-year-old Tanya Chopra, an employee of IWM India, has managed to get the visa that allows her to undergo a one-month training programme at the IWM’s head office in Pakistan.
Chopra, who is studying fashion design at an Indian university, joined Interwood as an internee but later got a fulltime job at the company.
Terming the training a lifetime opportunity, she says her family was very excited about her visit to Pakistan. “My father visited Pakistan in his youth and still harbours great love for the country,” she said. “I feel as if I’m living at my home; there is no difference and people are loving, caring and friendly.”
Chopra’s affinity to Pakistan makes sense; her grandparents migrated from Chiniot to Amritsar.
About her training experience, she wished that more and more Indian employees should be given an opportunity of learning new skills in Pakistan. —Jawwad Rizvi
Source: The NEWS