Academic Martin Hříbek: Czechia needs to build on traditional brands in India

Photo: Pogaface, Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček completes his three-day official visit to India on Wednesday, during which he and his delegation primarily sought to strengthen mutual ties, especially in business. Martin Hříbek from Charles University’s Institute of South and Central Asia points out that while bilateral ties go a long way back, in many areas relations had to be rebuilt from scratch after 1989.

Martin Hříbek,  photo: Dominik Čejka / Czech Radio
“After the Velvet Revolution there was a really sharp decline in the visibility of Czechoslovakia in India. The division of the country led to a further fragmentation of our missions and a scaling back of our representation in India.

“It wasn’t until we joined the EU that we can once again see an upward trend, which has culminated in recent years.

“After a visit by the president of India, Ram Nath Kovind, to the Czech Republic in 2018, we have seen a string of high-level visits between the two countries, including visits by our prime minister and currently our minister of foreign affairs.”

Today, India is one of our biggest trading partners in Asia. What are the main commodities exported to India from the Czech Republic?

“It has been mostly machinery and vehicle parts, partly also products of the chemical industry and sophisticated research equipment.

Photo: Pogaface,  Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0
“Some of the most well-known Czech brands in India are Škoda cars, of course, and Tatra trucks, which serve as mobile launchers of missiles for the Indian Army.

“Also Czech glass is very famous. That’s a tradition that goes back to the times of the Maharajas. They used to buy chandeliers made in Bohemia. Even nowadays, Bohemian Crystal has a very good name in India and it’s quite an important part of export as well.”

What about imports from the Asian subcontinent? What do you think Indian companies find interesting about the Czech Republic?

“What India exports to the Czech Republic is mostly textiles, which make up a large part of the exports, but also pharmaceuticals, iron pipes and metal products.

“But increasingly, a larger proportion of Indian export to the Czech Republic are products with higher added value and also some agricultural products, such as grapes, rice, leather, and so on.“

Ahead of his trip, Mr Petříček said that the main goal was to broaden relations, especially in the economic field. In what areas do you see potential for further cooperation between the Czech Republic and India?

“I think the potential is really underdeveloped, if you look at the size of India and the size of Czech trade in India compared to Czech trade with the rest of the world.

Tomáš Petříček,  photo: ČTK/AP/Virginia Mayo
“There is, I think, potential in tourism. There is big potential in those products which we have traditionally been able to place in India, for example Jawa motorbikes.

“They have been really famous in India and they are really popular. Even today you have clubs of old bikers with the old Jawa motorbikes. That’s something which has been revived in recent years.

“If that picks up, if we can really follow the tradition which we used to have in those brands, then I think that could lead to a big boost in trade relations.”