Dipen Rughani, the founder of Newland Global Group (NGG), looks forward to greater synergies between India and Australia in an exclusive interview with our correspondent in Sydney…
Dipen Rughani is the founder and CEO of Australia’s leading corporate advisory firm Newland Global Group (NGG) focused towards simplifying and strengthening trade and investment ties between Australia and India. He led the Australia India Business Council (AIBC) as its National Chairman from 2012 to 2016 and was also President of the New South Wales (NSW) Chapter from 2010 to 2012. Rughani is very passionate and extremely focused towards building stronger trade and investment ties, and promoting people-to-people links between Australia and India.
Rughani shares his journey with us, thoughts on the road ahead for Australia-India ties, and the Indian Australian diaspora’s role in helping India tackle COVID. Excerpts…
Tell us a bit about your life journey, Dipen.
I am a proud Indian Australian for the past 32 years. From my earlier days of childhood spent in Gujarat, to my family’s migration to UK and finally adopting Australia as my permanent home: This has been a journey of reflection, growth, and optimism. I take immense pride in the natural partnership of both Australia and India, based on our mutual understanding, trust, common interests and shared values of democracy and rule of law. I am very proud of my background, my roots, and my heritage. Not to forget mentioning, I am a cricket fan with a strong taste for delectable Indian food. My heritage and background have shaped my personal as well as my professional life. Today I run one of Australia’s leading corporate advisory firms, Newland Global Group, that promotes stronger trade and investment ties between Australia and India. The economic aspect of our relationship has tremendous potential and will be our guiding light moving forward. Something that the Indian Australian diaspora can strongly contribute towards – by globalising and investing in India’s development goals. A call to action and centring the role of what can “I” do for my India.
COVID has changed our world. What role do you see for Australia in India’s growth story?
These are tough times for nations across the globe, but I choose to believe that each crisis is an opportunity to do the inconceivable. The global economy, we firmly hope, will bounce back with stronger grit and determination, stronger coalitions among trusted and transparent countries/partners. Businesses will have to address the challenges of supply chain risks and find as well as create new innovative solutions. There is a distinct opportunity for Australia to be India’s development anchor, supplemented by changing geo-politics and geo-economics. The recent opening of the Oceania division in the Ministry of External Affairs, with Australia at its very centre, shows the clear keenness of the Government of India at a proactive level, supplemented by the latest release of the Australia Economic Strategy, a reciprocal report to Australia’s India Economic Strategy to 2035, which was released in 2018. These reports chart out a clear path for businesses and government to find common grounds to engage and nurture this relationship. The year 2020 was a year of milestones for Australia–India ties, with our relationship elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, stronger personal diplomacy between our Prime Ministers, and a plethora of agreements signed across various industry sectors. The bilateral relationship is very important for both Australia and India. Australia can match its global competitive advantages with India’s priorities and aspirations. New India needs innovation, new technology, and stronger investments for building its transformation goals, as such this is an opportune time when Australia can build a strong dependable partnership with an emerging and like-minded country particularly in the Indo-Pacific. India offers a huge market, young population, cost of doing business is much cheaper and could provide a scale-up platform for many of Australia’s domestic industry sectors. Sectors like Advanced Manufacturing, Critical Minerals, Education Technology, Agri-Processing, Dairy Processing, Mining Equipment and Technology Services, Health, Tech and Sports offer immediate opportunities for Australian businesses in India, as India transitions to create a new growth story based on its initiatives like Smart Cities, Make in India, Startup India, Skill India, Digital India, Ayushman Bharat and Atmanirbhar Bharat. The bilateral ties should focus on building synergies between Australia’s advance technology and Indian skill and demand. I would like both countries to reimagine and redefine this relationship with greater cooperation and collaboration.What will take this forward, is our educated, informed, enthusiastic, and involved Indian diaspora – a living bridge between both nations–who perfectly blend their genetic Indian ethos, values, and competence with their acquired Australian expertise.Governments and businesses, with strong diaspora support, must address drivers and barriers of this relationship and focus on achieving time-bound goals.
What role can the Indian diaspora play in strengthening Australia–India bilateral ties?
At three per cent of the Australian population, Indians are the fastest growing diaspora, Indian-born Australians are expected to outnumber Chinese-born Australians by 2030, reaching 1.4 million (this could potentially happen quicker as immigration will be an important factor for Australia’s post-pandemic recovery). Indians are the second highest taxpaying diaspora in Australia, behind the British. Australia’s Indian diaspora population is most heavily concentrated in the larger states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. I vividly remember, back then in the early 1990s you would consider yourself lucky to treat yourself to a sumptuous North or South Indian thali meal, have masala chai as a top offering in Sydney restaurants or get to witness the festival spirit of Diwali or Holi. We have come a long way from there! The Little India Fair (that happens during Diwali) had a presence of over 30,000 people in October 2019. Today, there are over 100 Indian diaspora organisations in New South Wales alone, catering to the specific needs and cultural diversities of Indian communities. This is a journey that is defined by assimilation, amalgamation, and trust. The Indian Australian diaspora offers a natural advantage of the language skills, cultural understanding and transnational networks that can be utilised in a big way for India’s growth story with its dual role of advisory and advocacy. The Indian community is a microcosm of what India stands for – 29 states and nine Union Territories – each state is a country in itself with diversified culture, and traditions. The Indian diaspora can be utilised to nurture a narrative around culture and the need for developing cultural intelligence. The energy and entrepreneurship of the 700,000-strong, and growing, Indian-origin population in Australia have made significant contributions to Australia’s society and economy, stimulating and influencing trade, investment, technological innovation and knowledge flows between Australia and India, a potent economic force for Australia and a potential enabler in India’s growth story.
How has the Indian community in Australia rallied together to help India at this time of the COVID crisis?
What has stood out in this crisis is the extraordinary resilience and solidarity of the 700,000–strong Indian diaspora’s unifying efforts to raise resources for India. This is happening at all levels–individual, institutional, state, and federal. Australian Indians are donating money, delivering much needed oxygen equipment to individuals and institutions, and have also set up telehealth consultations to beat back the pandemic. Volunteers at our temples have raised money to support India. At institutional level – community organisations like Anoopam Mission Australia, Hindu Council of Australia; business organisations like the Australia India Business Council, India Australia Business and Community Awards; Cricket Australia, and charities have partnered with UNICEF Australia, Red Cross, and Opportunities Australia to raise funds to send medical supplies to India. State governments have announced support for India. The Western Australia government has allocated $2 million in relief funding to support those directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in India. The state of Victoria has announced $41 million worth of aid and medical equipment, including 1,000 ventilators, for India. At the federal level – Australia has provided emergency medical supplies and has been collaborating on healthcare projects. The larger focus has been towards saving lives and livelihoods of people impacted by the vicious second wave.
About your company and the role that you played in the initiative?
In this ‘once in a century crisis’, at Newland Global Group our focus has been to align and utilise Australian expertise for India’s current needs. We are currently assisting one of Australia’s largest PSA oxygen plant manufacturers, who have their global manufacturing facility in Chennai, in ensuring oxygen plant supplies to the Indian government’s public and private hospitals. These requirements are so large, that our team on the ground and in Australia has been working day and night to assist in the best possible way. So far, we have provided oxygen plants to hospitals, charities and corporates. A key point to note here is India’s ‘Make in India’ potential, and how Australian technology expertise is entwined with Indian skills. We are also in the process of assisting a Victoria-based ventilator company to utilise their emergency COVID ventilator technology for Indian production, as a joint venture with a domestic company. The company has last year produced ventilators for Australia’s National Medical stockpile.