Business Monday

My View: Namaste, Miami! Dalé, India! The Miami-India connection becoming a rapid reality

Neha Dagley
Neha Dagley

When I first moved to the west coast of the United States from Mumbai as a teenager, I would never have imagined that one day I would call Miami my home, much less be pondering over the immediate future of trade relations between India and Miami. But, India is the world’s largest democracy with the second largest population in the world, and one of the fastest growing economies. And, strategically located Miami, with its abundant skilled, multicultural workers, serves as the economic and financial connection to Latin America and the Caribbean. Both India and Miami have been making their respective marks in the world in recent years, with a common denominator of progress, it seems almost natural for the two economies to flourish together.

Moreover, with Shri Narendra Modi taking the reigns as Prime Minister of India earlier this year, all eyes have been on India. In his widely-quoted “Make in India” speech, P.M. Modi expressed the government’s resolve to turn India into a manufacturing hub, urging the world: "Come, make in India. Be it plastics or cars or satellites or agricultural products, come make in India."

There are several factors that will come into play for the growth of bilateral trade relations between Miami and India. Two key factors are the expansion of the Panama Canal and the extensive renovations to PortMiami. The Panama Canal expansion is expected to double the waterway’s capacity, allowing transit of vessels over 13,000 TEUs. As the Panama Canal expands, PortMiami is preparing to accommodate via $2billion in renovations, including a project to deepen the port’s existing channel. This is significant in terms of zeroing in on PortMiami as the only U.S. port south of Norfolk, Virginia to accommodate mega cargo vessels. As India continues to rise through the ranks of top exporters, the canal expansion and port improvements will play critical roles in capturing a larger share of containerized imports from India. This will, in turn, impact and expand the export markets for Florida businesses into India.

The expansion of PortMiami may also have a positive impact on India’s trade with Latin America. India has announced that it seeks to strengthen trade relations with Latin America in order to expand its export industry. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Modi participated in the Sixth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known collectively by the acronym BRICS) Summit of Heads of State and of Government of BRICS held in Brazil, where the creation of a joint development bank, known as the BRICS Development Bank, was announced. Notably, the CEO of the new bank is likely to be Indian. The strengthening of trade relations between India and Latin America will also directly impact Miami — the trade and financial hub for Latin America.

With the confidence stemming from the new government, the outward foreign direct investment from Indian firms bears the promise of substantial growth. With its various geopolitical advantages, Miami can serve to attract these Indian firms in various sectors, ranging from biotech to real estate. The current trend reflects an increase in wealth generation. Reports indicate that India’s wealthiest are going to become wealthier with their net worth expected to quadruple over the coming years. As noted in Forbes Asia earlier this year, for the first time, India’s 100 richest of 2014 are all billionaires. Capturing India’s outward foreign direct investment will impact Florida businesses, small and large. These inward bound businesses will not only create jobs, but will create business for small and mid-size companies providing professional and other services in the South Florida area. This trend is reflected in our own clientele at Salazar Jackson LLP, as the number of Indian firms and individuals seeking legal services in Miami increases.

Miami is well-equipped, and no stranger, to capture the attention and wealth of outsiders. For decades, South Florida has been a sought-out destination for jetsetters, and can soon become a playground for India’s rich. In recent years, Bollywood has propagated and projected the Miami image on the minds and hearts of Indian people worldwide. In 2008, Dostana became the first Bollywood movie to be filmed entirely in Miami, consisting of an all-star cast. In 2013, Indian recording artist Priyanka Chopra released a song with none other than Mr. 305 aka Pitbull himself. The song contains both English and Hindi lyrics and the video was filmed in Miami. These are subtle, yet real indicators and perhaps even motivators, of the bridging trade and cultural gap between India and Miami.

While they may be oceans apart, Miami and India continue to make their mark on the world map, and together they have the potential of being a perfect match, economically and culturally.

Neha Dagley is a senior counsel with Salazar Jackson LLP, heading its India Practice Group. She can be reached at dagley@salazarjackson.com.

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