It is not tough to get a Gujarati thali in Antwerp, and Navratri is a known festival in the Belgium city. Back home in Gujarat, Dinesh Navadia, a diamond trader, is as comfortable with Antwerp as he is with his hometown Surat.
He may not be a part of the 1,500 Gujaratis settled there, but is a frequent traveller to the European nation. After the traditional zari (value-added textile) business started dwindling in Surat, Gujaratis arrived in the port city of Antwerp in the sixties to work in the diamond polishing centres there. The hardworking community steadily rose in numbers and today controls 80% of the diamond business in Belgium. Jews, the traditional diamond traders, now control only the remaining 20%. The trade is flourishing, and the Belgium government, now looking for investments, wants to extend the relationship to other sectors as well.
Not surprising then that consulate general of Belgium’s trade & investment commissioner Tom Vermeulen chose Ahmedabad over Mumbai and Hyderabad to tap the 3,200-unit strong Gujarat pharma industry that contributes 42% of India’s pharmaceutical turnover and 22% of the country’s exports. The state exports pharma products to over 200 countries.
Says Vermeulen: “The traditional diamond business that exists between Gujarat and Belgium worked as catalyst. A commoner in Belgium is familiar with the Gujarati community, its culture, tradition and even cuisine. Interestingly, the business mentality of the Gujaratis matches with that of an average Belgian”.
Last fortnight, a group of Belgium industrialists and financial experts visited Ahmedabad, to organise a three-day ‘Belgium Road Show’ targeting the Gujarat’s pharma industry. The delegation was hopeful that the Gujarati pharma sector that is increasingly looking at foreign markets would invest in the country and use it as a gateway to Europe, a growing market for the pharma industry.