The potential for further growth in commercial relations between India and Hong Kong is great as the trading partners appear to have only scratched the surface of a huge market. Momentum is building up as statistics reveal a rising tide of trade between the two. Last year, India's bilateral trade with Hong Kong totalled US$3.91 billion (HK$30.4 billion), a growth of 18 per cent over the previous year. Exports grew by 18.4 per cent to US$2.62 billion, while India's imports from Hong Kong increased 17.7 per cent to US$1.29 billion. India's exports to Hong Kong include pearls, precious and semi-precious stones; textile yarn and cotton fabrics; leather; medicinal and pharmaceutical products; flat-rolled products of alloy steel; jewellery; synthetic and organic colouring matter; electrical power machinery and parts; and fish. The bulk of these goods imported into Hong Kong is re-exported. Last year, the value of these re-exports through Hong Kong was US$1.35 billion, of which US$497 million worth of goods were re-exported to the mainland via Hong Kong. India's top imports from Hong Kong include pearls, precious and semi-precious stones; silver and platinum; semi-conductors; electronic valves and tubes; telecommunications equipment and parts. In addition, Hong Kong also exports office machine parts and accessories; textiles; watches and clocks to India. 'The Indian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is a vital conduit for trade between Hong Kong and India. We are the middlemen who can simplify and facilitate the process of two-way trade,' said chairman Raj Sital. He added that in May the chamber signed a memorandum of understanding with the Confederation of Indian Industry to set up an office in Hong Kong. The joint organisation's aim is to promote bilateral trade in China. It will also set up an office in the mainland. As part of its activities to boost bilateral trade with India, the chamber also participated in a trade mission to the country in March, led by the chairman of the Trade Development Council, Peter Woo Kwong-ching. The focus of the trip was to create synergies between small- and medium-sized enterprises in both Hong Kong and India. Next year the chamber, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, plans to hold a series of events, including a trade fair and a number of lectures by leading personalities. It will also hold a road show of Indian products in Hong Kong and southern China. In other areas, such as the IT sector, there has been limited collaboration between the two. Indian IT companies, many of which are acknowledged global leaders in this sector, have traditionally focused on North America and Europe. It is only very recently that they started to focus on Hong Kong as the ideal gateway to the vast China market. Realising India's strengths in IT, the Hong Kong government also signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) on IT co-operation with India last year. 'This MOU has created an enhanced awareness of the capabilities and needs of the two partnering countries and has given a major fillip to the building of closer relationships in this sector,' said Ananth Padmanabhan, country head of NIIT Hong Kong, an Indian IT consultancy. 'We are in discussion on areas for co-operation with the prospective customers in governments and private sector. We have been operating successfully in this region since 1992. While NIIT was servicing Hong Kong clients before the Hong Kong office was set up a little over a year ago.' The Asia-Pacific region contributes about 25 per cent of the company's overseas business amounting to US$30 million-$35 million, he said. 'NIIT is also gearing up to enhance its IT education business by expanding its education centre network in all markets, including China,' he said. Recognising the importance of this region, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) recently consolidated its Asia-Pacific operations by establishing its regional headquarters in Singapore. It now has eight offices: in Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Ho Chi Minh City, Melbourne, Sydney and Wellington. Currently, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for nine per cent of TCS export revenues with several key client relationships. 'TCS recently entered into an alliance with Sweden's Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, Ankar Capital Management, Compass Venture and McKinsey & Co. The alliance provides wealth management products and services to leading banks and institutions in 13 Asian countries (including South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan) using the Internet as a communication and delivery channel in conjunction with the banks' existing distribution networks. The initiative, which leveraged TCS domain expertise in the banking and financial services area marks the company's foray into developing and managing a product and service that can be used by various Asian banks to manage customer migration to the Internet,' said Narayan Iyer, resident manager of TCS Hong Kong. Infosys Technologies opened its Hong Kong office more than a year ago. 'We are focused on Fortune listed global corporations and large Asian multinationals to provide IT-led business transformation,' said Vineet Toshniwal, Infosys business development manager for Southeast Asia. 'We are also focused on large financial institutions, telecommunications service providers and retail chains,' he said, adding that Asia-Pacific accounts for about 7 per cent of its revenue.