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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 14:54 GMT
India eyes European tech market
Software engineers in India
Indian IT professionals will need new skills
By BBC News Online's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi

India has urged European nations to let in more Indian information technology and software experts.

During a summit between the European Union and India, both sides identified IT as one of the priority areas for joint co-operation.

India is seeking greater access to Europe for its IT professionals, and has voiced concerns that the American market is no longer as lucrative following the 11 September attacks.

Unfortunately, visa restrictions often come in the way of Indian software professionals being able to provide their expertise

Atal Behari Vajpayee, Indian Prime Minister
Britain and Germany are among European countries seeking to attract more computer professionals from India.

Speaking at an EU-India business summit, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Indian software professionals were in great demand in the international market including Europe.

"Unfortunately, visa restrictions often come in the way of Indian software professionals being able to provide their expertise," Mr Vajpayee said.

The statement came as the EU and India released a joint vision statement on IT, which recognised the field as a significant area for greater co-operation.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Germany is easing visa rules

On Thursday, European Commission President Romano Prodi said there would be no discrimination against Indians while issuing visas.

Concerns have been raised recently after the European Parliament agreed to standardise immigration procedures in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

But Mr Prodi said any new policy on immigration would "largely evolve around skills, whether it is IT or any other service sector".

Looking at Europe

Last month the German Interior Minister, Otto Schilly, announced that immigration rules would be relaxed to facilitate the entry of Indian software experts.

India's software industry is hoping to develop Europe as a destination for its skills and products.

We also need to be able to understand the business practices of Europe better

Kiran Karnik, Nasscom chief

Although the US remains India's biggest software customer, with about 60% of total exports, there are concerns that this could change following the World Trade Center attacks and the slowdown in the US economy that preceded it.

But Kiran Karnik, chief of India's main software industry trade body, told BBC News Online that the interest in Europe had been developing for some time.

Mr Karnik, head of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), said the European software industry had been growing at a faster rate than the US's in recent months.

"We have been actively trying to build partnerships with European companies and improve our exports which are currently at 24%," he said.

New skills

But industry analysts believe India has to develop special skills, particularly involving languages, to be able to succeed in the European market.

Already, many companies are sending their personnel on courses to study European languages such as German and Spanish.

"We also need to be able to understand the business practices of Europe better," Mr Karnik said, adding that there were key differences between the European and US markets.

The BBC's Alistair Lawson
discusses the trade issues raised by Europe's Pascal Lamy and India's Atal Vajpayee
See also:

20 Nov 01 | Business
London woos Indian tech companies
07 Nov 01 | Business
India software exports slow down
30 Aug 01 | Business
Indian software giant targets Europe
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