Chennai: Latvia, an EU state, welcomes Indian students and filmmakers with open arms. “Education is a cost-efficient product and we are happy to offer it to genuine Indian students of engineering and medicine,” said the Latvian Ambassador to India Artis Bertulis.
In a freewheeling chat with the media in Chennai where he has come to further India-Latvia business ties, the envoy was most forthcoming on his country’s strengths and what it can offer as the gateway to the 500 million EU population. His beautiful little country also offers excellent, pristine locales for cinema shooting and Mr Bertulis says Indian filmmakers are most welcome to come and shoot there.
“There are 1,233 Indian students studying in my country and they can move on to jobs in Latvia and EU if they wish. The doctors can practice in EU too,” he says in promoting his country as a premier education destination for aspiring youngsters looking for quality degrees. “And it has international cuisines too,” he points out. Considering there is no capitation fee involved in signing up for medical degrees, Latvia presents itself as a very good option for aspiring Indian doctors.
Even as food is said to be cheap by European standards, the country has five Indian restaurants already, says Mr N. Ramachandran, Honorary Consul for Latvia in Chennai. The IT major Cognizant has 300 employees stationed in Riga and Latvia has a strong services industry accounting for 70 % of its GDP.
Agent Vinodwas shot there, so too parts of a few Tamil films. What impresses Japanese filmmakers most in Latvia is the winter season with plenty of snow, during which they can shoot their World War I and II films on excellent locales. This amuses Mr Bertulis who sees his country as one that offers three ice-free ports of 17 metre depth and a significantly strategic location on the trade route to the Balkans, Russia and China as well as the EU.
Latvia offers cost-effective logistics by sea and rail to cover long distances. Even though it is 4,000 miles away from India (8 hours via Helsinki by air), it still offers economical container movement to several countries, Mr Bertulis explains.
Its main airport in the capital Riga also serves upto 7 million passengers in a year, which is impressive for a country of just 2 million people. He said he could get his personal effects into his New Delhi posting within 36 hours by air cargo, which is proof of his country’s efficiency in logistics.
Latvia is also a gateway to Kazakhstan, with which country India’s trade touches $2 billion, and the country sees itself as a transshipment point. Having come through the economic crisis post-2008, Latvia sees itself as a positive country that does not necessarily like overheating economies even as it aspires for double digit growth, although from a low base, says Mr Bertulis. In keeping with that sunny outlook, the envoy sees his outfit in India, with three honorary consuls in Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai, as a bridge between Indian industry and the logistics and connectivity that Latvia offers.
“What are you waiting for?” may well have been the line he teased members of Chennai’s business community with in a meeting at the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry....