Ottawa delegation visits India
Between April 18 and 22, Mayor of the city of Ottawa Jim Watson led a trade mission to India, which showcased Ottawa’s collective strengths in economic development. The 35 member delegation, which had participation from multiple sectors including technology companies, academic institutions, business and tourism associations, visited New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The visit resulted in agreements valued at over $80 million. Capitalizing on the core competencies of Ottawa which is high tech businesses, the mission focused on building trade linkages and attracting investments.
Interacting with newspersons in New Delhi, Mayor Watson drove home the point that the existence of more than 1,700 knowledge-based companies with over 65,000 employees makes Ottawa a great destination for Indian tech firms. He emphasized on the expertise of Canadian companies in select sectors such as clean tech,IT and electronics which can be leveraged in forging closer business collaboration between the two countries.
Mayor Watson also informed about how the city is planning to celebrate the 150th year of Canada next year. Not only are plans afoot to welcome a substantially larger number of tourists, the city is also planning to showcase itself as a great place to set up businesses. He said that the city was expecting 1.7 million additional visitors during the celebrations and expected some $20-30 million spinoffs from the visitations. Among the many events that will mark the celebrations are finals of Red Bull Crashed Ice and Juno awards to be held in the city next year. Furthermore, all art institutions of the city will be putting up special exhibitions; a new science and tech museum is coming up in 2017, National Art Center is being renovated and will open in 2017, the Agha Khan Center for Global Pluralism will be opening in the city in 2017.
Speaking to Governance Today, Mayor Watson elaborated on the issue of how Ottawa has become such a great destination for startups and how Indian companies can benefit from Ottawa’s start up environment. He spoke of how even after 2008 crisis, when lot of tech companies went bust, many techies started their own ventures instead of shifting to other places in the country or US. The reason was they did not want to leave Ottawa because of its lifestyle. Ottawa has more number of startups than any other city in Canada for the last four years and it has received more venture capital than other city in Canada. He mentioned about the can-do attitude of the city when it came to helping startups open and expand. “We offer the red carpet and not the red tape. We are very much responsible in helping companies expand,” he said. Deliberating upon the nature of startups, he said, “Startups anywhere in the world face one common challenge. They don’t have enough money and they have a very short duration of time to prove that their idea is worthy. Where the government can play a role is to make sure that they provide them and surround them with support system so that if it is a good idea, then it is going to have high probability of success.”
Mayor Watson also spoke of the innovation centre that Ottawa is building. It is a one stop-shop for startups that can come in and within six to nine months, can find out whether it is a business idea worth pursuing or not. The centre will open in September-October 2016. On the issue of what Indian cities can learn from Ottawa, he said that Indian municipalities can learn from Ottawa’s ‘Innovation Pilot Program.’ In this program, if a startup company has a technology that can be tested using city hall infrastructure, the city provides the infrastructure for them to come in for free and use it as the demonstration site.