AFTER LAUNCHING a series of ambitious projects in states such as Maharashtra and Bihar under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, Bulgaria, the scenic gateway to Europe, is now exploring business opportunities in the region.
Here on a three-day visit, Eleonora Dimitrova, the Bulgarian ambassador, says she is looking forward to forging trade ties with the region besides appointing an honorary consul to Punjab, to make up for what she calls “the lost year”.
Earlier in the year, Aero India 2021 gave the first woman ambassador of Bulgaria to India a reason to cheer when Bulgarian firms inked agreements with Indian companies such as Bharat Dynamics to manufacture among others a sophisticated system to fend off bird hits under the Make in India umbrella. “India is the biggest market for our defence industry, our exports to India include armaments, ammunition, jammers, anti-drone systems et al,” explains Dimitrova.
In the region, the country that prides itself on offering multilingual graduate and post-graduate courses, is hoping to expand its footprint in the education sector. “Bulgaria is a great destination for Indian students many of whom study medicine in our varsities. We plan to give a presentation to the Punjab government about other fields such as engineering and IT which could excite students,” says Dimitrova, adding how Bulgarian IT company EXCITEL is the fastest growing broadband provider in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Jaipur.
On the engineering front, she says Bulgaria is the auto hub of the European Union. “At present, auto parts in 8 out of 10 cars made in Europe, are manufactured in Bulgaria.”
Dimitrova is at pains to underline her country’s geographic advantage as gateway to the European Union. “Bulgaria can be the springboard for Indian goods and investments to the European market, CIS countries and Turkey.”
There are similar advantages for students, she says, as Bulgarian degrees are recognised across Europe for both internships and jobs.
As for industrialists, Dimitrova plans to woo them with low tax rates and inexpensive labour force. “We have a tax rate of 10 percent for both corporate and personal income tax, which is the lowest in EU.”
With Bollywood already partial to the country — ‘Brahmastra’ is the latest among the host of movies and television series to be shot in Bulgaria — Dimitrova is meeting Punjabi filmmakers tomorrow. While picturesque destinations and pocket-friendly hotels are a big draw, connectivity, she admits, is the country’s biggest bugbear. “We had signed an agreement with the Indian government for a direct flight from New Delhi to Sofia in 2017 but it came to a nought after Jet Airways went out of business. The government has now given its approval to Indigo, we hope for some progress once the pandemic gets over,” says Dimitrova.
The states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal are of special interest to the Bulgarian envoy not just because Bulgaria plans to diversify
its exports to food processing machines but also because it could teach the trio a lesson or two in floriculture and perfumery.
“Bulgaria is one of the biggest producers and exporters of rose oil. Almost every renowned brand of perfume contains a drop of oil produced from Bulgarian roses. We also rank no. 1 in lavender production.”