Indian companies looking to invest in the United States have an ally at their side: SelectUSA.
SelectUSA is perhaps best known for its annual summit, which pairs businesses with economic development organizations representing potential municipal and state partners. The SelectUSA agency provides one-on-one assistance to companies to help them make informed decisions. Their services include explaining U.S. regulations and business rules, providing data and research reports, helping companies choose a geographic region, and facilitating networking with potential partners and resources. There is no minimum business size to receive assistance. “Small-to-medium businesses are really kind of our sweet spot,” U.S. Trade Commissioner Brenda VanHorn says.
Companies from all sectors can work with SelectUSA. Pune-based Bharat Forge is building a large plant in North Carolina to supply the automotive and transportation industries. Mumbai’s Cipla Pharmaceuticals worked with SelectUSA to build a factory in Massachusetts to manufacture inhalers using innovative technology that doesn’t currently exist outside of India.
SelectUSA partners with Indian companies interested in investing in the United States in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing and technology. Specialty programs include a new six-month Select Global Women in Tech Mentorship Network for female tech founders, entrepreneurs and executives.
“Our mandate from Congress is to increase jobs in the U.S.,” VanHorn says. “We do that through helping businesses in America export to overseas markets. And we do that by helping businesses in other countries invest in the U.S.”
While this year’s summit was virtual, it was still a successful experience for its participants. “Nine Indian companies spoke at the 2021 summit. Three of the companies had the opportunity to speak directly in one-on-one plenary sessions with state governors about doing business in their states,” VanHorn says.
India routinely sends one of the largest delegations to the SelectUSA conference each year. The agency has its own staff in India, which is a testament to the importance of the special relationship between India and the United States, says SelectUSA Regional Investment Specialist Shamli Menon. SelectUSA Tech, a Shark Tank-style start-up pitch program at the summit, was so successful in its first year that they ran out of room and had to turn people away at the door. Two Indian companies were chosen to compete in this year’s tech challenge out of all of the companies worldwide that applied.
But SelectUSA’s services are available outside the summit as well. “The agency is there year-round to assist businesses,” says VanHorn. She also notes that SelectUSA works with and can put businesses in contact with a large network of governmental agencies. “There are so many people who can help. It can be kind of overwhelming for a small business here in India to know who to go to first. We’re the people they should go to first. We provide a sort of concierge service to help them find the people who can help them,” says VanHorn.
One of the least-known but most important benefits of investing in the United States is that it gives a company a special toehold in the U.S. market, along with all of its trade agreements. “Once companies have invested in the U.S., they become an American company, so they can avail themselves of all the services that are available to businesses in the U.S., no matter where the corporate headquarters is. Wherever we have a free trade agreement, they will qualify for it as a U.S. company,” says VanHorn. “It’s one of the reasons companies look at America, and why America continues to be the number one investment destination. It's not just that we have the world’s wealthiest consumer market. We also have all these great trade pacts and free trade agreements. We also are one of the easiest places to do business in the world because of our strong regulations and our intellectual property protections. Because of the rule of law that we work and live under, it’s a really easy place to do business.”
Moving forward, VanHorn thinks the need for investment in the United States might increase due to what the pandemic taught the world about the importance of supply chain management, saying the era of just-in-time inventory is over.“We have learned from the pandemic that it’s a very dangerous position to be in, when you can’t get lifesaving goods because they’re only made in one location and that location is closed. That is a very vulnerable position to put your company in. At the summit, we were seeing speaker after speaker talking about how they were shifting their plans; how the supply chain needs to be shortened,” she says. “Indian businesses who are considering expansion should look at where their markets are, and they should consider how they can have the shortest supply chain to get to that market.”
Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.