Dutch diplomats decode how to grow and succeed together as India and the Netherlands bet big on innovation

At TechSparks 2021, diplomats from the Netherlands highlighted the key factors that have enabled fruitful collaboration between the two countries, and revealed the scope that startups have.
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India and the Netherlands have been partners for over a decade, trying to find ways to adopt smart agricultural and water safety solutions, innovating medical devices for affordable health, and researching big data-driven solutions and smart energy grids. 

At TechSparks 2021, YourStory's flagship event and India’s largest and most influential tech-entrepreneurship conference, a fireside chat titled ‘The secret to growing and succeeding together’ saw Marten van den Berg, Ambassador, Netherlands to India, Nepal, and Bhutan; Bart de Jong, Consul General, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mumbai; and Gert Heijkoop, Consul General, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Bangalore; come together to discuss innovations that the two countries are jointly working on and the future of this partnership. 

Highlighting why it was important for both countries to work in tandem, Marten van den Berg said, “India and the Netherlands have huge challenges in the agriculture sector and water conservation, and these challenges are interconnected. There are issues we face in healthcare and climate change. We are working with the private sector to counter these challenges.”

“The Netherlands and India are agricultural superpowers but we do have to change our way of producing food… we need to adopt sustainable and climate-friendly practices,” Marten said. 

The diplomat added that the two countries were working on “new varieties of crops and experimenting with new production techniques” that consume less water to counter India’s water deficit.

He cited the example of Chennai, where the Netherlands is working closely with the local municipality, private companies, and technology institutions to store and clean water during the rainy season so that the same water could be used when there are months of scarcity. 

‘A gateway to Europe’

“There are enormous opportunities in India, simply because of its size, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why Dutch companies are attracted to India,” said Bart de Jong, highlighting the collaborative attitude of Indians, no language barrier, and a highly skilled workforce as other potential reasons for the Netherlands being the third highest FDI investor in India. 

Calling the Netherlands “a gateway to Europe”, Bart added that Indian companies were attracted to the Netherlands because of the fast and open culture, minimal language barrier as compared to the rest of the EU, and highly tech-conducive economy. 

Referring to the recent opening of the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Bengaluru, Gert Heijkoop spoke about the FDI investments that the state of Karnataka is attracting. 

In the fiscal year 2021-22, 48 percent of FDI investments of India were directed towards Karnataka. Its capital, Bengaluru, is the fourth largest technological hub in the world.  

Shared love for innovation, business, and Bollywood

“The Dutch and Indian people are both very business-oriented and are looking for innovative ways to tackle business challenges… They can learn from each other in those aspects. Both countries are committed to solving societal challenges and are looking for ways to improve our lifestyle, consumption patterns, working styles, etc. These shared agendas are great for our partnership,” Marten said.

He further talked about how people from India love living in the Netherlands and vice versa. “Cultural aspects such as food, way of living, sense of humour, Bollywood films, etc make them like each other.”

Scope for Indian startups in Netherlands

Stressing on the fact that more than all the benefits and programmes being offered to companies coming to the Netherlands, it’s crucial to “make them and their families feel at home”, Gert said, “Ninety percent of people in the Netherlands speak English and we are home to the largest Indian community in the European Union. Dutch cities have the highest density of Indian restaurants in Europe… It’s a small, well-connected country so it makes you feel at home.”

“Startups are extremely relevant and have the ability to bring new innovations to the market. We have several programmes to facilitate startups in the Netherlands. There’s an open ecosystem for startups and our government is very supportive in various aspects such as regulatory, finance, management support, etc.

"We facilitate startups to bring their innovations not only to the Dutch market but the EU as a whole,” added Marten, summing up the session that was a part of TechSparks’ international startup network track, dedicated to cross-border collaborations and the potential for global change.


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Edited by Teja Lele Desai