KOTA KINABALU (May 26): Indian companies are taking an interest in Sabah in view of the State Government’s Sabah Maju Jaya (SMJ) roadmap and relocation of Indonesia’s capital, Nusantara, to East Kalimantan.
High Commissioner of India to Malaysia, B.N. Reddy, said Indian companies are keen to participate in the digital roadmap of SMJ, renewable energy and investments in other sectors.
Reddy, who is visiting Sabah together with a business delegation comprising representatives of the Consortium of Indian Industries in Malaysia (CIIM) based in Kuala Lumpur, said Indian firms are taking more interest in Sabah with the new roadmap drawn up under the SMJ.
“In our discussion with the Chief Minister (Datuk Seri Panglima Hajiji Noor) today, we have decided to engage more intensely with the participation in the digital roadmap of SMJ, as well as in renewable energy and other sectors.”
He said there used to be Kuala-Lumpur based Indian companies that operated in Sabah every now and then, including a company that offers online payment systems, but these firms had no physical base here.
However, he said Indian companies now have a renewed interest in Sabah due to the State Government’s visionary plan to bring in reforms and the relocation of Indonesia’s capital to Nusantara.
“I am sure every company is weighing their options upon seeing better prospects now,” he said at the launching of the reopening of India Visa Centre here on Thursday.
The visa centre in Kota Kinabalu, is located at 1st floor, Wisma Sabah. Apart from Kota Kinabalu, India Visa Centre is also established in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor and soon, Malacca.
On another note, Reddy said the time has come for India and the State Government of Sabah to take action to bring more Indian tourists who are visiting Malaysia, to Sabah.
He said Sabah, the Land Below the Wind, has a lot to offer in terms of nature and adventure tourism.
Before Covid-19, he said about 700,000 Indians have visited Malaysia in 2019, 5,000 of whom came to Sabah.
He said an Indian information technology (IT) company has developed a software that will recommend tourism attractions in Sabah when tourists search for travel destinations in Malaysia and these tools could offer Sabah as another option to Indian tourists.
He also suggested movies as a way of promoting Sabah to Indians.
“Growing up, a lot of Indians used to travel to Switzerland and I was told that one of the reasons was that a lot of Indian movies were shot in that country.
“That is an important medium for people to know about that country. We can explore this as a way of promoting Sabah.”
In this regard, Reddy hoped that airlines would consider mounting direct flights from Kota Kinabalu to India.
He said there are currently 74 flights from Malaysia to India, mostly from Kuala Lumpur.
“We hope that the frequency will return to pre-Covid-19 level at 250 flights per week.”
On the other hand, Reddy said the restrictions for tourists visiting India has been relaxed, while new Covid-19 cases are less than 2,000 per day in the country with 1.4 billion population.
He added that India’s vaccination rate is close to 88 per cent and the country is administering Covid-19 booster doses and vaccines for children as well.
Apart from the courtesy call to the Chief Minister and launching the India Visa Centre, Reddy said the Indian warship Satpura had conducted a joint naval exercise with the Royal Malaysian Navy at Sepanggar Port on Thursday, which reflected the enhanced strategic partnership between the governments of India and Malaysia.
“This is a momentous event because this is the first port of call they have done in the last two years outside India.
“It signifies the importance India attaches to its relationship with Malaysia.”
Reddy has also held engagement sessions with stakeholders, including those from the business sector, tourism industry and Malaysian Indian community in Sabah during his visit here.
The size of the Indian community in Sabah is about 5,000.
Also present were First Secretary (Political, Press and Information), High Commission of India, Kuala Lumpur, Vikram Vardhan, Malaysian Association of Tour And Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang and Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) president Datuk Seri Winston Liaw.