Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on June 12, 2007
Ma Ying-jeou, the former* chairman of the KMT (Taiwan’s largest opposition party) and presidential candidate in next year’s elections, arrived in India yesterday. Amazingly, this is the first trip by a KMT leader to India in 60 years. Chiang Kai-shek went there in 1947, back when the generalissimo was fighting Mao for control of China. Two years after Chiang traveled to India, the KMT lost the Chinese civil war and hightailed it to Taiwan. Given the often perilous state of relations between the Indians and China’s Communists (including a border war and tensions over India providing refuge to the Dalai Lama) it’s understandable that the Indian government hasn’t wanted to rattle things further by being too friendly with the Taiwanese. Commercial ties between the two sides are pretty small – just $3 billion, according to this story from IANS. That’s just a fraction of the amount that Taiwan trades with mainland China.
Ma’s decision to travel to India is a sign that the Taiwanese are starting to take India more seriously, though. TSMC, Taiwan’s biggest chipmaker and the world’s largest foundry, announced in February that it was opening its first office in India, a sign that India’s chip-design industry has grown enough to capture the interest of the Taiwanese. (For more on that move, see this Asiatech post of mine.) The Indian PC market is small compared to China, but it’s already the fourth-largest in Asia-Pacific (behind China, Japan and Australia) and, according to a new press release from IDC, is growing more than 20% year-on-year. Taiwanese PC makers like Acer and Asustek should be doing well in India, since their notebooks are generally priced lower than computers from HP and Lenovo, but so far the Taiwanese are laggards in this fast-growing market. There are some Taiwanese companies that have tried to take advantage of India’s talent pool - Taiwanese chip designer Mediatek is one. It’s a whole lot easier for Taiwanese to head to mainland China, where they share a common language and have plenty of other Taiwanese around for support. But as the Indian economy keeps growing, look for more Taiwan tech companies to start making the trip to India.
* Originally I wrote that Ma was chairman but a reader helpfully pointed out that he’s not head of the party anymore. Ma is still the leading KMT candidate for president in next year’s election, though.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.