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Business: Face-to-face contact key to traders
Indian entrepreneur Sunil Kumar is excited about resuming his business in China on Monday after two-and-a-half years of restrictions caused by COVID-19.
Yiwu, a thriving center of commodities trade in Zhejiang province, is host to a large number of Indian traders.
As many as 107 Indian traders and businessmen who were stuck in India since March 2020 landed in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, on Aug 9 on a China Southern Airlines charter flight from New Delhi. They were greeted at the airport with banners in English and Chinese celebrating their arrival.
This is the first business charter flight from India to China since COVID-19 hit.
All 107 businesspeople went through a mandatory 10-day quarantine in a small resort near the airport. When that ended over the weekend, they headed for Yiwu. The passengers spent three days in quarantine in New Delhi before they left for China.
"I have been doing foreign trade business in Yiwu since April 2010 and Yiwu has become my second home. I am really excited to return to Yiwu. I could not expect that again I will return here and begin my old business," said Sunil. "I am very much happy and enthusiastic to begin my old business in Yiwu."
Sunil came to India in Jan 2020 on a vacation and he booked his return ticket one month later. He had to stay in India for the next two-and-a-half years due to COVID-19 measures imposed by both India and China to fight the pandemic.
Du Yuegang, CEO of Zhejiang Tony Supply Chain Co, took the initiative to bring the Indians back to China. The company was well known to many Indian businessmen during their stay in China before the pandemic.
India is one of Yiwu's largest export destinations. In 2021, Yiwu's trade with India reached 17.58 billion yuan ($2.6 billion), with year-on-year growth of 38.5 percent. Exports reached 16.76 billion yuan, up 33.8 percent, according to data released by the Commerce Bureau of Yiwu.
More than 2,000 Indian merchants used to live in Yiwu, the Indian businessman said.
Some of the Indian businessmen already have long-term visas to stay in China. Others got new business visas valid for the next few months.
"I will work hard and contribute to boost bilateral trade and relations between the two countries," said John Alhat, another Indian who reached Hangzhou. He went to India in Jan 2021 to be married and stayed there for more than one-and-a-half years.
Business owners on both sides expect that more charter flights will be operated between the two countries in the near future. It will bring an opportunity for face-to-face contact that is important to maintain bilateral trade and relations. Many more Indian businessmen and traders are waiting to return to China.
Separately, 163 Pakistani businessmen and traders landed in Yiwu on July 30, according to the Yiwu municipal government.