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Vancouver, Indian law firms partner to help businesses navigate emerging South Asian market

Local law firms makes early move as more Canadian businesses look to India amid icy Canada-China relations
Ron Segev, founding partner of Segev LLP, has been getting more questions from clients about the potential for doing business in India. | Chung Chow, BIV

A Vancouver law firm is partnering with an Indian counterpart to tap into growing interest among Canadian businesses in one of the world’s largest labour markets and fastest-growing economies.

Segev LLP announced last month it has entered a “transcontinental relationship” with Singhania & Co. LLP, a full-service law firm based in New Delhi, to maximize business opportunities between both markets.

“One of the challenges that we've typically seen from our clients is being able to enter the market as a complete unknown, not knowing who the reputable companies are, what a commercial standard is and what the sensitivity to the culture is,” said Ron Segev, founding partner of Segev LLP.

“This [partnership] is a perfect opportunity to better serve our clients, and the idea was that we would open an India desk in Canada for clients who are interested in the Indian opportunity.”

B.C.'s Trade Diversification Strategy defines India as an emerging market that can “offer strong alignment with opportunities for sustainable economic growth in B.C.,” along with the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

Segev said his firm had been busy for years with cross-border work between Canada and China, with enough investment volume coming from China to warrant establishing a satellite office in Beijing.

“And then that started to quiet down. Obviously, there were capital controls in China, and our two countries have recently had some political trouble,” said Segev.

“At the same time, maybe five years ago, our clients started asking us about the Indian market. …We started getting a lot of inquiries saying, ‘Can you recommend in India, in terms of a law firm, an accountant, commercial real estate agents and so forth?’”

This is the first overseas partnership Segev LLP has formed and the second international market it has focused on after China. Segev said India has become an increasingly attractive market for B.C. and Canadian businesses.

“Population wise, it's a fast-growing market, and if you look at the demographic trends in India, you see that the majority of Indians are actually quite young,” said Segev, noting the median age in India is only 28 years old compared with 41 in Canada – figures backed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook and Statistics Canada.

“And the other thing we're seeing is the different growth rates – admittedly, it's a much smaller economy than China, but the growth rate is much faster.”

India saw a 9.06 per cent GDP growth rate in 2021 and 6.83 per cent in 2022. Its own forecast predicts it will be close to or surpass six per cent until 2028. In comparison, China recorded a GDP growth of three per cent in 2022 when Canada recorded a 3.6 per cent growth rate.

India, meanwhile, recently surpassed China to become the most populous country in the world and is the second-largest English-speaking country after the U.S.

Segev said a shared language lowers the barrier for Canadian companies to localize their products and services for the market and navigate its legal system compared with other emerging markets.

He said his firm is seeing greater interest from Canadian businesses in investing in Indian technology, education, real estate and agricultural industries.

“India is a technology powerhouse with a huge talent pool of software developers and programmers. We've seen increased interest in Indian companies coming here and setting up shop, and teaming up with some of our creative and design talent,” said Segev.

He said there is great potential in collaborations between education institutions in both countries.

“In terms of inbound, India is now the No. 1 source of immigration for Canada and again, that's that trend of moving away from the Sino-Canadian story towards the Indo-Canadian story,” said Segev, referring to figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“We're trying to position ourselves so that Singhania’s clients can also take advantage of it on that side of the ocean.”