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The Lille region of northern France has set an exceptional precedence of transition

Ridhima Verma - 17-mars-2015 11:04:56
  A transformation   The Lille Region of northern France has set an exceptional precedence of transition   F rance, once at the centre stage of the Industrial Revolution, has been witnessing another revolution of a kind across its industrial ecosystem. For over two decades, some of the regions of this European nation have been undergoing a metamorphosis. Leading from the front is its Lille Region. Once known for its textile mills and coal mines, this northern region of France has been under transformation, with the traditional businesses gradually giving way to the services sector, led by technology clusters and innovation centres. Most importantly, the transition has been smooth and seamless, even as there have been concerted efforts to preserve the vital component of heritage.   This strategically located region, backed by its well-developed infrastructure and human resource pool, has been attracting businesses from across the world. The region’s specific clusters and innovation hubs, spanning over areas like information and communication technologies ( ict ), multi-media, digital arts, technical textiles, retail & logistics, healthcare, plastics and green business are not only attracting matured enterprises, but also offering customised incubation and promotional facilities for aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses.   Global names like ibm , Microsoft, Capgemini, Amazon, Coca-Cola, dhl , Fedex, Bayer Healthcare, gsk Vaccines, Nestlé, Toyota, Thyssen Krupp, etc, have made their presence felt in this region. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the region, faced with a difficult period after the decline of the coal, mining and textile industries, is all set to script a remarkable turnaround story. Indian it major Tata Consultancy Services, which has been in France for over a decade now, also put up its office in February 2013 in Euratechnologies, a high-tech cluster and incubator, dedicated to the ict sector. Closer to the city of Lille, Euratechnologies has emerged as an ict centre for excellence, providing a central location for businesses, start-ups, laboratories and educational institutions through a range of innovative services.   The centre has come up in a textile manufacturing mill, without upsetting the basic building structure. it has been renovated and currently hosts over 150 ict -related companies, including 70 start-ups and five major ones including tcs, ibm and Microsoft. In just five years of its operation, the cluster, having promoted on the ppp model, has created 3,000 new jobs. The cluster is looking to attract 500 technology companies with 6,000 employees by 2018. “In a short span of time, our project has generated a phenomenal response,” says Raouti Chehih, ceo, Euratechnologies. “We have managed to create one of the biggest ecosystems in digital technologies. In fact, currently, we boast the world’s largest incubator.” Euratechnologies, which clocked a turnover of over € 200 million recently, is aiming to double the same in the next three years.   “Being present at Euratechnologies enables us to enjoy the right kind of ecosystem and manpower availability for catering to the needs of our customers,” says Nicolas Sohier, director, France sales, tcs . “Backed by a series of advantages, we have been effectively as well as competitively able to service our customers in the retail sector. Moreover, we also reap the benefits of networking with companies present in the cluster.” tcs, which has got 35 employees now, intends to expand itself into a larger office over the years. The company has been operating in France since 1992 and has over 50  clients across various industries. It  has significantly strengthened its  position through local hiring and investments in recent years.    In recognition of these initiatives, it was also conferred the special award for investment and innovation by the Greater Paris Investment Agency in 2012. In June last year, the company acquired Alti sa , an it services company in France, for a value of € 75 million in an all-cash transaction. The French company, a leading technology services firm, has strong expertise in it services, including enterprise solutions, assurance and crm solutions. This acquisition has further strengthened tcs ’ ability and footprint to service its customers in France and other regions in Europe. “This acquisition underlines our long-term, strategic commitment to France, which is the third-largest it services market in Europe. I am confident that this acquisition will help us accelerate our growth and presence in France,” says N. Chandrasekaran, ceo & managing director, tcs .     Turn around   Another Indian company that has made its presence felt in northern France is Titagarh Wagons Ltd ( twl ), which took over the manufacturing facility of Arbel Fauvet Rail ( afr ) in July 2010. The century-old French company, which specialised in designing and making specialised tank cars, containers, bogies and wagons, had filed for bankruptcy and went into liquidation in 2010. Though the company had been facing tough times following the increasing cost of production as also growing competition, the eurozone crisis in 2007 finally derailed its train journey.    The French subsidiary has successfully been turned around in the last couple of years even as its turnover has witnessed a phenomenal jump to around € 40 million in 2014 from just € 2 million (annualised) in 2010. The unit, with the capacity to produce 2,000 wagons/annum, is located over an area of 42 acres at Douai in northern France, considered a hub for Europe’s railway industry. In fact, it is a part of Lille’s I-Trans rail cluster which also hosts players like Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens.   “For us, afr stood out because it was an excellent facility with good equipment and skilled labour,” says Umesh Choudhary, managing director, twl . “Its location in the north of France was also desirable as the region was famous for its rail technology, especially design capabilities. And the region offers true potential in terms of recruitment thanks to excellent training programmes in sustainable transportation.”   “Our experience of working with France has been fruitful,” adds Sunil Kanojia, group ceo, Sintex Industries Ltd. “We also have a plant in the northern part. The working team, the leadership and the administration, all have been supportive and committed.” Sintex acquired a French company, Nief Plastics, in 2007 for € 31 million. The company has five plants in France and a topline of € 220 million. It has been supplying composites to Thryssenkrupp, Areva, Alstom and Renault, among others.   “Over the years, our cluster approach has worked quite well in transforming this northern region into a major investment destination – not only in France but in the whole of Europe,” says Omar Layachi, project manager, Nord France Invest. “With an ecosystem conducive to doing business, more than 1,500 foreign-owned companies are already doing business here.” Nord France Invest, the investment promotion agency for Lille, is responsible for promoting this region, and providing a suitable atmosphere for industries has been instrumental in putting the region on the investment map of France. The region has emerged as the third largest location in terms of fdi with a presence of 1,300 businesses and employing 100,000  people across diverse industries.   While the ict cluster Euratechnologies has emerged as the largest incubator, other clusters in related sectors are not far behind. In fact, the region is a hotspot for multimedia talent, cultivating expertise in video games, animation and mobile apps. It is also France’s number one cluster for digital arts training. Lille hosts global names like Ankama, Adictiz, Bigben Interactive and Hydravision. With world-class institutes/schools (Rubika group, formerly Supinfogroup), the region also develops talent.   All said and done, Lille is using its economic past to carve out a place in the future. A case in point is the former coal pit at Arenberg near Valenciennes. Opened by Compagnie des Mines d’Anzin in 1899, the pit quickly became the company’s most productive site, with nearly 32 million tonnes of coal extracted over the years. Prosperity ensued, followed by decline, crisis and closure in 1989.    But the site then resurfaced as a popular film set for directors, who incorporated its striking interiors and exteriors into their shoots, paving the way for a new future in image and sound. Arenberg is undergoing a radical shift from abandoned coal pit to center of excellence for research in cinema and digital technology with an objective to serve the film and tv industry of tomorrow by designing, developing and deploying techniques and tools. ARBIND GUPTA Business India   feedback@businessindiagroup.com  
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Sophie Clavelier, Country Head   Welcome to the French Trade Commission Business France in India!     Our key mission is to promote trade relations between France and India. We assist French- based companies seeking potential partners and new markets in India, while helping Indian businesses to identify potential French suppliers, commercial and technical partners.   In India, our 4 offices are located in business hubs, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. We have a dedicated multicultural team of 38 experts in the following growing sectors: Agrofood Industry Industry and Cleantech Lifestyle and Healthcare Tech & Services Our Trade Commission also has a Press office in charge of helping French companies to communicate in India as well as a Market Access Department enabling them to better understand and adjust to the Indian regulatory and fiscal framework. In

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