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Bharat Mart: India’s New Megaproject in Dubai

Bharat Mart Agreement.

India is seeking to displace China as the global supply chain hub, and as part of this grand ambition, the country is setting up a megaproject that’s set to shake up the global supply chain landscape.

And that project’s location is the vibrant city of Dubai. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid, very recently laid the foundation stone for the large warehouse facility, named Bharat Mart.

But, Bharat Mart is planned to be more than just a warehouse facility, and it’s being built to be a bustling marketplace meant to compete directly with China’s own megaproject in the UAE, the Dragon Mart.

What is Bharat Mart?

We’ve already established that Bharat Mart will be an Indian warehousing facility meant to showcase products from many Indian businesses under one roof, but it’ll actually be much more than that.

Built on an area of over 100,000 square meters, Bharat Mart will be a multi-purpose facility offering a blend of warehouses and hospitality units. It will also include retail outlets, administrative offices, and many other supporting facilities catering to various categories of goods, from heavy machinery to things like food and clothes.

It’s expected to be fully operational by 2025, and will be located in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, or JAFZA, which is the world’s largest free trade zone, and has a unique strategic location as it’s near the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, while also being at the far western end of Dubai.

The free trade zone is also under the management of DP World, which is the UAE’s leading logistics company. This comprehensive set-up ensures that Indian exporters will have a convenient and efficient platform to sell their products in the UAE.

Bharat Mart’s Digital Platform

The key highlight of this megaproject is the plan to establish a digital platform that will allow buyers across the world to browse and buy goods from the facility. The digital platform will ensure seamless transactions in order to facilitate trade between Indian exporters and international buyers, providing convenient and secure channels for buyers to shop for all the products showcased in the Bharat Mart without having to go to Dubai.

Picture this: you want to buy Indian products but you live in the United States. If the products you buy come directly from India via air, they’d have to sit on a flight that’s around 16 hours, or even more.

Of course, this doesn’t account for all the extra time the products will sit in various warehouses, and the even longer time if they get shipped via sea rather than air. Bharat Mart’s digital platform solves this problem, because if you try to buy the same products from Dubai instead, you’ll get them so much faster.

This is because the distance between Dubai and the U.S. and other parts of the world, like Africa and Europe, is shorter than the distance between them and India, and this indicates the great benefits Bharat Mart’s digital platform will offer Indian companies trying to expand into the U.S., Africa, and Europe.

Additionally, Dubai’s worldwide connectivity is the best in its region, as most major cities have direct flights to Dubai. The city also has two major commercial ports, Port Rashid and Port Jebel Ali, and the former is the world’s largest man-made harbor, as well as the biggest port in the Middle East and the seventh busiest port in the world.

India v.s. China

When India and the UAE first announced this project, many immediately thought of India’s rivalry with China, and the fact that Bharat Mart could steal China’s thunder in the UAE.

If you’ve ever been to Dubai, then you probably already know China’s Dragon Mart, a set of two adjacent shopping malls in the city, which includes the largest concentration of Chinese businesses in the UAE.

Dragon Mart is extremely massive, as its two levels combined take up a space of 415,000 square meters, and it spans over 1.2 kilometers in Dubai. In it, you can buy Chinese-made furniture, clothes, household items, and many other things.

It also includes food courts and cinemas, and cost China around $1 billion to build. Building a similar project in the same city could be India’s way of challenging its biggest economic rival in Asia, and transitioning the entire world from using products that say ‘Made In China’ to products that say ‘Made In India’.

But, China has a two-decade headstart as the first Dragon Mart opened way back in 2004, but India beats it when it comes to location, as Bharat Mart’s location in JAFZA is very strategic and unique, while the Dragon Marts 1 and 2 are located in Dubai International City, a suburb of Dubai on the highway to Oman.

And while China spent $1 billion to complete Dragon Marts 1 and 2, we don’t know how much exactly India is planning on spending, but it might be less than that since the first phase of Bharat Mart is as big as about a quarter of Dragon Mart.

The UAE-India Relations

The establishment of Bharat Mart holds significant importance to the two countries as it aligns very well with the shared goal between them, and that is to enhance their bilateral trade relations. In 2021, petroleum products accounted for a substantial 41.4% of the total bilateral trade volume between the two countries, and amounted to a massive $35.10 billion.

This shows the immense significance of the UAE-India relations, but the two countries want to expand their bilateral trade beyond oil, which is a goal that is becoming increasingly important to the UAE, which expects to completely run out of oil in 2045.

And so, the two countries have set a target to increase their non-petroleum trade to $100 billion by 2030, as part of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that came into effect last year.

There’s also the fact that the two countries plan on bettering their relations overall, as Modi also inaugurated Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple during his two-day visit to the UAE, which is the biggest Hindu temple in the country.

This new temple is called the BAPS Hindu Mandir, and it was built on a sprawling 110,000 square meters site in the Abu Dhabi desert, marking the city’s first traditional Hindu stone mandir. The temple’s design shows the importance of the UAE-India relations, as its pink sandstone columns are topped by seven spires representing the number of the Sheikhs that rule each of the Emirates.

This trip to the UAE also boosted Modi’s credentials as a global statesman, months before he heads to the polls in a nationwide election where he is seeking a rare third term in power.

Aside from the temple and Bharat Mart, a UAE-based consultancy company called the National Advisor Bureau Limited proposed an underwater tunnel that would link India’s financial capital Mumbai with the UAE’s port city of Fujairah via railway way back in 2018, but the company is now working on blueprints for the project. This underwater railway is expected to increase trade and connectivity between the two countries just like the Bharat Mart.

India’s Growing Economy

We can conclude by saying that Bharat Mart is an extremely ambitious megaproject that will really help Indian businesses and exporters in the UAE market. With its all-inclusive facilities, digital platform, and strategic location, it definitely will become a thriving hub for trade, benefitting both India and the UAE.

Megaprojects like this one only add to India’s rapidly growing economy, which is the fastest-growing major economy in the entire world, and one of the few economies expected to achieve constant growth as we enter a period of a global economic slowdown.

It’s for this reason we think that there will be multiple projects like Bharat Mart all over the world in the future, possibly in other countries with large Indian populations like Saudi Arabia and Canada, and even in countries that are political allies with India, like the United States.

Megaprojects like this one are what makes India a global economic superpower, and we certainly can’t wait to see Bharat Mart completed.


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