It’s time for my next Good News Friday installment, and amazingly enough, one whole year has passed since I began this series. In fact the first anniversary was almost 2 weeks ago, but I only noticed that a year had gone by when I saw the url of last week’s installment, which was numbered 51. (If a post title is identical to a previous post’s, WordPress automatically numbers the following post). A couple of Good News Friday posts weren’t numbered because they included other wording (e.g. “special edition) so the year passed without my being aware of it. I’m delighted that what started out as an experiment which I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up has become one of the favourite features of this blog, both for me and for my readers. I hope to be able to continue with this series for a long time to come. If any of you comes across some item of good news about Israel you are welcome to send me tips to my email address (anneinpt at gmail dot com) and I will try to incorporate them.
And now onto some “real” good news!
My first item (or second, depending on where you start counting) is a quirky story from Israel’s hi-tech industry (h/t Reality). Israeli technology is powering Coca Cola’s marketing gimmick of printing individual names on Coke bottles:
Israeli technology is powering a popular new campaign by Coca-Cola, both in Israel and across Europe. Popular names that appear on hundreds of millions of bottles of the soft drink are all being printed on equipment produced using technology developed by Israel’s Indigo (a division of HP).
The Coke campaign, called “Share a Coke,” was launched May 1, and has already proven to be one of the most popular by Coca-Cola in recent years, a company spokesperson said. The centerpieces of the campaign are the “individualized” bottles consumers can buy, with their names on the label. The bottles are not produced to order; rather, the company said, the bottles use a range of about 150 of the popular first names of residents of each country (mostly in the younger demographics) where the campaign has been running. There are also nicknames, as well as generic titles, like, husband, wife, boyfriend, etc.
But the label is the centerpiece of the campaign, and getting those labels printed proved to be a major challenge for Coke. Although the company has been printing labels by the billions for decades, this printing job was different, company officials said. Personalized label printing – meaning, changing the text or design of a label – is different from conventional label printing, in that it requires changes to the print run to be made “on the fly,” without shutting down label production and recalibrating the printing equipment to change the name on the label.
Coke generally handles its own label printing, industry reports quoted company officials as saying, with equipment that is set to print the “normal” labels of Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero — Coke’s three main offerings. That’s only three labels. But in the new campaign, Coke needed to be able to turn out, on schedule, 150 or so separate labels, for 32 markets – or close to 5,000 different labels.
It was a major challenge for the company, said Marit Kroon, marketing manager of Coca-Cola Europe, and after much experimentation, the company decided to print all the labels on HP Indigo printers, developed in Israel by the Indigo division of HP.
The Indigo presses ran 24 hours per day for approximately three months to produce the 800 million-some labels, the largest job on record for the HP Indigo WS6000 series Digital Presses used for the job. Alon Bar Shani, HP Vice President and General Manager of HP Indigo said, “Indigo’s personalization technology provides a great opportunity for large companies like Coca-Cola to build better relations with their customers. Our digital printers have proven their capabilities for the long haul, providing a solution for such a major project, completing it in time, and maintaining Coca-Cola’s high standards.”
Good for Coca Cola for an imaginative marketing idea, and kol hakavod to Indigo for being the ones to provide the solution.
Staying with the food industry, here’s a great story from NRG (Hebrew only) about coexistence between Palestinians and settlers via an Israeli pizza bar. (h/t Zvi). Here’s my translation:
When Jacky Zaafrani opened his pizza bar in Bet Aryeh 5 years ago he expected his clientèle to be fairly regular. Indeed in the last 5 years his pizza bar became established as Bet Aryeh’s main hangout for the youth where they would meet up, watch TV, eat pizza and pass the evenings together.
About a year ago residents of the neighbouring Palestinian village Luban started to take an interest in the pizza. “On the day the UN declared the new status of the Palestinian Authority I started to receive pizza orders from Luban residents” says Jacky. “In the beginning it was a bit strange because I didn’t realise that Palestinians eat pizza, and from that evening our Palestinian neighbours have not stopped ordering pizza”.
Jacky explains that “in the village there’s a meeting point next to the shop of the village’s Mukhtar. That’s where the delivery boy meets up with the pizza’s happy customers to hand over their order”.
It turns out that also during the Eid festival, which finished recently, many village residents chose to finish their fast with a large pizza laden with all good things. “During the Eid we noticed a real rise in pizza orders. When Luban residents call to order pizza, I joke and tell them that I have a kosher certification from Beit Yusuf (a play on words on the kashrut certification of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, called Bet Yosef) added Jacky with a smile.
Avi Naim, the head of Bet Aryeh-Ofarim Council, reveals that relations with the neighbouring village are excellent. “Many of them are my close friends. We are invited to weddings in the village, and residents of our region invite their Palestinian friends to events. This is a wonderful example of real coexistence”.
This happy little story just goes to prove that the settlements are no stumbling block to peace, and that both settlers and Palestinians are regular people who want no more than to share a pizza in peace. Kol hakavod to Bet Aryeh’s residents and to Jacky Zaafrani’s pizza parlour.
My third item for this week is still with the food industry, but this time from the agricultural side, and with an international flavour: Israel has been helping India to grow olives:
In a sign of growing relations between the two countries, Israel has extended an olive branch to India. Quite literally, in this case.
Over the last five years, Indian farmers have joined hands with Israeli agribusiness to produce a crop that the majority on the subcontinent have only seen in books and films: fresh, green olives.
The project started out as a joint venture between Israeli firm Indolive and the agricultural board representing the Indian state of Rajasthan, a desert state on the western border. An Indian private company, Finolex Plasson Industries Ltd, joined the business alliance in 2007 through its subsidiary Plastro Plasson, drumming up greater investment for the enterprise. All parties involved in the joint venture now fall under an umbrella group called the Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Ltd (ROCL).
“We really got on to the project by chance after we happened to hear that there was already something happening between State of Rajasthan and an entrepreneur in Israel,” says Satish Ghatpande, executive director at Plastro Plasson Ltd.
The idea of including a private sector company in the deal particularly appealed to the Israeli investor, given the complexities of engaging with Indian bureaucracy.
Since Plastro Plasson was already in the drip irrigation business, they were a natural fit for the project.
Ghatpande says the scale of investment in India is relatively large, even though olives are hardly a staple crop in India.
“The current investment includes the state government and us putting in Rs. 15 million [about $270,000] each towards share capital,” he says, adding that Indolive imports the saplings to India.
While the venture began as a pilot experiment, it has now developed into a system of organized cultivation across six regions in Rajasthan. Ghatpande forecasts a 200-hectare yield from the current harvest.
“Our results have been mixed since the nature of soil differs from place to place,” he explains. “So, we try different saplings based on soil conditions.”
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the venture either. From water shortages in the arid western desert and input resource bottlenecks to the paucity of skilled labor, the project has repeatedly hit stumbling blocks.
“The difficulties are there. We have to train people, create the right infrastructure and many times, the olive crop is very difficult to monitor as well,” Ghatpande says.
Also, despite initial investment, projects such as these are often sidelined by the government as they do not represent mainstream economic activity, he adds.
This ties up with the overall state of agriculture in India, where the government sees more bang for their buck in the manufacturing and services sectors, which deliver swifter and larger returns. According to World Bank data, the total share of agriculture in India’s gross domestic product is 21 percent — a worrying statistic when you consider 72 percent of the total population lives in rural agrarian communities.
However, Ghatpande says farmers in Rajasthan are still keen to get in on olive cultivation despite the crop’s limited exposure to the Indian markets.
“Farmers are now willing to jump from their current crops to olives because the yields on many crops in Rajasthan are declining,” says Ghatpande. Given that most of the olive crop is for exporting, farmers see this venture as lucrative in the long term.
The government, however, sees value in keeping some proportion of the fruit and pressing it locally within India.
“In August, we’re expecting the oil pressing machinery to come from Italy,” says Yogesh Verma, manager of ROCL. This means we can now press the oil in India.”
And while the import of olive oil has increased to eleven thousand metric tons over the last five years, Verma says this number could fall once olives are pressed locally. He also forecasts harvests will soon hit 5000-hectare yields in the next three or four years.
The olive experiment, if anything, points to a larger development in business ties between India and Israel. The latter see India, an emerging economic powerhouse, as a great global market for technology transfers and trade.
“The potential of cooperation and synergy between Israeli and Indian companies has become more and more clear with the increasing number of Israeli companies that want to come here,” says Orna Sagiv, the Israeli consul general in Mumbai, India.
The growth in technology exports from Israel to India explains why the Israeli embassy was keen to set up shop in Bangalore, a southern Indian city known for its high-profile IT companies. The consulate in Bangalore, which was formally inaugurated on May 20, is the third one in India.
Only three other countries in the world have over three Israeli missions, Ambassador Alon Ushpiz mentioned at the inauguration ceremony. He added that it is the growth in small and medium businesses in both countries that drives successful entrepreneurship and innovation.
On the same subject, the Hindu newspaper reports that Israel is to help India diversify fruit, vegetable crops:
Israel will offer technology and know-how to India to diversify its fruit and vegetable crops and raise their yield, senior Israeli officials has said.
New Delhi will also get help to set up 28 centres of excellence in 10 states over the next three years.
“We are providing technologies and know-how. Our focus is on training the trainers,” Daniel Carmon, head of Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, said.
Mr. Carmon said Israel will help set up 28 centres of excellence in 10 states, of which eight are likely to be functional by the end of 2013. Each centre will be focussed on specific fruit and vegetable crops.
Israel is a world leader in agriculture technologies. Despite limited water resources and a difficult environment, the yield per acre of most of the farm products in that country is among the highest in the world.
Mr. Carmon said yield can rise manifold in India with the help of generic Israeli technologies and agricultural techniques.
“We congratulate India on being self-sufficient in food. Feeding 1.2 billion people is not an easy task. But with improvement in technology, a lot more can be achieved,” he said.
Mr. Carmon said Israel would also offer help in increasing milk output in India. Average milk output per cow in Israel is around 12,000 litres, the highest in the world.
According to Uri Rubinstien, counsellor for international cooperation (Mashav), science and agriculture, at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, Israel is providing seeds and technologies to help grow new variety of vegetables and fruits like capsicum, cucumber, mango, dates and herbs.
“We will be introducing a variety of coloured capsicum and a new variety of cucumber and other vegetables,” Mr. Rubinstien said.
Most vegetable and fruit crops in India are seasonal and have short life span. “Increasing the life span will boost output and earnings to farmers,” Mr. Rubinstien said.
This is great news for India, and very good news for Israel too. Improving and developing relations with a huge country like India can only improve Israel’s standing in the world, and of course there is the added mitzva of helping a country feed its people. Kol hakavod to India for recognizing Israel’s technological prowess and kol hakavod too to Israel’s various ministries involved in these projects.
A final extra bonus item, since this is my first anniversary after all, comes from Holland, where despite all the talk of BDS, boycotts etc., a the province of Brabant wants Israeli tech, BDS be damned:
sraeli start-ups seeking a home in Europe might want to have a look at the Netherlands — specifically, in the southern Brabant area of the country. There, start-ups will find a good location and infrastructure, motivated partners and maybe some working capital, according to Ben Engel of BOM Foreign Investments, a government-sponsored venture capital firm dedicated to attracting business to the region.
“We are finalizing a program that will invest 125 million euros in high-tech companies in our region,” Engel told The Times of Israel. “This is Dutch government money, and for the first time these funds will be available to foreign companies that establish themselves in our region.”
Brabant is already home to the local offices and research centers of more than 1,400 non-Dutch companies, mostly from the rest of Europe but also from the Americas and Asia, including powerhouses like Acer, Apple, IBM, GE, Dell, Sony. There are a few Israeli companies there as well, but Engel would like to see many more, especially in the life sciences area.
“We have a very well-developed high-tech and life sciences ecosystem, so any company that locates its European offices here will benefit from extensive knowledge and assistance, as well as the guidance we can give them in getting set up, finding customers and contacts, and financial assistance as well,” he said.
“Brabant is a good steppingstone for Israeli companies seeking European markets,” added Engel. “We’re very centrally located, in close proximity to Germany and Belgium, and a steppingstone from the big ports in Holland, like Amsterdam.”
Engel is quite enthusiastic about potential deals between Brabant and Israeli companies. Possible interference by supporters of the BDS — boycott, divestment and sanction — movement against Israel doesn’t disturb him a bit. “I am not a politician, but I can say that every deal we make gets the explicit approval of our provincial government, and we have expressly chosen to set up a long-term cooperation agreement with Israel.
“This move will strengthen our economy, as it will that of Israel,” continued Engel, adding that any resident of Brabant would understand that the arrangement was a plus not only for the region, but for Holland in general.
“I do not foresee any problems from the boycott, divest, and sanction groups,” he added. “But if they do ask, I would sit them down and explain to them, very rationally and firmly, that we intend to do business with Israel.”
Wow, this is brilliant. I take my hat off to Mr. Engel and say kol hakavod to him for recognizing the strength of Israel’s hi-tech industry and for not being deterred by the BDS brigade.
With all these happy thoughts of Coke, pizza, olives and hi-tech, I wish you all Shabbat shalom!