Indian companies have marked out a significant presence in the large and prosperous Nigerian market. This presence will grow further as India's public sector oil majors are expected to invest up to $15 billion in Nigeria's oil and gas sector. A vast majority of Indians are not aware that Nigeria is an economic powerhouse whose citizens, on average, earn $2,123 per year, 20 per cent more than India's per capita income of $1,850. But Indian businesses have known about that country's economic prowess for some time. Proof: on the streets of Lagos, Nigeria's capital, Bajaj motorcycles and Tata cars jostle for space with brands from Japan, Europe and the US. Bharti Airtel's African subsidiary is the largest mobile phone company in that country. And Indian companies dominate Nigeria's electricity generation sector. Africa's largest economy Indian companies have invested more than $2 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria - with good reason. The country of 188 million is Africa's largest economy, having overtaken South Africa's GDP in 2014. It is also the world's 20th largest economy and is considered an emerging market by the World Bank. It is also considered a regional power in Africa and a middle power in international affairs. Bilateral trade with India has grown significantly over the years and stands at about $17 billion. Nigeria's main export is crude oil. India buys as much as 12 per cent of its crude requirements from Nigeria. It exports engineering goods, cars, motorcycles, power equipment, fertilisers, commercial vehicles and a host of knowledge products. Large Indian presence More than 100 Indian companies have set up bases in Nigeria. These include Bharti Airtel, Bajaj Auto, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Dabur, Aditya Birla Group, NIIT, ApTech, New India Assurance and IndoRama, among many others. The attraction: its large and relatively developed domestic market. Investments in communications Airtel is, arguably, the biggest Indian company in Nigeria and owes its presence mainly due to its 2010 takeover of African operator Zain. Since then, it has invested $1.2 billion on improving the network and service quality and now provides data and voice services across the country that makes it Nigeria's largest telecom operator. “Airtel Nigeria is proud to celebrate its milestones and efforts towards achieving robust and extensive network coverage across the country for both voice and data services. Airtel Nigeria has invested enormous resources to the upgrading of its network infrastructure and has made significant capital expenditure investment towards improving network quality. Currently, Airtel Nigeria has the widest and largest 3.75G coverage in the country,” says the company's website. It has contributed significantly to Nigeria's economy by rolling out 3.75G platforms that offer high speed mobile internet across the 36 constituent states of Nigeria. $4bn investment Media reports suggest an unnamed team of Indian entrepreneurs will invest up to $4 billion in the Nigerian telecom sector. A statement issued by the office of Nigerian Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu said the investment commitment was made on the sidelines of the World Summit on Information Society Forum 2017 in Geneva. The investment will mainly focus on rural telephony and grassroots development. Growing interest In a sign that India Inc is waking up fast to the economic potential of Nigeria, a large number of Indian companies, numbering over 100, had taken part in a three-day show in Lagos two years ago to showcase their expertise. This was “an excellent opportunity for Indian and Nigerian companies to meet and enter into business partnerships, joint ventures and technology transfers,” apex chamber Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) had then said in a statement. The participants were a veritable who's who of Indian industry - Tata Motors, Bajaj Auto, Godrej & Boyce, Kirlokar Group, Power Grid Corporation, Bharti Airtel, Bharat Earth Movers Ltd, Escorts and TVS Motors, among dozens of other big and medium players. The idea behind the show: to present their Nigerian hosts with a bouquet of options in infrastructure, power generation and transmission, farm and construction equipment, highways and ports and automobiles. The selling point: India's frugal engineering skills that are ideally suited for emerging markets like Nigeria. A statement issued by the Indian High Commission in Lagos said: “Over 100 companies are currently operating in Nigeria that are owned and/or operated by Indians or Persons of Indian Origin." Zipping along Any visitor driving along Lagos' broad streets cannot but help notice the sleek Bajaj motorcycles roar past them. Nor can an Indian visitor miss the occasional sight of a Tata car or commercial vehicle drive by. Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto have been around in Nigeria for more than 10 years and have established themselves as leading players in the country's fledgling auto industry. The Tatas marked their presence with the establishment of Tata Africa Services (Nigeria) Ltd in 2006. The investment: $10 million. The company serves not only Nigeria but all of western Africa. Tata Africa Services (Nigeria) Limited sells passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles, medium commercial vehicles, heavy vehicles, material handling equipment such as forklift trucks, stackers, tyre handlers etc, heavy equipment like excavators, back-hoes, graders and cranes, tires, construction equipment like concrete mixers, steel and chemicals. Thus, it serves as a one-stop shop for a wide range of goods and services that meet the requirements of both private individuals as well as businesses. Bajaj Auto Ltd (BAL), the world's third-largest motorcycle manufacturer and the world's largest three wheeler manufacturer, has a more dominant presence in Nigeria, which is the company's largest export market, accounting for almost a third of its export revenues. In 2014, the company sold half a million motorcycles in Nigeria and accounted for as much as 44 per cent of the market. The energy story No report on India's economic relations with Nigeria can be complete without a detailed look at how that country has been helping India meet its energy security needs. As mentioned above, India imports as much as 12 per cent of its total crude requirements, or 23.7 million of crude and 2 million tonnes of LNG from Nigeria in 2015-16. But since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, the buyer-seller relationship has changed dramatically to one where the two countries have become partners. On a recent visit to India, Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and his Indian counterpart Dharmendra Pradhan agreed “to work on a memorandum of understanding to facilitate investments by India in the Nigerian oil and gas sector and include areas such as term contract, participation of Indian companies in the refining sector, oil and gas marketing sector, upstream sector, development of gas infrastructure and training of oil and gas personnel in Nigeria... The Nigerian minister requested a potential investment by India of $15 billion...,” an official statement said. “Both agreed to strengthen the existing cooperation in oil and gas sector, and in particular to explore investment opportunities for Indian public and private sector companies in Nigeria,” the statement added. This outward FDI will be done by India's public sector oil companies such as ONGC Videsh and Indian Oil Corporation. The massive investment will possibly be the single largest outbound FDI deal from India. Sign of things to come It could set the stage for further investments by private sector oil majors such as Reliance Industries and others. Given the signs of bonhomie between the two countries, Indian behemoths in other industries, too, could follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who have set up outposts in Nigeria.