In conversation with Vipin Sondhi – Innovation in the economy

By UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

"UK-India research collaboration has invested £125 million in the last five years, leaving the UK well positioned to be India’s partner of choice in science and research. " says, Vipin Sondhi , Managing Director & CEO JCB India Limited in an interview with Dr. Rakhi Rashmi, Barrister England and Wales

Vipin Sondhi is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of JCB India Limited, and has led the company’s growth journey in India over the past 10 years. Under his leadership, JCB India has established its market leadership in the Construction and Earthmoving Equipment Industry and has recorded significant growth in Brand Equity and Revenues.
Backed by the Industry’s finest product support system and with state-of-the-art factories in India conforming to JCB’s Global Quality standards, Mr. Sondhi has led the growth of JCB India’s export business spanning over 50 countries. He has also successfully managed the acquisition, retention and development of a world-class team that has been instrumental in strengthening the company’s operations and steady expansion.

Apart from being a member of the JCB Global Group Executive, he is also an elected member of the CII National Council and the Chairman of the Capital Goods Committee. He was awarded the Confederation of India’s Young Manager’s Trophy in the year 2000, The Udyog Rattan Award by the Institute of Economic Studies in 2011 and The CEO of the year award at CEO India Awards in 2014.

1. What do you see as the major innovation opportunities in each stage of the value chain, work architecture and future constructs of development in the UK-India collaborative universes?

India’s market potential has been ranked as the 3rd largest worldwide which itself offers great opportunities for UK companies to invest. India is emerging as the R&D hub for both large and medium sized MNCs due to the availability of skilled manpower educated in world class elite institutions which also offers UK based companies a cost advantage in all High and Low tech sectors at each point of the value chain.

Many of the UK universities already have excellent links with their counterparts in India. Building links through education is one of the most effective ways in which the two nations can come together for mutual benefit.

With Indian inward investments increasing, UK strives to be one of the easiest and most secure places in the world to do business. Together, India and the UK are building on existing strengths in areas like Aerospace, ICT and Life Sciences. Bangalore-based companies like Infosys and Wipro are major employers in this segment. Rolta, Mindtree Consulting, Microland, Sasken, ITC, Infotech and Symphony Services are in the UK too – and the list could go on and on.

With both economies so tightly connected, they have a strong shared interest in supporting further cooperation in this field. Already the jointly funded UK-India research collaboration has invested £125 million in the last five years, leaving the UK well positioned to be India’s partner of choice in science and research.

2. Given both countries want to grow their economies through manufacturing, and related sectors such as infrastructure, services etc. should we identify areas of common interest and come up with a plan to grow our industrial economies together?

There are a variety of Industries where this partnership could further prosper. Advanced Manufacturing, Automobiles, Clean energy, Healthcare, Financial Services, Infrastructure, Aerospace and Defence are some areas to name a few.

These are the segments where the UK has traditionally been strong and it might be a great opportunity for companies to form collaborations with Indian counterparts. India has a substantial scope for Business in these core areas and the opportunities are well available.

3. What is the best way for developing this interaction/dialogue to its next stage happen? What should the role of governments be in this interaction?

Organisations like the UKIBC will need to step in to provide a platform on both sides for a dialogue. For instance there are a lot of companies in the midlands of the UK who are Small and Medium sized Companies which are largely owner driven and have technologies, however they do not have a means of reaching out to partnerships in India and vice versa. It is here that UKIBC can provide a platform like it did in September by hosting roundtables, seminars etc. These are not only for discussing important issues relating to both countries but then they become networking opportunities for individual firms to connect with one another with a view to perhaps tying up as partners.

The Government’s role is important as things are not perfect anywhere. In India we definitely need to change perceptions. May be the media can be a partner in these discussions but all the issues raised must be put on table at UKIBC events wherein stakeholders from the Government, industry from both sides should be present so that all the relevant issues may be addressed.
On the business front there is going to a lot of action in the states. There are going to be some states that are going to pull away from the rest in terms of reforms and in the terms of ease of doing business. UKIBC must specifically engage with some of these states and organize a common platform at the state level. It could pick up states depending on interest and provide a platform at a state level where these issues are transparently discussed. Dialogue is the key and experience sharing is vital.

PM Modi has said that India will strive to improve its position from 139th to 50th in the next three years. He has entrusted the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion at the Centre to actually initiate a program and also to have a dialogue in this regard. Lot many things are on the agenda which are also happening on the ground as we speak. In next three to four years things are poised for a positive change and lot of things will be driven by technology. IT enabled services will drive towards ease of doing business.

Innovation has raced up the Indian Government’s agenda in recent times and the next ten years have been declared as decade of innovation.

The Government of India has several projects such as Make in India, Digital India, Clean India, Smart Cities that are positive for foreign investors to increase investments.

In 2014, the “Digital India” campaign was launched. The agenda being to change India into an electronically empowered economy. According to this program, the Government of India wants all Government departments and the people of India to connect with each other digitally or electronically, so that there is effective governance. It also aims at reducing paperwork by making all the Government services available to the people electronically. There is also a plan to connect all villages and rural areas through Internet networks

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