How the Access India Programme can help SMEs interested in India

By Prasenjit Dhar

On 17th June, the UKIBC together with ADS Group and the High Commission of India (HCI) in London, hosted a webinar for SMEs in the advanced manufacturing sector interested in the India market.

We were joined by Minister (Economic), Manish Singh, from the High Commission. He and his colleague Rohit Vadhwana, First Secretary (Economic), provided a detailed overview of the Indian economy and opportunities for foreign investment. The UK and India have complementarities in many areas, with a shared history of democracy, language, and judiciary. Looking forward, technological collaboration will be crucial for both countries’ development, particularly to come together to solve global problems exemplified by the onset of COVID-19, including the development of a vaccine.

There was a key focus on the Indian Government to reduce red tape and encourage foreign businesses, across sectors, to invest in the country. This is borne out of India’s improvement in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index from 130th in 2014 to 63rd in 2019, exemplifying the conscious effort of the Indian Government to help international businesses in India. Their ambition is to move higher up in the ranking and break into the top 20.

Programme Manager, Prasenjit Dhar of UKIBC, set out the benefits of the Access India Programme (AIP), its objectives, and background. The programme provides support for UK SMEs looking to enter the Indian market in the advanced manufacturing sector – specifically in the Aerospace and Defence Sector. In the second phase of the programme, launched earlier this year, the defence and security sub-sectors will be a key focus, based on the Indian Government’s priorities and the UK’s technological capabilities in this area.

The Access India Programme is of benefit for both countries – a win-win. We know that 99 percent of the UK’s businesses in the private sector are SMEs, yet less than 20 percent of those currently export. These companies have innovative products, ideas and technologies, and are a significant part of global supply chains. The AIP is designed to offer support for such UK companies to enter India, which might be vital for them to succeed in the current global scenario. Indian businesses are very keen to work with UK businesses to absorb good practices and co-create innovative products, not only for the domestic market but also for exports to third markets.

Benefits of the programme include:

  • Access to government and private sector networks;
  • Mentors and partners;
  • Expertise on policy, tax, and regulatory and legal requirements
  • Help understanding Central and State governments
  • Review and advice for business plans – all to support entry into the Indian market.

India has placed a great focus of its approach to development in manufacturing, notably in the flagship Make in India programme, which the AIP supports. In particular, the Government of India is keen to focus on high-technology manufacturing and bring significant portions of global supply chains to the country whilst moving up value chains.

Speaking at the event, Brigadier Krishnan, Defence Adviser at HCI London, mentioned that foreign direct investment in the sector has recently been expanded under the automatic route from 49 to 74 percent. This is great news for international businesses who will now be able to hold controlling stakes in their ventures in India. He also touched upon the draft Defence Procurement Procedure 2020, which is looking at furthering private sector engagement (both domestic and international) in that sector in India.

The AIP is already helping several UK SMEs to enter the Indian market, and we were pleased to hear from one of the companies from the programme’s first cohort on the day. Mark Ness, Commercial Director of Incora (formerly Pattonair), spoke about the value and support they received from the programme which significantly contributed towards their full set up in India. Mark also highlighted that although India can be a complicated market in which to operate, the rewards of doing so are great.

Approximately 10 of the 50 SMEs that were selected in the first phase of AIP have successfully set up in India or are in the process of finalising entry.

To apply to be part of the second phase of the AIP, please visit

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