Minimising the impacts of COVID-19: UKIBC working with businesses to ease doing business in India

By Bharat Raghuvanshi

With Mr Modi announcing yesterday to the Indian nation that the lockdown has been extended until May, it felt like the right time to reflect on the highly-engaged efforts that the Government of India (GoI) and State Governments have made to keep essential industries functioning since the lock down started on 24th March.

While COVID-19 is a global problem, solutions to mitigate its impacts across society’s health, national infrastructure and economies are specific to each country. COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to the business environment which calls for a measured, practical and informed approach from business leaders and government.

At the same time, tough decisions had to be taken quickly, against a complex and unclear background.

Since Mr Modi announced the lockdown last month, the UKIBC has been working closely with Governments across India on behalf of our members. To date, we have been impressed by the positive and fast response and the UKIBC and our members applaud the measures taken to ensure that essential services to the civic society and industry are met.

What was particularly impressive is that the GoI were asking for our advice and to be notified of all practical issues just as we were reaching out to them for their intervention. They were not waiting to hear if there were any problems, they were actively looking for them and they deployed a can-do, problem solving approach.

Working with our members to gather feedback and requests for governments, we made a wide range of recommendations, which were captured in our submission to the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade and to  the State Governments in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana, West Bengal and Karnataka. Naturally, we kept our contacts at the Prime Minister’s Office informed of the issues and progress. As I noted above, the response from governments has been positive, with 70 percent of the issues resolved within a week. You can view the list of resolved issues as of mid-April here. For the remaining issues involving both essential and non-essential sectors we remain optimistic and are in continued interaction with the relevant government stakeholders for speedy resolution.

The focus has been on resolving operational challenges for essential sectors facing massive disruption to supply chains. However, as the lockdown continues into May, industry will have to deal with an extended slowdown. While the lockdown is being extended, we are hopeful that the GoI will permit some more industry to begin functioning on a limited basis and in a manner that does not risk the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, it is clear that there will be a  slowdown in manufacturing and services activities, a decline in demand, and trade contraction impacting  businesses, including UK businesses in India.

While the last few weeks have been challenging for all, it has been reassuring, indeed, inspiring, to work with UK businesses and our partners across governments to maximise efforts to combat coronavirus and to minimise its impact on essential functioning of industry in support of society. As the lockdown continues, my colleagues and I at the UKIBC would like to reiterate our commitment  to all our partners during these challenging times. We believe that crises like these call for togetherness and partnership and we commit to work together while dealing with the crisis and its recovery.

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