Redefining UK-India Business Relations

By Daxa Bharadwa

UK India Business Council organised a panel discussion, 'Redefining UK-India Business Relations' on 22 November 2017 in New Delhi. Panellists at the session were - Sir Dominic Asquith, KCMG, British High Commissioner to India, Mr Deepak Bagla, MD and CEO Invest India, Dr Rajesh Chakrabarti, Executive Director and Vice Dean, OP Jindal Global University, Ms Preeti Sinha, Senior President & Global Convenor of YES Global Institute, and Mr Richard Heald, OBE, Group CEO, UK India Business Council. The Session was moderated by Mr Siddharth Zarabi, Executive Editor, BTvi.

Please follow this link to view a broadcast of the seminar which was covered by BTVi.

The panel discussion was organised on the backdrop of the third Annual UKIBC Ease of Doing Business Survey, concluded in November 2017. The panel discussion was also aimed at discussing the recent unprecedented 30-place jump made by India in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) rankings, from 130 to 100, and the recent Moody’s raising of its global rating to Baa2 and what it means to UK investments into India. More than any other country, UK businesses are taking advantage of the investment opportunities in India and keen to take the investments further.

Sir Dominic Asquith, KCMG, praising India’s consistent growth for the past 3 years, expressed that for the UK, India is moving up the league as a significant destination for investments, trade and strategic partnership. The UK invests more into India than Germany or France, portraying the significance that India will hold post Brexit. According to Sir Dominic, sectors such as FinTech, Artificial Intelligence, and Defence are the real opportunity for the UK to explore India and are important areas which can redefine UK-India bilateral relations. Sir Dominic focused on free trade, Joint Trade review and CEO Forum as important instruments to improve mutual commercial interests, reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Responding to a query about UK-India relations post Brexit, Sir Dominic mentioned that the UK will try to build on its core strength which includes technology, electric vehicles, and masala bonds. He also voiced his opinion on the pace and progress of the Ease of Doing Business initiative.

Mr Deepak Bagla from Invest India, while sharing his views, impressed upon the rapid and fast paced changes India is witnessing which are bound to produce a multiplier effect going forward. He highlighted that India is the recipient of 160 UDS green field FDI – the highest in 2016-17, and is keen to see the UK contribute significantly more to this growing list of investments. He emphasised that key sectors fuelling growth for India are Renewable Energy, Electronics, Food and Beverages, Textiles, Auto, Media, and Tourism. However on the downside, he also mentioned that out of 10,000 queries they have received worldwide, the UK does not feature in the top 8 countries.

Mr Bagla also highlighted the movement of India towards more accountability and transparency, with a well-planned implementation of policies.

Mr Richard Heald, OBE, CEO, UK India Business Council, emphasised the need to understand the trigger points between the UK and India, and mentioned that the UK is the largest G20 FDI investor in India, with around US$ 24bn invested in the country. He also highlighted that these numbers do not even take into account Foreign Institutional Investment (FII) flows from the UK into the Indian stock markets, or direct investments from UK private equity and venture capital. Nor does it include dis-aggregated trade and investment flows.

He shared the example of SEBI where there are 585 queries registered from the UK to understand the Indian business scenario, thus defining the new age of UK-India relationships. He further added that teething issues still remain but is hopeful that with the persistent government push, this too will be achieved. Richard also expressed that the UK India Business Council remains hopeful that both the UK and India can collaborate on project management and consultancy for important projects such as the Bharat Mala project along the lines of technology and financial collaboration.

Dr Rajesh Chakrabarti, from Jindal University, while optimistic about the reforms, expressed that the considerable jump in India’s World Bank ranking does not resonate with the grass root level challenges and commented that this jump is not very impressive as they primarily focus on improving the soft parameters. He stressed on sustainability to arrive at the real output of the initiatives taken.

Ms Preeti Sinha, YES Global Institute, commented on the evolving sectors in India and how corporates such as YES Bank remain focused on skills & education, healthcare, culture, biotech, food & agriculture, and start-ups, along with  green technologies, smart grids and Smart Cities as the next big opportunities which will help redefine UK-India Business relations.

The session was concluded on the fact that UK and India remain, and will continue to be, a hotspot for investments in strategic areas such as defence, education, technology, healthcare, and SMEs amongst others.

Please follow this link to view a broadcast of the seminar which was covered by BTVi.

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