Virtual Roundtable and MoU Signing with the Government of Telangana

By Emma Lynch

On 8 September, UK India Business Council (UKIBC) was delighted to host a virtual roundtable with the Government of Telangana. During this session, UKIBC also signed an MoU with the Industries and Commerce Department, Government of Telangana.

UKIBC Managing Director Kevin McCole chaired the session led by Mr Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Industries & Commerce and Information Technology, Government of Telangana and Dr Andrew Fleming, Deputy High Commissioner, British Deputy High Commission – Hyderabad.

The UK Government places great significance in collaborating with the Government of Telangana as the State houses several UK investments. A few characteristics which make Telangana an attractive investment hub are its proactive measures to easing business regulatory reforms, stable policies, infrastructure, and talent pool. This roundtable offered an excellent forum to understand the opportunities the state offers for new and renewed investments, the higher education sector, the impact of COVID-19 on the state industrial activities, and the implications of new policies and guidelines.

Telangana has shown consistent growth in implementing the Ease of Doing Business reforms and was named in the top three states to do business within India. The State is also involved in the start-up and innovation incubator, which is the 2nd largest incubator globally and will begin operations by January 2021.

The State has undergone some recent improvements including reforming industrial policy; upgrading skill development potential; setting up an investor facilitation with sectoral leaders guiding the investors; creating a land bank system; partnering with industrial bodies; and identifying 14 thrust sectors, including but not limited to, life sciences, auto, defence, aerospace, textiles and garments, and manufacturing.

On behalf of its members from the Food and Drink sector, UKIBC made two requests. First, to include the Excise Department in the e-Governance drive. As the AlcoBev industry must interact with the department for permits and approvals, an online approval process would support seamless working and allow business as usual.

Second, to consider home delivery of alcohol beverages. At the moment, seven Indian States – Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, and Odisha – allow home delivery of alcoholic beverages under specific models. If retailers are able to provide a home delivery service, it would indeed be very helpful, particularly in serving the purpose of social distancing. The Government of Telangana responded by stating that it follows a bidding model for retail space for the sale of alcohol each year dependent on the location and catchment area. Home delivery would remove the concept of bidding, therefore making it impossible this year, but making an adjustment can be further evaluated in consultation for next year.

Vidushpat Singhania, one of the leading sports and gaming lawyers in India, and Consultant, UKIBC, enquired on the State’s plan of action pertaining to gaming, where at one end they had prohibited games of skill for stakes and at the other end, vide their notification of 27 August 2020, they had legalised online betting on horseraces, creating a committee to regulate it, where Jayesh Ranjan is the Chair.

Whilst the State of Telangana had banned games of chance, it was still open to games of skill legislation. At this point, in absence of a legislation, the state has currently prohibited games of skill for stakes, but in the interim would welcome those companies, who want to build software, hardware or develop other technical services around the gaming industry.

Hyderabad being a great IT hub, has several developers with their back-end offices in the state. This move by the State of Telangana gives a lot of assurance to those involved.

In addition, the Government of Telangana stated that online betting on horseracing was a priority as racecourses provided employment and livelihood to many people. The Government of Telangana also expressed willingness to collaborate with the UKIBC on international best practices and how to make the systems in the State more robust.

The University of East Anglia asked if the Government of Telangana would be willing to support its work towards aligning the State universities with the University Social Responsibility (USR) initiative, which had been established in Hyderabad in November 2019, when the city was host to the UKIBC’s Higher Education Delegation of UK Universities. To this, Jayesh Ranjan, who also holds a post as Vice-Chancellor at a State University, committed to joining the consortium, with the forward-looking thought of encouraging other Telangana State universities to participate as well. The USR consortium was strengthened furthermore with BDHC-Hyderabad also committing to support the cause. The timing of these commitments could not have been more apt, as the University of East Anglia were able to share this significant development at the USR webinar later the same day.

Going forward, the Industries and Commerce Department, the Government of Telangana and UKIBC will work together to support British businesses in the State of Telangana while addressing and following up on the points raised during this session. Needless to say, closely in sync with the British Deputy High Commission in the region.

We are extremely pleased with the outcomes for the food and drink, higher education, and online gaming/betting sectors and are extremely grateful for the time that our speakers and participants extended to continue this important dialogue. The extension of the MoU shall simply formalise the existing association and our continued advocacy work in the State of Telangana as well as set the tone for a forward-looking, longstanding and buoyant UK-India relationship.

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