LONDON: India has started to “roll out the red carpet” to UK SMES instead of subjecting them to a barrage of regulations. The move comes as India hopes to ramp up exports from Britain.
“Earlier the mindset of the Government was all about being the regulator – these are the rules and constraints and this is the framework the investor must operate in,” said Assistant Vice President of Invest India Vivek Abraham. “Now we are trying to change the mindset to ensure that the red carpet is rolled out to all investors,” he said at the launch of the Access India Programme at India House in London on Wednesday.
The new initiative, launched by the High Commission of India in the UK, with the UK India Business Council, aims to offer a single window of advice to SMEs in the UK looking to export to or invest in India.
The market entry support programme offers legal and project financing advice as well as strategic advisory and location services and advice on mergers, acquisitions and government clearances.
The programme will identify 50 UK SMES that want to sell their products in India by November. Free workshops will be held and mentoring provided for them next year.
Dinesh K. Patnaik, Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK, told the audience of business leaders: “We want to move from the UK having a slow burning love affair with India to speed dating and speed up the process and help UK SMES find the right way to reach India.”
He said India was trying to help UK SMES “beat the Brexit blues” and India’s understanding of Brexit was that Brexit was “about open Britain. That is what we are hoping for anyway,” he said.
The UK SMES did not need to have any specific turnover to invest in India, he said. They just needed to have a product and be willing to sell it in India.
“If they have a product we need, it is good for us. Once they have accessed India they might find it better to manufacture in India too,” he said, giving as an example the decision of Lockheed Martin to shift the manufacturing of its F-16 fighter aircraft from Texas to India. “When they move their supply chains will move too.”
“Every product made in the UK has the potential to do well in India because the Indian market is huge,” he explained, adding the team would use analytics to see if the product would be successful.
Only 20 per cent of UK SMEs currently have international exposure, of which only 10 per cent export internationally. Many were risk averse and lacked knowledge, Patnaik said, unlike many large UK companies that had been in India for years. The aim of the Access India Programme was to take away that risk, he stated.
High Commissioner of India to the UK YK Sinha said the UK was already one of the largest G20 investors in India but had just been overtaken by Japan as a “temporary blip”. “SMEs need hand-holding. They are not geared up to going into international markets. India was the largest recipient of FDI last year and we are very keen to increase that amount and involve the UK SME sector.”
“The Access to India programme will help encourage manufacturing in India via the UK SME sector especially providing high end technology and innovation where the UK is strong,” he said.
He affirmed the Indian economy was “strong” despite first quarter growth slumping to 5.7 per cent.
“Entering India is a sensible business decision putting yourself at the centre of gravity” said Philip Bouverat, director at JCB and one of the mentors. “We are exporting some of our components from India to Africa and ASEAN,” he said.
Rhydian Pountney, General Manager at Renishaw Plc, which has a manufacturing base in Pune, said: “If you are an SME and you want to beat the Brexit blues, India should be one of the first countries you look at.”