The Indian sub-continent and the UK enjoy a unique friendship which has resulted in deep cultural linkages. This relationship is reinforced by collaboration in the fields of science, technology, education and culture, political engagements and a friendship. More than 1.5 million people of Asian descent live in the UK, contributing significantly to all aspects of life here. The UK is the fourth largest investor in India, creating 1 in 20 jobs in the formal sector. And India is the fourth largest investor in the UK. 110,000 British Citizens are employed thanks to this investment.
Bilateral trading mechanisms like UK Economic and Financial dialogue (EFD) and India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) further boost institutional engagements between the two countries, and education is a key element of the India-UK bilateral relationship as seen through initiatives like UKIERI, Newton Bhabha Fund, Chevening Scholarships and the Tech Rocketship Awards which connect India’s talented entrepreneurs with the UK’s vibrant and growing ecosystem for start-ups.
UK Northern Powerhouse
The UK Northern Powerhouse is a recognition of the size and capability of the region. The economies of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, the North East and West Yorkshire is a gathering of some 15m people, one million private sector businesses, creating some £304bn of value (2014). This is equivalent to that of Belgium and 20% of the UK whole. With 7 international airports, 12 major ports and 100 universities, the north of England is well-armed with assets and capability. The Northern Powerhouse is also a strategic programme of change to join up these assets. The idea is simply that they will perform better as one functional economic area than as a confederacy with poor connections. Less measurable is the confidence and ambition it has brought. The Northern Powerhouse is a platform for national and global engagement. The British Government has across the world – whether in India, China, Canada to the US – used the Northern Powerhouse narrative as an invitation to promote our world class capabilities and to explore investment opportunities.
The economic relationship between the India-subcontinent and the UK is in good health. While the Northern Powerhouse specific data is less easily obtainable, the anecdotal is compelling and positive. When we speak of the Northern Powerhouse in terms of scale, the numbers of India can feel intimidating. India has 40 cities with more than a million inhabitants, 397 cities with between 100,000 and 1 million people, and 2500 cities with between 10,000 and 100,000 people. The largest city in India is Mumbai with a population of 12.7m people. Delhi’s population is just less than 11m people. In the coming years, half of its population will be under 25 years old. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry & Grant Thornton ‘India Meets Britain Tracker’ there are some 800 Indian companies operating in the UK, creating revenues of some £4.75bn. As India’s economy grows, the opportunity to increase that investment will grow. The relationship is mutual. UK companies continue to invest substantially in India, supporting, according to the Confederation of British Industry’s ‘Sterling Assets India’ report, creating some 800,000 jobs. This is not new. Between 2000 and 2016, UK firms invested some $24bn in India. The sentiments of those companies making these decisions make for interesting reading.
According to the UK Government, as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, the North has a long history of fostering innovation. Contributing to nearly 19% of the UK’s GDP, the North represents over 15 million people and more than one million private sector businesses. With over 20 universities, many of them globally renowned, it presents a great academic and research ecosystem geared to science and technology innovation. Connected to the rest of the world through seven international airports and 12 major ports, it is a high-potential and high-impact region. So, naturally it should attract high business interest and traffic. However, beyond the limited corridor of experts, there is not much awareness of the Northern Powerhouse and what opportunities it represents. Similarly, businesses in the Northern Powerhouse region are less aware of India’s dynamic economy, its rapidly enhancing ease of doing business and the immense business opportunities they could avail in India.
Indeed, 15% of Indian companies operating in the UK are based in the North – while this may be substantial compared to some other regions, it is much lower than the 44% concentration of Indian companies in the London area. This could be a product of several factors:
- There is not enough awareness in India about who, what and where the Northern Powerhouse is what are the areas it encompasses, the role of its Local Enterprise Partnerships, its core strengths, official channels that support trade and investment, the overall potential for business and academic collaboration, and its champions.
- Indian companies with existing operations in the UK are not sufficiently aware of business opportunities and high growth sectors in the Northern Powerhouse region, London is known for financial services and tech innovation ecosystem, Scotland majors in oil and gas products, and food and drink sectors, the South-west of England is an automotive hub etc.
Industry and education associations have an important role to play, the N8 Research Partnership of the eight research-intensive universities in Northern England – Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York, are a powerful collaboration and have a huge potential to facilitate and foster relationships. In case of the Northern Powerhouse, the Diaspora has so far paved the way for deeper business exchange, as evidenced by the first ever Northern Powerhouse trade mission organised by UK Asian Trade bodies: Yorkshire Asian Business Association (YABA), North West Asian Business Association (NWAB) and AB Connexions (ABC) India is among the top 5 largest investors and international job-creators in the UK economy. According to India Meets Britain, a Confederation Indian Industry -Grant Thornton report, 800 Indian companies collectively generate GBP 47.5 billion in revenue and sustain 110,000 jobs in the UK. Similarly, the UK is also among the largest FDI partners for India with UK companies supporting 1 in 5 organised private sector jobs in India. Prime Minister Modi’s historic visit to the UK in November 2015 and subsequently Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India in November 2016 resulted in nearly GBP 10 billion in business agreements. Beyond business, close academic, research, cultural, historical and Diaspora ties bind people in a “living bridge”. Recognizing the need to understand the geopolitical economic landscape across high-growth regions of the UK.