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London's deputy mayor for business Rajesh Agrawal: UK and India share a common vision for the future based on innovation

London's Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal: 'Indian companies invest more in the UK than in EU combined

With the UK facing an uncertain future within Europe from a business perspective, relationships with other markets are gaining attention.

Not least for India, which has emerged as an economic pole of global growth by surpassing China, according to recent research conducted by Harvard University's Center for International Development (CID).

The study also projected that India will feature on top of the list of the fastest growing economies till 2025, with an average annual growth of 7.7%. Furthermore, it's widely agreed that the recently introduced Goods and Services Tax will power Indian brands and economy in the long run.

The Drum spoke with Rajesh Agrawal, London deputy mayor for business and chair of London & Partners, to find out what the future was for the relevance of the Indian market for the UK.

How do you plan to market the brand #LondonIsOpen when visa problems are on the rise for Indians?

Following the EU referendum result, the Mayor of London launched The #LondonIsOpen campaign to show that London remains united and open for business, and open to the world.

The #LondonIsOpen campaign shows the world London remains entrepreneurial, international, and full of creativity and possibility – while reassuring the more than three million Londoners born outside the UK that they will always be welcome and that any form of discrimination will not be tolerated.

The Mayor is determined to continue supporting businesses to grow, as well as encouraging and attracting more businesses to come to London. Sadiq Khan has also made it clear he wants the UK to retain membership of the single market and this will something Indian businesses will be looking at extremely closely.

It’s absolutely crucial that the visa system following Brexit works for London and the global talent it attracts. It must be flexible, it mustn’t be onerous on businesses, and it should support economic growth. What’s more, visas for foreign students both during their study and after they graduate are hugely important. That’s why we organised a summit at City Hall on visas and migration, bringing together key London business leaders and others to make the case for a solution that works for London and breaks down the barriers for talent from India and other key partners coming to our city to work or study.

Now is the time to grasp new opportunities to ensure growth for both London and India, but to also make sure we don’t lose some of the things that makes London the greatest city in the world.

Post-Brexit how important is India as a market to UK for business?

It’s crucial we strengthen ties with countries such as India because when it comes to business, our two countries already share a deep and special bond. In fact, Indian companies are the third largest investors into London and employ nearly 50,000 people across the capital.

India is a hugely important market for UK businesses and Indian companies invest more in the UK than they do in the rest of the EU combined.

Likewise, the UK is also the single largest G20 investor into India, supporting nearly 700,000 jobs. London, the UK and India share a common vision for the future based on innovation, entrepreneurship and prosperous knowledge-based economies.

Which areas of business in India do you think are most attractive to UK? How much has India evolved in terms of business?

Since 2005 there has been a 125% increase in Indian companies across all business sectors investing in London, with a 117% increase in tech companies investing in the city.

Major tech investments in London from India in recent years include software testing service Cigniti Technologies, customer support company Kayako and many others. Ambitious Indian businesses looking to internationalise can take advantage of London’s status as one of the world’s leading financial centres and Europe’s largest technology hub.

As someone who arrived from India fifteen years ago with just £200 in my pocket, before setting up my own successful fintech companies, I know from first-hand experience that London is the best place in world for entrepreneurs to grow a business. Now, as chair of London & Partners, I am proudly leading on India Emerging 20 (IE20), an initiative which aims to identify 20 of India’s fastest growing companies with global aspirations.

We have developed this programme because over the last two decades, India has created a number of world-leading companies of global scale. At London & Partners we have also seen a growing appetite for Indian businesses looking to use London as a springboard for a move into international markets.

To meet this rising demand, we have developed the India Emerging 20 programme to support Indian businesses looking to succeed globally, offering a unique opportunity for twenty fast growing businesses to showcase themselves on the international stage.

Is the new Indian government proving beneficial in terms of its business policies internationally?

Today both countries share a common vision for the future based on promoting innovation, entrepreneurship and prosperous knowledge-based economies.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit in 2015 provided a great platform to further strengthen ties between India and the UK. This was demonstrated by the fact that over £9 billion ($13 billion) worth of commercial deals were signed during Mr Modi’s visit.

While it must be acknowledged that there will be some challenges in the next few years, London is still a leading global destination for Indian businesses looking to establish a footprint in western markets.

The sports industry is growing in India. Does it feature on your list of investments/partnerships?

London and India sharing a great sporting heritage: following the Olympic Games in 2012 – a well as many other events the capital has hosted, such as the Rugby World Cup, Euro Hockey Championships and Swimming Championships – London has acquired a great deal of knowledge on the sector and is ideally placed to share best practices. This expertise along with our thriving tech sector shows that ‘sportstech’ is a fast-growing area for potential collaboration.

Did demonetization in India made things difficult in terms of trade?

Demonetization in India will aid the development of a cashless economy. Increasingly using mobile phones, apps and e-commerce retailers’ services will drive the tech sector and fintech industries forward in India – leading to an apt opportunity for collaboration with London – a world-leader in fintech thanks to the proximity of its innovative tech sector and financial industries.

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