As the eighth round of negotiations for the UK-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) are scheduled to come up, and with the Indian economy and infrastructure going from strength to strength, many experts are agreed that the time is ripe for UK businesses to forge a deeper connect with India.
"I think, right now, there is this huge opportunity for UK businesses to enter into the market, which is the fastest growing market in the world at the moment, is currently fifth in the world ranking and is predicted to be the largest consumer market by 2030. So, getting ahead now is hugely advantageous for UK businesses, considering that we have the shared language and culture and people-to-people connect between these two countries," said Siddharth Mukne, Associate Director of UK India Business Council (UKIBC).
UKIBC is a membership-based, non-profit organisation working to promote and facilitate trade and investment between the UK and India. It provides its members various services and resources to help them succeed in the Indian market.
Born and brought up in India, Mukne has lived in the UK for 24 years. With a background in engineering, manufacturing, operations and the life sciences industry, the senior executive has also worked in Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland.
For the past nine years, he has been actively involved with UKIBC promoting the UK-India partnership, while also actively participating in several charities for mental health and people with special needs. He is also on the advisory board of Khaadi London.
"The current economic climate that the UK is in, after Brexit and Covid pandemic, and particularly now due to the cost-of-living crisis, many UK-based companies are excited to enter the Indian market. The Indian government is also attracting a lot of attention from foreign direct investors. So, now is indeed a perfect time," reflects Mukne.
Against that backdrop, iGlobal delved further with him to explore the many facets of UK-India trade ties, the role of innovation and tech and the work of UKIBC.
What are the main opportunities and challenges for UK businesses looking to trade with India in the coming years?
India is the world's largest workforce with a young population. India is also undergrowing tremendous growth in infrastructure at the moment. And there is an abundance of skill in India as well. E-commerce in India is also growing phenomenally. So all these factors make for a lucrative business opportunity. However, having said that, it can still be a challenging environment at times for foreign companies to find their foothold. And that's where organisations like UKIBC becomes useful.
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What role does UKIBC play in facilitating such businesses?
UKIBC use its expertise, network and support tools to help these UK businesses to engage their entry into the Indian market and maximise their potential as well. UK companies should consider Indians and Indian businesses as their partners rather than just selling their products there to gain success. We aim to build this relationship, so there are mutual benefits.
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What role do technology and innovation play in the UK-India Economic Partnership?
I think technology and innovation are an integral part of this partnership. I would say that because both countries have these immense talents and are at the forefront of the world's technology and innovation. Together utilising these well, I think they can help tackle the challenging issues of our times, like climate change. The UK has the technology in healthcare, but India can provide doctors and a skilled workforce. The same goes for aerospace and defence, where I think businesses can work together towards betterment and success.
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What advice would you give to UK businesses looking to enter the Indian market; what resources and support does UKIBC have on offer?
UK businesses wanting to enter the Indian market need more support because India is a huge, diversified country.
I always tell businesses that it is very easy to get lost in India if you don't have the right structure and approach. So it's crucial to understand the market dynamics and how things work on the ground. It is not about what you have but what India wants. And that matters a lot. Many big companies have changed their product or approach while targeting the Indian market.
But at the same time, businesses need to have the patience to sustain there. Things won't happen immediately. India is for the long term and not for the short term. The resources are ready, but they need to have the bandwidth to support their strategy for the Indian market.