The London-based billionaire Hinduja brothers have called for greater engagement of the British-Indian Diaspora community to kick-start the flagging trade relationship between the UK and India.
The Hindujas – Sri and Gopichand, who are currently ranked Britain’s wealthiest individuals with a combined fortune of nearly £12 billion – said policy makers have long ignored the huge potential inherent in Britain’s two-million strong Indian community and called for “innovative” ways to harness that potential.
Addressing a seminar organized by the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in London, Srichand Hinduja said: “Despite the long and rich historical relations between Britain and India, the UK still lags behind in terms of investment in India.
“We have millions of NRI’s but organizations like UKIBC and FICCI need to do more to utilize their huge potential”.
Mr Hinduja’s comments followed remarks by Dominic Jerney, Chief Executive of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) who described the British Indian community as the “biggest, wealthiest and, by any measure, the most successful Diaspora community in the UK” who have made Britain a “more successful and prosperous nation”.
Mr Siddarth Birla, chairman of FICCI, India’s largest and oldest trade body, also called on the Indian government to better engage the successful and wealthy second-generation Diaspora Indian community.
“The first generation of Diaspora Indians already have strong ties to India but the second generation needs to be engaged with because people who have been born and raised in other parts of the world feel distant and they are a resource that must be harnessed for India’s benefit”, Mr Birla said.
Despite the long-standing socio-economic ties between India and Britain, and bilateral trade that topped £16 billion in the last fiscal year, the UK has continued to lag behind countries such as the United States, Singapore, Japan and even The Netherlands in investing in India, according to figures from the Reserve Bank of India.
Mr Hinduja – co chairman of the industrial giant The Hinduja Group – also called for a ‘flagship’ infrastructure project similar to the ambitious, $90 billion Japanese government-backed Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) to help accelerate the India-UK trade relationship.
“There has been talk of a new industrial corridor between Bombay and Bangalore. Let us all see how we can make that a success. With the DMIC, the Japanese came with big funds and offered a package to the Indian government and things have moved along swiftly.
“The UK said that there was no money for a project of that nature. I don’t believe that. London is one of the world’s great financial centres. We can always create funding and financing. If we have a flagship project then that itself can take the UK India relationship to a whole new level.
“The result of a large infrastructure project like DMIC is that automatically a whole host of other businesses will grow from it, whether it’s education, tourism or health. I can categorically say there is no shortage of funds in the UK.
“We need to harness the potential of London as a financial centre, the NRI community, and think outside the box and come up with innovative ways to raise money.”
The development-driven agenda of newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi bodes well for the future, Mr Hinduja added.
“Our Group is a huge investor both in India and the UK. The reason that British investment in India has lagged behind is implementation. We had a weak government. The implementation of projects was zero.
“Fortunately with the Modi government there is leadership and we are very confident that projects will happen far faster than even the sceptics among us will expect.
“We have analyzed all the things Mr Modi has done in his first month in office and it is quite remarkable. You wouldn’t find that kind of decisiveness even under a presidential regime such as the United States. He has taken bold steps to demolish committees and red tape.
“Our group had two or three big infrastructure projects which had been languishing for years because of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary clearances on often trivial things. In the thirty days after Mr Modi’s appointment we had everything cleared. This administration has a very practical outlook, they are moving swiftly along and that’s what India needs.
“I would request my UK friends to move fast and I would tell me Indian friends to have no reservations”.