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MPs from UK/ EU/ Indian Parliament & EuropeIndia40 leaders on Strengthening business relations

by Diplomatist Bureau - 28 May, 2021, 12:00 281 Views 0 Comment

As part of EICBI’s campaign called “EuropeIndia40 VIEWS: Hear from the leaders who will shape the future of UK–India/ EU–India relations’’ an initiative to promote the works of #EuropeIndia40 leaders and which involves participation of Members of Parliament from India/ UK and European Union, the 3rd MINI SUMMIT was successfully delivered virtually on the 30th of April 2021. The 2nd Mini Summit was on the Green Economy & Climate Change Cooperation between India and the European Union/ UK and was held in February whereas the 1st Mini summit was on the Impact of Brexit on EU India and UK India relations and was held in January.

The Mini Summit saw prominent Members of Parliament from UK Parliament, European Parliament and Indian Parliament sharing the stage with EuropeIndia40 Leaders to discuss the Strengthening business co operation between India and UK/ EU. Current Leaders from British Parliament, European Parliament, and Indian Parliament who participated in the discussion were:

  • Mr Soren Gade MEP – Member of European Parliament – Denmark/ Chairman – EU Delegation for Relations with India
  • Lord Rami Ranger – Member of House of Lords – UK Parliament/ Patron – Conservative Friends of India
  • Dr K Keshava Rao MP – Member of Parliament – India/ Chairman – Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry
  • Sir Iain Duncan Smith – Member of Parliament for Chingford & Woodford Green – UK Parliament/ Ex Leader of the Conservative Party.

EuropeIndia40 Leaders who were part of the panel discussions included

  • Ms. Prianka Mahanty – UK Director, Kylla
  • Mr Pranav Bhanot – Co Founder, India-UK Legal Exchange Programme
  • Mr Ian Matthews – Partner, Moore Kingston Smith LLP
  • Mr Amarjit Singh – CEO, India Business Group
  • Ms Stefania Benaglia – Senior Expert, Public Diplomacy Project, European Union Delegation to India
  • Mr. Joel Fernandes – Project Lead, Business Support to the EU-India Policy Dialogues
  • Ms Zane Sime – EU India Policy Analyst
  • Mr Kunal Singla – Founding partner, COBO Consult

The panel discussion where moderated by the following leaders from the UK – India and EU- India corridor:

  • Mr. Abhinav Kumar – Board Member, Europe India Business Council/ CMO – Global Markets, TCS
  • Mr. Manpreet Singh – President, Indian Chamber of International Business

Delivering his keynote address, Mr. Soren Gade MEP, Member of European Parliament from Denmark, and the Chairman of the EU Delegation for Relations spoke about how he had a few primary objectives and ideas on how the European Union and India can develop a closer bond and have more business cooperation in the future. He further went on to mention three points, which according to him are important for creating better cooperation and relationship between India and the European Union. He also believes that such a relationship will also benefit companies around the world who wish to enter and expand into the Indian market. He also gave an example of a Danish wind turbine company – Vestas, who since 2006 has been present in the Indian market and has been playing a key role in the development of wind energy in the region. He concluded by saying that there is no doubt that both the European Union and India will benefit greatly from stronger cooperation with each other, and he believes that the European Union recognizes these opportunities.

Delivering his keynote address, Lord Rami Ranger, Member of House of Lords – UK Parliament/ Patron – Conservative Friends of India started this talk with a beautiful line i.e. “UK-India-European Union relationship is made in heaven. “He also mentioned that UK-India friendship only grows when they share each other’s value and have common ideologies and views. He expressed his views that in business sector, India will flourish as the companies who are investing in India does not have to look back and the business is going from strength to strength. India is a stable democracy from the day of Independence and also India does not undermine the works of other countries. He further mentions that in trade sector, Europe is not growing as rapidly as the growth seen in India. So, he emphasis that the European Companies should link up with the Indian Companies to grow their business.

Delivering his keynote address by a video message, Sir Iain Duncan Smith – Member of Parliament for Chingford & Woodford Green – UK Parliament/ Ex Leader of the Conservative Party started his message with a statement that Europe and UK has a deep history as a nation and has links with India. He stated that there is a fantastic opportunity to develop the relation. And he also mentioned that he believes that UK and European Union need to help and support India in the right directions and by doing this, they will not only get benefitted but also indirectly will help develop the trade deal. He also focused on the fact that British and European Union need to establish not just trading relations with India but also the other relationships around things like defense and foreign affairs that will be necessary.

Delivering this keynote address, Dr K Keshava Rao MP – Member of Parliament – India/ Chairman – Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry mentioned that India’s relation with Europe tends to mainly focus on the western Europe. He further states that EU and Britain should have bilateral relations with India where he mentioned about EU India summit, trade and investment agreements amongst others. He also stated that both the countries, UK and INDIA have recently agreed to put in place a Trade partnership so as to set the groundwork for the Free trade agreement.

Following the inputs by the MPs, the delegates were given an opportunity to participate in the Question and Answer session and put forth their queries and ideas to the MPs.

After the interaction by the MPs, it was followed by 2 panel discussions.

The 1st Panel discussion was on ‘Strengthening Business Cooperation between India and UK’. This discussion was moderated by Mr. Manpreet Singh – President, Indian Chamber of International Business. Following #EuropeIndia40 leaders were part of the panel discussion.

  • Ms. Prianka Mahanty – UK Director, Kylla
  • Mr Pranav Bhanot – Co Founder, India-UK Legal Exchange Programme
  • Mr Ian Matthews – Partner, Moore Kingston Smith LLP
  • Mr Amarjit Singh – CEO, India Business Group

The Moderator, Mr. Manpreet Singh spoke about how there have been quite a few high-level bilateral visits, and government talks between India and the UK, and with everybody is expecting magic and miracles to happen, he asked Mr. Amarjit Singh to talk more about it. Mr. Amarjit Singh spoke about how it is well recognized that the mood music has shifted, and how it is more upbeat. He further talked about how in the last six months, there has been a flurry of British senior ministers who have traveled into India, despite the pandemic with the view to exploring and negotiating the enhanced trade partnership between both countries. There is a real commitment from both nations to provide a more comprehensive and stronger trading relationship in terms of more business and more investment. Also, how Prime Minister Boris Johnson was supposed to visit India twice this year but was forced to cancel due to the pandemic, and likewise Prime Minister Modi or senior Indian ministers are expected to visit the UK later for the G7 in June in Cornwall and also for the COP 26. He believes that it is not just confined at the government level, as according to him various organizations and businesses stepped up throughout the pandemic to offer support to India during the upsurge in cases along with the Indian diaspora where there have been several appeals raised by organizations. Therefore, he believes that there is a genuine desire in both countries to do more together. Mr. Amarjit Singh also spoke about how the enhanced trade partnership is envisaged to provide a route map towards strengthening and growing trade, to lead an all-encompassing comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. He thinks that the opportunities are really broad across all sectors and thinks that the greatest potential perhaps lies ahead.

Mr. Amarjit Singh emphasized businesses got to do their homework on understanding the regulations which apply to their particular sector, product, technology and service. Along with that, they got to do detailed market research, for example, if a business company wants to go from the UK to India, they must understand that it is essentially 28 different countries at different stages of economic development with different business environments with different priorities. Therefore, it requires SMEs to be ultra-focused and specifically narrows down not just to a state, but a city or a region and learn how to penetrate this business network. He highlights the need to understand the local intelligence and how one cannot adopt the ideology of one size fits all approach in India. While he also states that his biggest advice would be to do due diligence in finding proper potential business partners at an early stage and sensemaking with them, in terms of making sense of the landscape, the strategic vision and intent to get aligned in the short, medium and long terms as the relationships can go wrong if a business finds the wrong partner. This pre-work can help minimize the outlay because going into global markets is not just expensive, but a long-term affair which can maximize opportunities and achieve larger outcomes.

Mr. Manpreet goes further to ask Ms. Prianka Mahanty’s views on the Industry Academia partnerships and whether it can flourish and how can India collaborate with the universities and the companies in the UK and contribute to research concerning FinTech? Ms. Prianka Mahanty started by saying that how this is the right time to talk about it and talks about how a lot of universities are using support from various organisations to enter the Indian market and collaborate and partner with Indian universities for research. Like in the private sector, a very good example of collaboration in the field of research is the healthcare sector in terms of the vaccine in the present case. According to her, the vaccines were created quickly because both the countries exchanged information and worked so well together, which helped make this miracle vaccine like the Oxford which shows how research can benefit in the academia as well as in the corporate sector.

Ms. Mahanty also spoke about how India is a pioneer in terms of FinTech, while she believes how India is still limited to using certain payment systems like Paytm, which is used extensively in India. Therefore, she believes that there is a need for a case study on how well India has adapted to using payment systems like Paytm, like even the smallest shop vendors in India are using Paytm. She further believes that the UK and India should partner in the fields like wealth management and open banking. Ms. Mahanty also stated that nothing is easy and how there are always several challenges that one would encounter in any country in the world that one goes. While she believes that local expertise like associations or organizations like EICBI makes lives easier for SMEs as they provide good forums where the companies do not have to directly reach out to a partner and how they can go through any of these bodies.

Mr. Manpreet next called upon Mr Pranav Bhanot, to understand what changes would he like to see in the legal framework between the two regions? Mr. Bhanot in a straightforward manner spoke about how the perception that is trickling down about India in the UK is quite negative therefore emphasis on better reputation management of the Indian legal system, because according to him such news really puts people off, He believes that there must be a level of transparency and the independence. He certainly believes that the perception that the UK public has of the Indian legal system needs to be improved otherwise, it could be a deterrent for organizations to set up because they will be worried about whether they will get right legal judgements in India. He further said that how similarly all legal systems will have room for improvement. Mr. Pranav further talked about how the main point of emphasis should go beyond vehicles and whiskey when it comes to free trade agreement. He believes that the FTA model between UK and Japan is a good starting point and how alcohol, vehicles, and technology will be a big part of it. He thinks that there will be numerous industries that will benefit from better tariffs between the two countries.

Mr. Manpreet next asked Mr Ian Matthews to talk about what are the main reasons that Indian clients come to him to set up in the UK? Mr. Mathews talks about how he has two types of Indian clients looking to set up in the UK: First are the ones who are trying to set up from scratch, which means setting up their operations in the UK and then looking to develop it as a market. In those situations, the main attraction is the UK as a market generally according to him, as it is the fifth-biggest economy. One of the key things he advises his clients when they do set up in the UK is trying to find out what their plan is and how it is important to go into understanding what is the value proposition going to be coming into the UK because deciding who knows the company and who knows the markets and making sure that there is a right marriage. The second type of business are those that are already established in the UK and they are those Indian businesses looking to directly buy into the UK. According to a study done by Mr. Ian Matthews and his team, it was found that one of the main reasons why people were looking to acquire in the UK was predominantly due to the tech market.

The 2nd Panel discussion on ‘Strengthening Business Cooperation between India and EU’ was moderated by Mr. Abhinav Kumar, Board Member – Europe India Business Council/ CMO – Global Markets, TCS. Following #EuropeIndia40 leaders were part of the panel discussion.

  • Ms Stefania Benaglia – Senior Expert, Public Diplomacy Project, European Union Delegation to India
  • Mr. Joel Fernandes – Project Lead, Business Support to the EU-India Policy Dialogues
  • Ms Zane Sime – EU India Policy Analyst
  • Mr Kunal Singla – Founding partner, COBO Consult

The Panel Discussion started with the moderator Mr. Abhinav Kumar talking about the education sector and how over the last year it has been dramatically impacted by the COVID pandemic and quoting UNESCO ‘more than a billion students have their studies impacted in some way or the other. Further, he goes on to ask Ms. Zane Sime, what is the role that the education sector can play in furthering this bilateral relationship between the European Union and India during these uncertain times? Ms. Zane spoke about her previous research that focused on Higher Education and Research cooperation, as well as science and educational diplomacy.

The existing literature on both of the mentioned strands of diplomatic studies shows that full-time studies abroad or exchange programs are valuable for acquiring diverse academic and applied training and therefore the section on People to People contacts of the roadmap is so vital for the EU India partnership. She further emphasized how Latvia is welcoming growing numbers of students from India and other partner countries. She believes that the COVID implications led to a transformation of higher education programs into hybrid or fully online encounters across the world as these measures that were taken to strengthen the safety and health of staff and students have also given impetus to new pathways for international outreach with geographic distance becoming less of an issue. Moreover, the EU support for open access publishing advocated over the past years gives further boost for intensive learning opportunities and impressive repositories of academic and applied literature. Therefore, she thinks it is an opportunity. She further spoke about how Horizon Europe by and large will be guided by mission-oriented innovation, which will be a factor for future EU India cooperation, in terms of co-creating solutions that are aligned with mission-oriented innovation. One of the panelists, Ms. Stefania made a small remark as to what Ms. Zane previously said, about an increase of Indian students in the European universities, and how unfortunately the program is not optimistic. As she thinks that the actual problem comes after the studies. According to her, these students come to Europe due to the capacity of talent attraction in Europe while it, unfortunately, becomes very detrimental because after finishing the studies, students are pretty much obliged to leave the EU and this is a huge loss. She does admit that this opens a very big debate and that she is very much aware that this is a structural problem and hopes it will be addressed as soon as possible.

Mr. Abhinav then talks about how the forthcoming EU India summit and how the last summit was in July last year, hence forwards a question to Ms. Stefania about what will be the expectations or the possible concrete outcomes of the summit and asked her to address how the roadmap that has 118 points which can be a lot to keep in track of so how do both sides ensure that each one is staying honest on implementing that agenda. Ms. Stefania started by saying that indeed it is a good thing to take stock of what happened 9-10 months ago, and now that the EU India partnership has been mostly accused of under-delivering. While she does see that these nine months were staggering but points out how the Human Rights dialogue was resumed since 2013, had the digital 5g artificial intelligence talk, as well as had foreign security consultations. According to her, these number of high-level meetings in the context of broader EU India relations, the relationship has moved on from the joint statement as all agree on common values to let us do something and the speed at which the implementation is going ahead, which is a good thing according to her. She further went on to talk about the expectation with the coming summit and stated that these are the extended deliverables that are expected.

1) A degree of convergence on climate change. Everything is geared towards the transition of the economy towards a sustainable and green economy, she believes that it will create opportunities for collaboration in the energy sector, infrastructure, digital and foreign policy.

2) Other is moving forward on the trade issue, which she feels is a complicated one, as she talks about connectivity partnership which she calls as a little bit the buzz word that is going on right now. According to her, for the EU this is quite a new concept compared to Asia because connectivity partnership in Asia has been implemented for almost a decade in several forms. She feels that both EU and India are now trying to agree to have a connectivity partnership which would be quite a changing point. Because it will enable a different level like moving on from the joint statement to implementation and implementing of joint common values and that is really where the shift will happen according to her.

The moderator, Mr. Abhinav puts forward a question for Mr. Joel Fernandez, who through an initiative has helped a lot of businesses on both sides, and asks him if he could talk a little bit about it. Mr. Joel started by stating that the business support to the EU in their policy dialogues project is a direct outcome of the new EU strategy on India which was adopted in 2018. The project aims to increase business involvement and strategic areas of bilateral cooperation between the EU and India in the sectors of energy environment, climate change, ICT, and urbanization. The project was launched in 2019, to support businesses from the EU and enter India and plug them into the already existing EU India projects.

He stated that the EU India projects are of different types.

1) The EU India Water partnership,

2) The Clean Energy and Climate partnership project,

3) The ICT standardization and collaboration project between the EU and India,

4) A project on urban partnership.

5) Also, a project on resource efficiency and its initiatives.

He further spoke about how the foundation of the European Business and Technology Center (EBTC), came with an aim to handhold EU businesses and create some kind of an ecosystem in India, which would be viable for EU businesses to do business with India. EBTC advises them on where the opportunities are in India and what could be some of those challenges that these companies could face. He explained how the EBTC also has created diagnostic tools for companies to check in advance whether they are ready for India called the ‘India readiness kit’ that has all the necessary information, which was launched at the last EU India summit, which all sort of advice for companies and take an online quiz to see whether they are ready for India. Also, how they also have a program that supports businesses on the ground, which is a membership-led program, where EU businesses are invited and are given some kind of visibility. Along with it they also support EU businesses while they are in India.

Mr. Joel further spoke on the impact of COVID on businesses, where he stated that they did a study as part of the business support to the EU India policy dialogues project just to see if there was any impact in the business post and during the pandemic. He did agree that things are happening slowly right now, because of the situation in India and with businesses wanting to play safe. But he believes that once things open up in India, a lot of EU businesses will get engaged with Indian companies. Therefore, believes that the COVID situation has been an impediment in terms of EU India Business dialogue and relations, and going forward once things open up we will see a positive sign. Mr. Joel, on talking about trends gave an example about how a German company set up an entire water treatment facility in India virtually, and how similarly a lot of companies from the EU are looking at India in terms of a new trend. Earlier, it was for automobiles and the high precision manufacturing companies and he believes that India now wants to be seen as high tech, deep tech manufacturing hub of industry 4.0, as we call it now.

Mr. Abhinav asked Mr. Kunal Singla about how he is advising Indian businesses, which are looking to come into Europe now, whether is he advising them to stay in London or to see opportunity in other places as well. Mr. Kunal started by stating that he has been in this field for more than a decade, and primarily advises Nordic and Danish companies going into the Indian market, but increasingly also Indian companies looking to the EU. Hence he goes on to emphasize the theme of dispersion which means a contrast to London being the One-Stop-Shop bridge. He believes that it is going to be more dispersed as per the specific sectors and as per specific company types and the entry modes. Mr. Kunal further talks about how businesses from one region, matching with the businesses from the other region is very tricky and that one must tread it with a lot of caution. A lack of caution can lead to losing a lot of money and taking a lot of risks, which no company would like. The other side can be, being overly cautious and seeing too many risks in business endeavours in the other region, which then lead to loss of opportunities. According to him, it is all about risk calibration, Therefore, the role of partners and consultants and advisors, public, private, and so forth, become very vital as expecting SMEs to do that on their own is not a realistic one. According to him the partnership between the EU and India in the next decade should be of a BFF (Best Friend Forever) like the young people call it, he used this metaphor to describe the kind of relationship he expects between the EU and India.

The summit came to an end on a positive note, with a few expectations for change, and hopeful of an increase in the speed for implementation of all the agendas that are agreed upon by both the EU – India and UK- India.

This blog has been compiled by EICBI’s project interns, under the guidance of Internshape.

The recordings of this interaction can be viewed from this link: https://youtu.be/7foOYQ2jQNk

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