16 November 2015 | By Simon Moore Insight

UK & India: an unbeatable combination

Insight: Simon Moore, international director, CBI

Prime Minister Modi's first visit to the UK since his election marked the importance of the UK-Indian relationship – and growing opportunities for British business.

UK business leads the world in India, with CBI members in the vanguard. Companies such as Marks and Spencer, JCB and Vodafone have invested a total of $22bn – nearly 10 per cent of all foreign investment in India.

British companies are responsible for 1 in 20 organised private sector jobs in India. G4S, with 130,000 employees, is the biggest of them all.

And investment goes both ways. India has chosen the UK as its top destination for investment in Europe, with household names from Jaguar Land Rover to Tetley Tea now in Indian ownership and benefiting from Indian investment. In fact, India is only just behind France as the third largest foreign investor in the UK.

Forget, for a moment, the astonishing history between our countries, and consider for a moment the growing importance of the mutual business relationship and what it does for jobs and growth in both countries. 

Think then about the corporate social responsibility programmes of our members in India. British companies such as Standard Chartered, HSBC and BG India spend 200 per cent of their legally required minimum on programmes to alleviate poverty, develop micro businesses and sanitation programmes for vulnerable communities.

Taking the next steps

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK in November saw him meet the leaders of many of the companies investing in India. He brought with him the leaders of Indian business too. Hosted by David Cameron at No.10, their discussions focused on planning the next stage of this extraordinary story of cooperation, growth and enterprise. 

The CBI's new director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, was part of this meeting and privileged to be able to engage in this dialogue of huge strategic importance to both our members and to our country. 

While Cameron has been to India three times since 2010, it was Modi's first visit to the UK since his election last year. The CBI, which has a long-standing office in Delhi, believes that this will prove to be an important step on the road to the next stage of this partnership.

The opportunities for British business in India are significant – and growing. On the eve of his departure to the UK, the Indian government further eased regulations for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 15 sectors, including single-brand retail, banking, construction, media and airlines. This adds greater scope to the UK's contribution, which can already be seen in areas such as engineering and infrastructure management, financial services, education, healthcare and energy.

It is a complex and difficult market, but with the right advice and the right partnerships, this is one of the most dynamic and exciting markets in Asia. 

India has an economic policy designed to alleviate poverty through employment, urbanisation, bringing people into the financial sector, provision of sanitation. It is doing this through ambitious manufacturing, digital, healthcare, transport and smart cities programmes. 

British capital, management skill and technical know-how is in demand. The common language, legal systems and deep historical understanding bring our business communities together to deliver this growth. Modi's visit is a powerful statement from the Indian government on the importance of what he calls an “unbeatable combination”.