Pot of Gold at Both Ends for India, Britain

As India and the United Kingdom celebrate 15 years of their renewed economic engagement under the aegis of UK-India Business Council (UKIBC), the two great nations have only scratched the surface of the potential that exists today for bilateral trade and investment. 

The potential for bilateral trade, which has doubled to 10 billion pounds in the past five years, is truly immense. So it is for investment opportunities that are highlighted by the Tata-Corus and the Essar-Vodaphone deals. 

India has a long list of entrepreneurial talent, which has been unleashed since the economic liberalization process started in July 1991. We are all seeing the flowering Indian entrepreneurial talent day after day. 

A resurgent India has been one of the major economic stories of the past decade, and with good reason.

The Tata Nano small car, which I happened to see at the recently-concluded Auto Expo in New Delhi, is the latest example of this tremendous capability of Indian enterprise, which has captured the attention of the whole world. 

Fifteen years ago, then British prime minister John Major and his counterpart in India Narasimha Rao launched the UK-India Business Council (UKIBC). In more ways than one it was intended to realize the dream that India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had for India and the world. 

Even though India got its independence over 60 years ago, it was only in the past 16 years - since the liberalization process started under Narasimha Rao - that it truly opened up its economy. 

Since then it has been a journey from inward to the outward.

Twenty-five years ago, Britain was called the "sick child of Europe". But the last quarter of a century has changed that perception. It has turned into a major market of the world. 

Today Britain is the envy of Europe.

In 1986, for example, one distinctly remembers the closed shops in London and the "Gentleman's Club". But this was changed forever thanks to the big bang of inward to outward movement of goods, capital and human resources. 

Today, London has become one of the global financial centres.

I believe that the coming together of India and the UK, two long-standing friends who have become success stories for the world to see, present opportunities that are truly phenomenal. 

The world's oldest and largest democracies stand firm on a strong foundation built on shared principles and values. The rule of law, their common business practices, shared knowledge of English and a free and vibrant press are some of the many common platforms that these two nations share. 

Today Britain is celebrating its entrepreneurial capability and Prime Minister Gordon Brown - who is in India Sunday on an official visit - had recently launched the Global Entrepreneurship Week in London. This is to be launched in some 50 other countries including India. 

I am a firm believer that the time is ripe for the two countries to take their relationship to a different plane. For that, it is equally important to have some supportive policy measures. 

Take, for example, India's budget for the last fiscal year presented by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. It was somewhat disappointing to me and many other businessmen. 

But I, for one, have full faith in the finance minister to present to the world a better budget this time. Further liberalization and opening up of the market, too, should be the focus. 

You may walk slow but should not go backward.

Many banks, insurance companies and lawyer-firms want to set up shop in India. But they are not getting regulatory permission. India's ICICI Bank is doing well in Britain and we want British banks to get similar opportunities in India. 

I can again say the opportunities are immense for both the countries.

The proverbial story of the pot of gold at the end of rainbow does not apply to India and the UK. In my opinion, as far as these two countries are concerned, there is a pot of gold at both ends.


More by :  Karan Bilimoria

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