London has much to offer to smarten up Indore

London has much to offer to smarten up Indore
London has much to offer to smarten up Indore

Rajesh Agrawal was born in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, and came to London over 15 years ago with only a few hundred pounds in his pocket but a big dream to succeed. He went on to set up multi-million-pound businesses and was recently appointed London's Deputy Mayor for Business. He tells 'India Investment Journal' why London will remain the epicentre of business for India and why he is excited that the UK will collaborate on turning his hometown in MP into a Smart City. How does it feel returning to MP after your new mayoral appointment Besides speaking at that UK-India tech summit in New Delhi, which is a major showcase of the strengths of two countries, I am hugely excited about visiting Indore, my hometown. It is among the 100 cities selected by India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Smart City initiative and it is one of the three cities being supported by the UK. I would like to explore how London can collaborate on this initiative because we have some fantastic expertise in the field of smart cities. Why is India important to the UK

India is one of the most important countries for the UK and, of course, for London. Indian businesses are extremely important to London's economy. Between 2005 and 2015 investment from India increased by 116 per cent. This accounts for 11 per cent of all investment in London, making it the second largest source of foreign investment to the city. Indian businesses employ over 50,000 people in London alone. London's status as the world's financial centre means HDFC chose London to issue their first rupee-denominated Masala Bond. That will continue and also there are huge opportunities across sectors. India is the fastest growing economy in the world. It is a country that certainly cannot be ignored. The British Indian community in London, which is a very vibrant and successful community and I believe a role model community, has contributed enormously by being great ambassadors of UK-India relations. I want to reassure India that London remains the best place to do business, even post-Brexit. What are some of the focus sectors for collaborations India is the second largest tech investor in London: as such, the tech sector is a key focus for collaboration, accounting for 62 per cent of all Indian investment projects into London from 2005 to 2015. We are capitalising on this through initiatives like India Emerging 20 (IE20), which was launched by the Mayor's official promotional company, London & Partners. It offers 20 of India's most dynamic businesses, established in 2000, a unique opportunity to win recognition on the international stage in London and develop their global potential. Does Brexit threaten India′s view of the UK/London as a gateway to Europe Like the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, I was very disappointed when the UK voted to leave the European Union. But we are saying very clearly to the rest of the world: London is open for business, open for investment, open to innovative and exciting ideas. Indeed, the signs coming from Indian businesses are extremely encouraging. Shortly after the referendum, India's second-largest industry body, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), surveyed its members and reported almost half (48 per cent) of respondents said that their business linkage with the UK is largely for access to the UK market, whereas only 14 per cent said that it's mainly for access to the EU markets, with the rest expressing a balanced interest in both. Half of the respondents also reported that they didn't intend to set up separate operations in any other EU country in the short-term. What are the priorities for London in the Brexit negotiations London contributes about one-third of all the taxes in the UK. It contributes to about one-quarter of all the GDP and its population is more than Scotland and Wales put together. It is very important that London has a strong voice in any kind of negotiations because it will impact the city hugely. If it impacts London, it will impact the whole country because London is the economic engine of the UK. I have spent the last four months in my role as Deputy Mayor for Business speaking to businesses of all sizes and the conclusion I have come to revolves around three main priorities:

  • Continued access to the single market, which is absolutely crucial.
  • Continued passporting rights, or equivalent, for the financial sector to be able to do business across Europe
  • Continued openness to talent from around the world. London is successful because it is open to talent and it is important that remains the case.
London is a great city and we must make sure that Brexit does not change that. The vote has caused uncertainty for a lot of businesses and businesses don't like uncertainty. My number one priority is to make sure London remains a great place for business. We need to make sure that we are open to talent and also nurture home-grown talent. So that our youth have the right skills. As the driving force of the UK's economy, London must have a seat at the decision-making table for the process of negotiation with the EU. Within that discussion, first and foremost, we will seek a form of access to the single market. So far, I'm encouraged that Prime Minister Theresa May and her team are willing to engage with me and understand why it's so important that London has a voice in the upcoming talks.
What are some top tips for UK companies looking to invest in India
The Mayor's promotional company, London & Partners offers free bespoke advice for international companies looking to invest and grow in London. They have a dedicated India team in London as well as a representative office in Mumbai, and are well-placed to explain the many fantastic opportunities that exist for Indian businesses to invest in London.
What are some goals you have set for yourself as Deputy Mayor
I have been in my new role of Deputy Mayor for Business for just about four months and it is really exciting. I have now been in London for 15 years and I felt I knew a fair bit about the city but now I know much more about London and I am even more impressed with how great a city this is. London is a fantastic city. It is boggling how one city can be so good at so many different things. My role touches upon business, tourism, higher education, skills and infrastructure. But it couldn't have come at a more critical time. The EU referendum has posed its own challenges and we must make sure that London continues to remain the best place to do business, which I am sure it will.

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