UK and India have common interests in innovation & entrepreneurship

Laura Demetris, Deputy Director for Investment and Marketing – South Asia at British High Commission, envisions the Indo-UK relationship as highly symbiotic, with the two countries responsible for half a million jobs in each other’s economies and bilateral trade at £ 24 billion in 2019. She emphasises on the shared interest in startups and innovation, as India moves to become the world’s next big digital economy.

Laura Demetris UK TPCI

IBT: Coming fresh out of BREXIT, how has COVID-19 impacted the outlook for the UK economy? What are the focus areas of the UK as it plans to revive economic growth in the post-COVID period?

Laura Demetris: COVID-19 remains a live challenge globally and one of the largest ever economic shocks. As part of the UK’s plan to exit the crisis, we published a COVID-19 recovery strategy in May 2020, which remains the UK Government’s roadmap to recovery.

While the virus clearly has had an impact on the UK economy, the measures we have put in place to support individuals and business such as the furlough scheme, financial support for SMEs through the British Business Bank and a dedicated business advisory service have been essential in mitigating the overall impact on business.

Some sectors where the UK has a strong competitive advantage such as technology have not only remained resilient, but grown exponentially, as COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital and online platforms. As a leading international financial centre, we also expect to retain our position as a leading destination for global capital.

IBT: What role is international trade expected to play in boosting economic growth for the UK post-pandemic? What is the broad outlook of the UK towards bilateral and multilateral trade agreements in the present scenario?

Laura Demetris: More than ever, it’s more important for countries to remain open to trade including as a mechanism for economic recovery. That includes building diverse supply chains that are robust in a crisis, something we know is also important to India.

Bilaterally, the UK is working to forge agreements that deepen its economic relationships, increase the flow of trade and investment and create jobs and mutual prosperity, including with India. In a multilateral context, the UK continues to play an active leadership role in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), championing a free, fair, and rules-based system.

IBT: What is the current perspective of the UK on the trajectory and potential of its bilateral trade relationship with India? What are the key challenges to broadening this relationship and how can they be expanded?

Laura Demetris: We see the current and future bilateral relationship with India as symbiotic. We are already responsible for over half a million jobs in each other’s economies, with the flow of trade increasing by almost 10% to £ 24 billion in 2019.

UK and Indian companies also have similar strategic interests, in IT and data, AI, healthcare and life sciences in addition to a host of other sectors as well as driving innovation as well as finding and financing the next generation of entrepreneurs and unicorns, particularly as India moves towards becoming the world’s next big digital economy.

At a more strategic level, both the UK and India are committed to expanding the scope of our trading relationship, and have agreed to deliver an Enhanced Trade Partnership. We most recently used the 14th Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) held virtually in July to make progress on these points and are looking forward to the 10th Economic and Financial Dialogue between UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman in the coming months, to deepen engagement in the financial services sector.

IBT: At a time when there is a consensus across the world on the need to diversify supply chains and look for alternative sources of production, India has undertaken a series of initiatives to promote investment, particularly focused on manufacturing. What opportunities does this present for UK firms?

Laura Demetris: The recent Government of India initiatives, aimed at creating a conducive ecosystem for global investors, have been a welcome move. For UK firms, who have invested over US$ 28 billion in India since 2000, this support is incredibly important across all sectors including advanced manufacturing as well as technology, healthcare and life sciences and financial & professional services.  UK firms such as OakNorth, one of the top 10 Fintech companies in the world that is employing over 450 people across its offices in Bengaluru and Gurgaon, are also making a substantial contribution to the Indian economy.

IBT: Indian companies have been playing a major role in the UK economy over the years? What avenues do you see for further expansion of Indian FDI in UK in the coming years and which sectors?

Laura Demetris: When it comes to FDI, the UK and India are consistently the top five investors in each others’ countries.

In the UK alone, there are 842 Indian companies employing more than 110,000 people. These companies together raised almost £ 41 billion in revenue in 2020.

We continue to see strong interest in the UK and growth for across the technology sector, consumer and retail, pharma and lifesciences, oil, gas and renewables as well as almost anything touching the digital economy. We are very happy to talk to any company interested in expanding to or growing their business in the UK.

Laura Demetris was appointed as the Deputy Director for Investment and Marketing – South Asia at British High Commission in India in February 2020.

Previously, Laura managed the relationship with the UK’s National Development Bank, the British Business Bank at the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). She has also been a UK budget negotiator at the UN in New York as well as managing the UK’s flagship scheme supporting overseas based entrepreneurs seeking to scale up in the UK, the Global Entrepreneur Programme.

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