Notwithstanding the impact of Russia's war with Ukraine, the UK and India are heading towards an era of positive engagement in trade and business relations, with steps underway to promote mutual investments in both the nations, British Deputy High Commissioner in charge of Kerala and Karnataka Chandru Iyer said.
Iyer who is also UK's Deputy Trade Commissioner for South Asia spoke in detail to PTI on Friday about the trade and investments between the UK and India and said there was potential to double the business by 2030. He was in the state to take part in various official engagements, including a meeting with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and also in connection with the port of call made by the British Royal Navy's frigate ship, HMS Lancaster, at Kochi.
Calling war a global phenomenon that affects all countries in more ways than one, the British Deputy High Commissioner hailed entrepreneurs for being enterprising and resilient in the face of adversity. "If you look at the flow of business or the trade numbers between the UK and India for the period ending Q4 of last year, the number stood at 34 billion British pounds. For the same period ending the year before last, it was around 19 billion pounds. So it’s been a big jump in trade and business," Iyer said.
After meeting the Chief Minister two days ago and expressing interest in collaboration with the Kerala government in the education sector, Iyer met tech entrepreneurs from Thiruvananthapuram and its neighbouring regions. He also held business discussions in Kochi. "The interest in UK is so high that people want to come there and set up their business and use that as their global headquarters... This means that countries are doing more business together. The aspirations have the potential to double the trade and investment numbers by 2030," Iyer said.
Detailing plans to attract Indian investment in the UK, Iyer said his team was working across India to identify companies with potential and was holding discussions, understanding their aspirations and connecting them with the right people in the UK. "We as a team are catalysts, we are enablers. All our services are free, comprehensive, confidential and bespoke," he said.
Iyer, who has roots in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli, spent most of his life in Nagpur working in the private sector before shifting to the UK and landing the diplomatic job. "I spent most of my life in Nagpur, which is a tier-two city. I am a believer in the potential of tier 2 and tier 3 cities. So one of my objectives is to do a lot of outreach visits to tier two and tier three cities as well. We have a lot of inquiries from Thrissur, Calicut and Kottayam. So the potential is there," he said.
Talking about Indian students who opted for the UK for higher studies and were finding it difficult to land a part-time job, Iyer said employment was at an all time low in the UK but opportunities were coming up. "We live in very uncertain times. Who would have expected the war or who would have expected the inflation or a Silicon Valley Bank going down? Eventualities do happen. When students go there, they need to be a bit more circumspect and also look out for how things pan out for them," he said.
He said there was a huge demand for STEM professionals in the UK, and Indian students had a lot of opportunities in technical businesses and the banking sector as well. When asked about the collaboration with the state government in the education sector, the British diplomat said he was keen to work with Kerala on student exchange and co-branded courses.
"British universities can come here and tie up with the digital university or Kerala university or CUSAT," he said, adding that they were looking at engaging in collaborative activities in certain areas. "We had a very good meeting with the officials about certain key areas like biomarine, AI and architecture. We will identify concerned British universities to connect them with the state government," Iyer said. He said his team was committed to the State and was planning to do a major event in Kerala before the year-end as part of the birthday celebrations of King Charles III.