Major investments by the Tata Group and Essar Steel could be the sign of more deals to come for the West Midlands, according to a high profile delegation from one of India’s most industrially advanced states.
A group of senior government officials and business leaders from Gujarat visited Birmingham to showcase opportunities for investors and cross-border partnerships.
The visit comes after Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to the country, highlighting the significance the Government is placing on trade and investment links.
Guruprasad Mohapatra, head of the delegation and managing director of Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals, said deals such as Tata’s purchase of Jaguar Land Rover and Mumbai-based Essar Steel’s acquisition of Dudley-based Servosteel earlier this year were a sign of things to come.
“A lot of things are happening, its not only one-way trade from Britain to India, it is both ways, Tata and Essar Steel are some of the highlighted cases but there are a number of technology exchanges and mergers and acquisitions that are taking place between the two countries and in the times to come with increasing globalisation, these are the things to expect.”
Mr Mohapatra said that a lot of interest in trade links stemmed from the large population in Birmingham which are of Gujarat origin, coupled with the manufacturing roots of the city.
The state of Gujarat contributes 16 per cent to India’s total industrial production and 21 per cent of total trade.
He added: “We feel there are opportunities in Gujarat for businesses in the UK. We chose Birmingham because there are a lot of financial services concentrated here and a lot of technology which can be accessed from these areas. That’s the reason we visited the city.”
The delegation, which represents sectors including infrastructure, logistics and energy, financial services, chemicals, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals and high end manufacturing along with the Confederation of Indian Industry, attended the event at the Latitude Club, Barclays Corporate, to discuss potential opportunities and encourage businesses in the Midlands to the Vibrant Gujarat summit in January 2011.
Mahendra Patel, chairman of plastics equipment maker Mamata Group, said: “I belong to state of Gujarat, we have always been the most progressive of the states the reason is that we all believe in getting more industry and investments.
"We believe the Government deliver what they promise which is not always true but in this case it is. We are a one-stop shop – they assign a senior civil servant to all significant projects and through them you can move through red tape and bureaucracy.”
Latest figures show that India’s economy grew at its fastest rate for more than two years in the last quarter. In the three months to June, GDP was up 8.8 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Gururaj Rao, consul general of India who is based in Birmingham, said ‘the sky is the limit’ in relation to trade opportunities.
He said: “I have been here only for nine months, before that I was in India and since I came here I have been promoting trade and commerce and further strengthening our bilateral relationship. In July the prime minister David Cameron came to India and a number of priority areas were identified including trade and commerce, science and technology and education.
“There are plenty of opportunities – the sky is the limit and we have not been able to realise even a part of it. Our India-UK trade is about £12.5 billion and it could be multiplied. This was one of the things we agreed during the visit to focus on doubling bilateral trade in the next five years.
“Some of the successes include the Midlands automobile industry and the clean carbon technologies. Organisations like the Warwick Manufacturing Group are working on that, the idea is to see best practices and share them.”
Mike Loftus, manager of inward investment group Locate, said: “We have been building a relationship with the Confederation of Indian Industry for many years. The organisation represents many businesses across India and this is a way of increasing the profile of Birmingham. We see them as a valuable partner.
“This event is about highlighting Birmingham and ensuring people realise that it remains an important manufacturing city as well as financial services.”