West Midland firms should not assume they have an automatic advantage in India because of the region’s connections to the subcontinent, an expert has warned.
The CBI’s India adviser Mark Runacres said despite the fact the region had a significant Indian-descended population, companies would still have to work hard to win business in the country.
“West Midland firms have to make sure they have got the right partners, the right chief executives and talk to people like the CBI,” he said.
“In India everybody knows Birmingham but that’s not to say that it’s any easier. Everybody is beating a path to India whether you are from Vancouver, Walsall, Birmingham or Milan – you are up against stiff competition.”
Speaking to local CBI members at an event at Clarke Wilmott’s offices, Mr Runacres said he had been present at meetings between Indian and UK companies, as well as German and French companies, and observed that British firms did not get any special treatment.
He added: “Anybody who feels they have preferred status or a natural advantage is kidding themselves.”
In a talk entitled India: Poised to Rise or Fall, Mr Runacres outlined the challenges facing the Indian economy at the moment.
He said: “India is going through a tough patch now. It had quite remarkable growth for the last five years.
“Growth slowed down during the recession, but it remained pretty healthy mostly because India does not depend on exports for growth and also because it has a highly regulated financial services industry.
“But the growth rate may drop because of inflation driven by world commodity and food prices and there are also certain governance challenges.”
He pointed to food price inflation, running at around the 17 per cent mark, and political scandals such as the allegations of a multi-billion pound telecoms fraud currently rocking the country.
But he added that despite the current difficulties, the growth of India’s middle classes would drive the country’s economic success in the long term.
“Despite the major challenges India faces, the general story is one that I think is doomed to succeed.
“Having started on this growth path and having brought tens of thousands of people into the middle classes who want to get with their middle class lives, that process is probably the single most important and significant process for the India story.
“What every happens, whether India rises or falls in between, that story will continue to unfold positively.”