India is an emerging tech powerhouse. Already the world’s second largest smartphone market, it is also on course to become the second largest market for IT generally by the end of 2018. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has embarked on initiatives such as Digital India (potentially worth £45 billion over 10 years), Smart Cities (£20-24 billion over 10 years) and Make in India, which are set to transform the tech economy in India. With the UK-Indian bilateral trade in goods and services worth £18 billion in 2017, and seeing year on year growth of 15%, India is a priority area for our International Trade programme.
Theresa May’s first bilateral trip outside Europe and first trade mission as PM was to India. Ahead of this visit in November 2016, techUK and the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), wrote a joint letter to Prime Ministers May and Modi. It called on them to deepen the tech relationship between the two countries and help unlock a major new wave of digital growth.
The letter contained four priorities: pioneering innovation partnerships through the opening of a tech hub in India; valuing international talent by enjoying a frictionless immigration policy; sharing best practice on boosting digital skills, an important challenge for both countries; and a trade agreement fit for the digital age. While a trade agreement is still some way off, it is promising that some steps have been taken in the other areas.
Since then, techUK has been closely involved in moving these priorities forward. In September 2017, techUK organised the first UK-India Working Group to explore how trade between the two countries in the tech sector can be increased. The working group formed part of techUK’s new International Trade programme and was supported by the Indian High Commission, London, the UK’s Department of International Trade, NASSCOM, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), as well as leading UK and Indian tech companies. The outcomes of the working group have helped to inform the direction of the UK-India tech trade relationship and the actions of techUK’s International Trade India programme.
We followed this up in February 2018 by supporting the Northern Powerhouse’s Department for International Trade Mission to Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai. I was delighted to join the mission which was attended by several techUK members. The visit provided an insight in to the excellent opportunity for partnership between UK and Indian tech companies. The mission took in the NASSCOM Future Leaders Summit coinciding with WCIT India 2018 - The Olympics of the Global ICT Industry, as well as providing site visits to large Indian multinationals such as Wipro and Tech Mahindra and providing the opportunity for a number of one-to-one meetings with Indian tech companies of all size.
techUK is also proud to be the UK tech partner for the Access India Programme (AIP). The Access India Programme, launched in September 2017 by the High Commission of India in London, is a flagship programme assisting market entry into India. The programme is the first of its kind for supporting UK businesses access the Make in India initiative of the Government of India. The programme solely focuses on providing support to small and medium size UK enterprises.
techUK is continuing to engage with the Indian tech sector, with one of our recent events partnering alongside the Open University to explore ‘what can the UK learn from India to bridge the IT skills gap?’. As Prime Minister Modi attends the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting next week, we look forward to exploring the next steps in the burgeoning tech partnership between our two countries.