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'London is the most sought after city for Indian firms'

Last updated on: August 10, 2012 16:18 IST

'London is the most sought after city for Indian firms'

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Harish Kotian in London

London is the most welcoming business city in the world for Indian companies, argues Gerry Grimstone, chairman of global assurance firm Standard Life.

"When Indian firms choose to locate themselves in London, the ecosystem treats them the same as home-grown firms. Foreign firms have an equal status to British firms. This is so important," says Grimstone.

"No other financial centre in the world is as welcoming as London is."

Indian and British firms have a long history of cooperation, Grimstone explains.

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Image: Olympic Torch.
Photographs: Reuters

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"India is one of the major investors in the UK in the same way that the UK is a major investor in India.

"For someone of my generation, being born in 1949, it is a remarkable fact that in the last three years India has become the largest source of foreign direct investment into the UK.

"To have thought, 60 years ago, that this is where we would have ended up -- that is real connectivity."

Britain and India 'complement' each other, he adds.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: UK , India , Britain , London

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'London is the most sought after city for Indian firms'

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"We're the world's oldest democracy, they're the world's largest democracy. We also have a shared language, a shared heritage and a common legal system."

Indeed, company law in India is a near-replica of the 1948 UK Companies Act.

"It makes it tremendously easy to do business -- both for Indian companies in London and London companies in India," explains Grimstone.

London is the number one investment location for Indian companies.

More than 50 per cent of Indian investment comes to the UK, and there are more than 700 wholly-owned Indian companies operating in London.

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Image: Olympic Torch.
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'London is the most sought after city for Indian firms'

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"As you'd expect, there is particularly strong representation of Indian financial and professional service companies operating in London, all helped by the very vibrant non-resident Indian community in the UK."

Indian banks do 'very well' in London, says Grimstone.

"They have complete freedom to practice when they're established.

"They have an over 5 billion pounds deposit base now."

The scope of Indian businesses in London does not stop at finance, however.

It is estimated that 20 per cent of India's total IT revenues are generated here.

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'London is the most sought after city for Indian firms'

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There is also a lot of movement from British firms into India. Grimstone's business, Standard Life, has only had a presence in India for 10 years but it has become a major market for the global assurance firm.

"From a greenfield start 10 years ago, we have created over 1 billion pounds of value in India, and that's from nowhere.

"Today, in the private sector, we are number two in life assurance and number one in asset management."

He says the company has achieved this through adopting a local partner.

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Image: A bus and taxi pass Big Ben on Westminster Bridge in London.
Photographs: Kieran Doherty/Reuters

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"If the two partners respect and trust each other, it just works.

"But they can't just do it by sitting behind a desk. I travel to Asia two or three times a month, and you need to be prepared to do that if you want to have connectivity."

Grimstone adds that he hopes India will open further to British firms.

"As a friend of India, I have much hope that their rapid growth can be sustained and that prosperity can be created for all Indian citizens. But to do so, continued liberalisation of professional services is necessary.

"I'm constantly encouraging my Indian friends to open themselves to the outside world. Indians have nothing to fear from competition with UK businesses.

"It would benefit everyone."


Image: A view of Canary Wharf on the River Thames in London.
Photographs: Kieran Doherty/Reuters
Tags: Grimstone , India , UK , British , Asia

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