To give a new impetus to the burgeoning Indo-British trade, India is opening a business centre in London by the end of this month, Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ronen Sen announced in London on Wednesday night.
Stating that there was tremendous scope for stepping up bilateral trade, the high commissioner said, "The business centre will be operational by the end of this month." Indo-British bilateral trade crossed pounds 5 billion this year and is expected to double in the next four years.
Sen was the chief guest at the inaugural dinner of the Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India, which was attended by Baroness Shreela Flather, leading non-resident Indian businessmen, S P Hinduja and G P Hinduja, chairman and president respectively of the Hinduja Group, Crispin Blunt MP and several leading British and NRI industrialists.
Reeling out facts about the rapid growth achieved by India in various fields, Sen said despite the global economic downtrend India had registered an annual growth rate of 5.8 per cent in fiscal 2002-03 and emerged as the world's fastest growing democracy.
"People are fairly optimistic that this year the growth rate will be 6 per cent or more and exports will go up by more than 20 per cent."
Referring to the British telecom workers' threat to go on strike in protest against more British companies opening call centres in India, Sen said Indian IT companies, too, were opening call centres in Britain and the recent one being in Belfast, which provided jobs to 800 people.
Tony Baldry MP, chairman of the Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India Business Committee who hosted the dinner along with the Indo-British Enterprise Partnership, invited leading personalities from the Indian community in Britain to join his party and contest for Parliament.
"We need talents from every community. Anybody who is interested in standing for Parliament election, please don't feel shy. We need you to make contribution not just to the party but to the country," he said.
Baldry said the Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India would take a large delegation to India later this year to further build business ties between the two countries.
Focusing on prospects of joint ventures with Indian companies, S P Hinduja, chairman of the Hinduja Group, said: "Government of India is moving towards a free market. There is tremendous scope for joint ventures."
He said, "20 million NRIs have shown what could be achieved through determination and hard work. Most of them -- doctors and engineers -- graduated from India and they are outstanding. India is a market economy of 1.2 billion people. We should not miss the opportunity."
In a lighter vein, he said Indians buy from Jews and sell to Scottish and still make profit. "In the last 53 years -- since Independence -- India has been progressing and rising gradually because the foundation is strong. For the first time, even America has realised that without India it is not possible to balance the world."
Echoing the sentiment, G P Hinduja, president of the Hinduja Group said the potential for joint ventures in India was tremendous and the group had achieved success in every field. He suggested that Indian and British companies could jointly take up projects in Iraq, where there is a crying need for reconstruction.
Karan Billimoria, founder of the Indian Cobra beer who was declared Asian of the Year 2003, said though Portuguese, French and others ruled in India, it was the British who had left behind lasting influence be it in foreign service, legal service, education, business or the political system.
He also thanked former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for starting the free economy and giving primacy to meritocracy, which he said enabled NRIs to flourish in Britain. "The Labour Government has only carried forward those policies," he said.
Rami Ranger, director general of the Business Committee, said India offered a more stable climate for business, as it is a democratic and secular country where basic human rights for every individual are enshrined in the constitution, regardless of their colour, caste or creed.