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'Touchdown London' to help Indian companies

December 05, 2007 10:52 IST

In a novel way to help Indian businesses set up offices in London, 'Touchdown London,' a dedicated start-up scheme, has been launched to provide them subsidised space and support services for the purpose.

The new service was announced at the 'Indian Business Reception' held on Tuesday night at the Lords' hosted by 'Think London,' which celebrates the importance of London and the United Kingdom's economic and cultural links with India, said city Mayor Ken Livingstone. The new service is launched in partnership with Avanta, a leading firm providing serviced office space.

Fresh from his 'incredibly successful visit' to India, Livingstone said there was tremendous scope for building up the trade and cultural links between India and London.

"My visit to Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar built on the already solid links that London has with India, which I am confident will only strengthen with time," he said.

"India is a rising economic superpower, with an annual growth rate of 9.2 per cent. With London currently positioned as one of the most pre-eminent business centres in the world, I hope that my recent visit demonstrated the benefits that London provides to Indian businesses looking to expand their headquarters in an increasingly competitive world."

As a sequel to his visit, as many as 15 businesses that attended the seminars during Livingstone's trip, have already expressed their interest in establishing a presence in London, an official said.

Asked to comment on his visit to the Mumbai slums, Livingstone said, "There was vibrancy everywhere."

Asked what impressed him the most during the visit, the Mayor told PTI, "My visit to Amritsar (Golden Temple)."

He said he was also highly impressed with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's programme of tree plantation to provide a green belt to the city.

He has pledged his support to the Delhi administration in holding the 2010 Commonwealth Games and promised his backing if India makes a bid for 2020 Olympics.

Kamalesh Sharma, India's High Commissioner to the UK, said that in addition to the tremendous growth in the bilateral trade, there has been a significant increase in the number of Indian students studying in the UK. He noted that as many as 600 Indian students studied at the University of Brent last year and an equal number in the University of Middlesex.

The number of Indian tourists visiting London last year was the second largest, next only to the United States, he said.

He complimented Ken Livingstone for recognising and focussing on the India-London relations in all walks of life, including trade and culture.

Over the past three years, Think London, the foreign direct investment agency for London, assisted over 50 Indian companies to set up and expand in London, generating 1,257 jobs. Some Indian companies Think London has recently assisted include Punjab National Bank International Limited, Orchid Chemicals, HDFC, Wipro and Exilant Technologies.

Acknowledging the important contribution Indian businesses make to London's economy, Michael Charlton, chief executive of Think London, said: "India is the second largest contributor to the flow of foreign direct investment projects into the capital."

"Last year was a record year for Indian companies on the London Stock Exchange, raising almost triple the amount they did in 2005. Indian companies raised a total of $ 2.7 billion on AIM (alternative investment market) and a further $ 200 million on the main market and professional securities market in 2006," Charlton said.

He said during 2006-07, India accounted for 14 per cent of all foreign direct investment projects, up from 6 per cent over the same period in 2000-01.

In total there were over 10,000 Indian-owned businesses in London employing 49,000 people. Together, they generated a combined turnover of $ 14.4 billion and represented 5 per cent of London's economy. David Alberto, CEO of Avanta said: "India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and it is important the London business community pulls together to welcome and encourage Indian businesses starting up in this country. By providing some free serviced office space initially, to help them find their feet and a guaranteed discount afterwards across our ten London locations, we are helping to facilitate their start-up process and enable them to focus on making their business a success."

H S Rao in London
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