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Opportunities galore between India & UK

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AP AN IMPORTANT STATE FOR THE UK

With ongoing discussions for the much lionized free trade agreement between India and UK having entered its 14th round it is probably a matter of time when the FTA (free trade agreement) will be clinched.

Both governments have evinced their strongest desire and commitment in realizing the FTA at the earliest.

In order to get a closer picture of the trade opportunities between the two nations we spoke to British’s deputy High commissioner during his recent visit to Vizag. In a freewheeling chat with Vizag Industrial Scan, Mr Gareth Wynn Owen, British’s Deputy High Commissioner to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh opened up on the slew of opportunities that exists between the two countries and more importantly between the United Kingdom and the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Edited Excerpts

Let me begin by asking you about the much anticipated FTA and where we are at?

I am happy to inform you that on Jan 10th 2024 we have already begun the 14th round of our discussions on the FTA. Both sides are committed and determined in getting this deal done as this will benefit both sides immensely. Our economies complement each other and for any trade deal to be successful it has to be a win-win situation for both.

Tourism and Cricket probably go hand in glove and England is currently touring India. How do you perceive Tourism playing a part in this?

Tourism is a very important aspect and sector for the two countries. Many people in UK don’t have an understanding of the new version of India. Cricket is much loved and celebrated in both countries and I therefore think there is no better way to advertise/promote tourism than having a cricket match.

I must inform you that there are about 600 UK fans that have come to India for viewing the matches taking place here. 

Staying on Tourism let me ask you on VISAs and how India compares to other countries in the number of VISAs issued (tourists)?

There has been a massive growth in VISAs issued to Indians. India is the largest country for UK in terms of VISAs issued. Just to share some numbers with you we issued 518,000 tourist VISAs last year to Indians going to UK. Indian visitors are the largest group of visitors internationally to the UK. 

Similarly there has been a surge on British citizens visiting India. A record 150000 British tourists will be visiting the sun shine state of Goa between Jan-April this year. I would however want more UK citizens to visit India.

Education is a key sector with many Indian students opting to study in UK. Could you share some numbers on how this sector has evolved?

Indian students are now the largest international student community of foreign students in the UK. To share a number with you over 130000 Indian students were issued study visas to go to UK in the year ending September 2023. This is just phenomenal. We have also seen a steady rise in students applying from AP and Telangana. In fact for the University of East London the most important foreign group of students is from AP and Telangana.

I therefore must point out that our education offer is strong and competitive. In addition UK education compliments certain key growth sectors here. 

Let me bring up the Defence sector as there has been a strong emphasis on this sector. What opportunities do you see in this sector for both the countries?

Defence and cyber security are again very important sectors for us and we want to see a deeper relationship between UK & India that can be further strengthened. India’s defense minister recently visited the UK and talks were structured around how we could bolster our engagement in this space. As you must be aware bilateral exercises between our two navies have taken place and two British ships have visited the eastern naval command here. I must also point out that maritime security is a shared vision for both our nations. In addition we have a new defense resource in Hyderabad to further strengthen our engagement in this sector.

Coming to the state of Andhra Pradesh, How important is AP for UK and what opportunities do you identify here?

The state of Andhra Pradesh is definitely important to us. In the 18 months that I’ve been here I’ve only heard positive things of doing business here from British companies. We have been working on many aspects here ranging from skill development to education to renewables and see immense opportunities for overall trade and commerce.

And to bolster our focus on the state we have been strengthening our team for AP too. We have recently added new dedicated resources for trade and commerce that will be focusing on AP. One area where we could see some support is the availability of more British alcohol brands in AP.

What would you say are the key sectors for growth?

More and more British companies are actively exploring opportunities in both AP and Telangana. To highlight a few sectors I would say Life Sciences, IT, Education, Healthcare, renewable energy and EVs are probably among the top. Also a sector that many businesses in AP have mentioned to us is food processing. India has massive potential in this sector.

Some initiatives you would like highlight in AP that your organization has supported?

Sure. We work on many programs focusing on women empowerment. One of the best examples of this is of a project we completed in Kakinada. This involved the roll out of EVs in Kakinada that helped 1500 mechanics to up skill their knowledge on EVs and also to encourage more female auto drivers. We have also connected UK universities to APSSDC in helping up skill nurses in AP. We also run scholarship programs such as the Chevening scholarship a fully funded PG program. 

Sri City in Andhra Pradesh has been an attractive destination for many MNCs. I understand there are currently 8 UK cos based there. Are there more cos that will set up there?

Sri City is marvelous and is a very impressive business park. I had visited there in July last year and was blown away by the scale and professionalism of the zone. During my visit there I met UK cos based out of Sri City and they were complementing on how important Sri City is to their respective businesses and how they are expanding there. So Sri City is definitely getting it right.

Here I would like to tell you about a UK based tailoring company which has presence in Sri City and manufactures high end exclusive custom made suits for clients in the UK. The customer just walks into a store in UK and the only thing the store does there is take his/her measurements everything else is done in Sri City. Some of these suits have made to big Hollywood movies like Barbie and MIB etc.

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