The UK-India alliance dates back to April 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then UK Prime Minister Theresa May clinched the partnership with an aim to catalyze innovation and technology involving both countries to address global challenges. The recent Covid-19 pandemic and other global challenges made the business climate tense and uncertain across geographies. In a recent conversation with CXOToday, Janet Coyle, Managing Director, Business, London & Partners, London’s international trade, investment and promotion agency that encourages business and tech investment and growth by overseas companies, believes, despite challenging times, strong technology and business relations between India and the UK to continue with lots of new and exciting opportunities awaiting Indian tech companies in London.
CXOToday: Can you throw some light on the India-UK trade relations post COVID? What is London & Partners doing to help?
Janet Coyle: As countries across the world deal with the impact of coronavirus, business communities in India and the UK have shown solidarity and collaboration, demonstrating Indian and UK ties continuing to hold strong. Throughout the pandemic, London & Partners worked hard to support our business communities in London and around the world with advice and opportunities to continue to trade and grow. We continue to support Indian businesses looking at international expansion to London. As expected there has been a global slowdown in FDI flows during the pandemic, but the tech sector has demonstrated its ability to adapt and innovate and we are working with several Indian companies who are looking at expanding to London.
Our international program for scale ups, the Mayor’s International Business Programme, also supports London-based companies access the Indian market as a destination to grow and scale, as well as providing access to Indian companies looking at global collaborations. We’ve moved everything to the digital platform, and we continue to connect people around the world through webinars, digital meetings and large-scale virtual events. We are hosting an edtech virtual trade mission to India later this year too, for London-based edtech companies considering Indian cities for international expansion.
While these are challenging times for countries around the world, we are confident we will continue to see strong relations between India and the UK as we move through the pandemic and towards the future.
CXOToday: Please tell us about the resilience of UK, particularly London, during the coronavirus pandemic. How are Indian companies helping London during the COVID pandemic?
Janet Coyle: No one can predict what the new business world will look like as we move through the crisis and look towards the future, but what we do know is that London has always shown remarkable resilience in the face of external challenges.
London is a city of creativity and innovation and these credentials are at the heart of London’s response to coronavirus. The city’s thriving tech community has been quick to rise to the challenge as businesses have pivoted and adapted to support the wider community and drive solutions – from Benevolent AI technology being used to identify possible drugs to treat the virus to Babylon Health’s Covid-19 app feature.
London and India have always had strong and longstanding business and trade links and we’ve seen both regions show solidarity and collaboration in the effort to tackle the effects of the global pandemic.
For example, Indian hotel chain OYO Rooms moved quickly to offer 2,000 rooms for NHS staff and key workers at a discounted rate while Bengaluru based ride-hailing unicorn, Ola Cabs, supported key workers across cities in the UK and India with 50% off rides for NHS workers and mobility support for healthcare professionals and senior citizens in India.
One of London’s fintech firms CreditEnable, who has a Mumbai office, also ramped-up activities in India through the launch of a new initiative called We Move Forward, offering Free Business health checks to SMEs.
CXOToday: With India being the second largest FDI investor into the UK, how do you see the flow of investments towards scale up/ startups in the coming months?
Janet Coyle: India is an important source of FDI for the UK and recent data shows that 120 new Indian projects created 5,429 jobs in 2019-20 in the UK. Last year, we had 106 Indian projects in London, creating 4,858 jobs. London continues to attract most of the investment from India into the UK.
This year, technology and telecoms companies continue to dominate the list of fastest growing Indian companies in the UK. There are an estimated 900 Indian companies operating in the UK and several of India’s largest technology companies have shown their commitment to London in recent years. This includes Infosys who opened their first design and innovation studio in the city’s tech hub last year.
So far this year we’ve helped five Indian companies in the tech, urban and life science sectors set up in London during the pandemic and we are expecting another 15 innovative companies to land in London by the end of the financial year.
In terms of VC investment into UK and London tech startups and scaleups during the pandemic, investors have continued to show confidence in London-based companies, with a total of €6.7bn in VC investment in 2020 so far. Companies in tech sectors such as fintech, medtech, edtech, clean energy, AI and cyber security have been attracting investment throughout the pandemic, with fintech dominating as London’s largest tech sector for VC investment.
CXOToday: Could you please explain the FCA’s regulatory sandbox that enables start-ups to test their products in the real market before launching?
Janet Coyle: The UK’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), is a key influence in setting standards of regulation globally. One of its major selling points for fintech companies includes Project Innovate, which launched in 2016. Project Innovate allows startups and corporate innovation units to test their products in the real market through its ‘regulatory sandbox’.
The FCA and the City of London Corporation have also recently collaborated on the pilot of a ‘digital sandbox’ to support innovative firms tackling challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The strategic partnership will see the organisations work together to develop and launch a digital testing environment to support both large financial institutions and startups looking to play a key role in the recovery from coronavirus.
CXOToday: How is London thriving in sectors such as FinTech with sustainable financing? How can India adopt some of these best practices?
Janet Coyle: The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a focus on sustainability, driven by the need to build back and reshape London to be greener and more resilient than it was before the crisis. Green finance is a priority area in the UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, and it plays an integral role in helping London to become more sustainable.
There are currently over 100 green bonds listed on the London Stock Exchange,raising more than $26bn from 16 countries. One innovative green fintech companies in London is G17 Eco World Wide Generation, a blockchain-enabled platform that provides an interoperable, transparent marketplace for sustainable investing.
London is a world-leading hub for fintech, and the sector has continued to attract investment during the pandemic. In the first half of the year, London-based fintechs attracted €1.7bn in VC investment. The UK capital dominates investments into European fintechs, claiming 57% of capital invested in H1 2020.
CXOToday: How is London planning to become a global hotspot for tech and innovation? And how would that help Indian tech entrepreneurs?
Janet Coyle: The coronavirus crisis has accelerated digital adoption, pushing tech entrepreneurs to adapt and innovate. London is now home to a huge number of fast-changing tech companies who are driving change and progress.
London’s tech industry has demonstrated its creativity and resilience through a collaborative response to find innovative solutions to help the wider community. From hospitals across the country adopting London scale up What3words’ way finding tech to help people find key hospital access points and ensure patients and PPE arrive safely, to London-based A&E doctor who founded DeliverAid to feed frontline NHS staff whilst simultaneously supporting local food outlets, London is an innovation hub.
London is also Europe’s biggest tech city, home to world-leading universities and exceptional talent. Universities like UCL, Imperial College and King’s College London are using their world-class research facilities to pioneer research in the urgent race to find a vaccine for Covid-19. London’s diverse talent pool provides access to some of the best minds in tech, producing game-changing ideas and solutions to the biggest problems we face today.
With its strengths in innovation and tech as well as an ease of doing business, London offers everything a startup or established firm needs to grow and scale. From access to the right policy makers, growth capital, infrastructure, world-class universities and talent, R&D tax credits and entrepreneurs visas, there are lots of opportunities for Indian tech companies in London.