Bucharest sounds an unlikely place to start setting up new India-UK trade links.
But a chat between Hull delegate Philip Tighe and Mumbai-based businessman Vijay Kalantri at the World Trade Centers Association General Assembly in the Romanian capital has brought a rapid agreement on helping Humber firms find new opportunities to serve India’s growing economy.
Following their meeting in April, World Trade Centre Hull and Humber has signed a memorandum of understanding with the All India Association of Industries, whose president is Mr Kalantri, in recognition of the ‘immense possibilities for enhancing economic and commercial links between India and the UK’.
The AIAI started out in 1956 in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, and represents more than 40,000 members, particularly in the SME sector.
Dominic Ward, a director of WTC Hull & Humber, who has signed the memorandum, plans to meet Mr Kalantri, who is also vice chairman of Mumbai WTC, in the UK later this month (July). The memorandum signals a commitment by both regions to try to increase trade and to actively engage with each other.
“We are very keen for a group of delegates from India to come to our region in order to promote the new opportunities available to UK companies and for a reciprocal visit by Humber business leaders to Mumbai,” said Mr Ward, who is senior partner at Hull law firm Andrew Jackson.
“There will certainly be plenty of scope over there. India’s growth rate is still close to five per cent and forecast to be 5.5 per cent in 2015 (Moody’s) even if Indians are disappointed about it slowing down.
“Their burgeoning middle class has a massive appetite for western products, and longstanding cultural and economic links, including India adopting our legal and administrative systems, puts the UK at an advantage when selling goods and services into this market.”
Mr Tighe, head of sales with World Trade Centre Hull and Humber partner Garthwest, said that the 45th General Assembly in Bucharest underlined the vast scope for international trade.
“Vijay Kalantri was very keen to hear about the Humber and whether we could be a new trading partner for his organisation,” he said. “This is now happening and delegates from other countries were also keen to hear what we have to offer.”
Areas that India has identified as critical to sustain its rapid economic development include: finance, infrastructure, energy efficiency, vocational skills and education, and healthcare.