UK- India Living Bridge

London Overseas Centre of Cost Accountants (LOCCA) celebrated April 2021 as the MSME month and organised its first international webinar U.K. – India Living Bridge on 23rd April jointly with the BFSI Committee, International Affairs Committee and Directorate of Studies of The Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICMAI) in association with the British Deputy High Commission Kolkata, UK India Business Council and Indian Business Group. The event was also supported by Federation of Small and Medium Industries (FOSMI) West Bengal, SME Chamber of India Maharashtra, Pointers Business Group Kolkata among others who represented the MSME diaspora from India.

LOCCA Chairman, CMA Anirban Mukhopadhyay in his opening remark mentioned that the webinar is the beginning of a journey than just a one day event, where the primary objective is to extend business and higher education opportunities to Indian trade communities and academic ecosystem respectively, with regular interactions from U.K. stakeholders to enable new businesses connecting both countries and Indian students joining U.K. universities. The International Affairs Committee Chairman, CMA Vijender Sharma in his welcome address highlighted about the Institute’s legacy and talked about its 5 lakh members and over 85,000 students’ presence across the globe.

The FOSMI Bengal president Mr. Biswanath Bhattacharya set the event on the roll with comprehensive insights on the opportunities in Bengal for U.K. trade and businesses with way forward to mutually grow together in areas of supply chain manufacturing, joint venture, technology transfer and buy back. He also highlighted the specific industry sectors in Bengal namely railway equipments, foundry products, speciality chemicals, food processing, packaging, electrical and electronics, solar and renewable energy, defence and light engineering which may be explored to focus for trade and investment opportunities from and to U.K.

Mr. Arnab Basu of Pointer Business Forum talked about the need of right skilling to develop today’s professionals in the face of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The founder president of the SME Chamber of India and Federation of Indian SME Associations, Mr. Chandrakant Salunkhe spoke about how the chamber is helping in developing entrepreneurship in western India particularly with highlights of the UK SME Business Council and its positive roll in empowering SMEs growth in India. He also mentioned about the setting up of MSME stock exchange and facilitating bank loans to micro and small entrepreneurs through the council.

The ICMAI president CMA Biswarup Basu praised the good work being done by LOCCA in his welcome note along with the detail of recent developments of the MSME sector in India particularly in terms of contribution to India’s GDP and employment generation. He made a special mention of Mr. Debashis Ghosh who is editor of the LOCCA Newsletter and the trade and business network associate based at Kolkata, for publishing the inaugural edition of the newsletter.

In his key note speech guest of honour Mr. Nick Low, the British Deputy High Commissioner of Kolkata touched upon how the impending U.K. – India enhanced trade partnership would help to make up the contraction in trade deficit in U.K. economy post Brexit and the innovations research opening up a world class vaccine industry in U.K. with output of 70mn doses every 6 months in response to uncertainty of vaccine supplies from EU, to inoculate whole range of diseases from cancer to dementia. He praised the ‘living bridge’ initiative of LOCCA in helping to develop finance courses for British professionals in association with the academic institutes. In his concluding remark Mr. Low spoke about the new opportunities opening up for Indian business diaspora in U.K. with fresh investments and incentives offered by the U.K. government towards easing out mutual trade barriers with India, to push for the free trade agreement sign off soon.

Before concluding, Mr. Low took time to launch the inaugural edition of LOCCA Newsletter in his speech.

The M.D. of UK India Business Council Mr. Kevin McCole touched upon how his organisation is helping the trade and investment growth between U.K. and India particularly connecting U.K. SMEs with Indian counterparts along with contributing to India’s ‘make in India’ mission in number of ways. He talked about the ‘access India’ programme UKIBC is working on, with government of India and the Indian High Commission in London through which they are associated with 17 manufacturing SMEs in Sheffield with advanced technologies to set up operations in India and support manufacturing industries to fulfill ‘make in India’ vision in few sectors like chemicals, energy and others. Mr. McCole also mentioned about the growing market for SME startups ecosystem in U.K.

The fire-side chat between Chairman of Cavendish Corporate Finance Lord Howard Leigh, Baron of Hurley and Ms. Shalini Khemka, founder CEO of E2E was an interesting session. Lord Leigh, who himself is a chartered accountant spoke about how his organisation is helping selling U.K. businesses to overseas buyers and talked about the security and investment bill, finance and allied taxes, business acquisition and access opportunities in U.K. and the competition faced by private equity community, although being advanced and sophisticated. Ms. Shalini Khemka highlighted how her company E2E is helping to connect growing entrepreneurial leadership community to each other in its major role of supporting entrepreneurship development in U.K. She also mentioned about the various schemes offered by U.K. government to global entrepreneurs for inward investments. The chat also threw some lights onto different aspects of U.K. being the 6th easiest country to do business as against India being 62nd in the global ranking on ease of doing business, by the World Bank.

Scottish Development International Director Dr. Farzana Lakdawala in her presentation showcased why Scotland is now the destination for investments in U.K. and highlighted how the government of Scotland is supporting Indian companies to set up operations and facilitate inward investments. Mr. Alex Parker, the senior policy advisor at Department for International Trade, Govt. of U.K. gave interesting detail about the U.K. free ports, similar to the SEZs in India which would likely to create huge potential for Indian manufacturing sectors to explore exports in the light of Brexit.

The Education segment of the webinar saw equal gathering of eminent speakers from academic fraternities of U.K. with the first speech being delivered by Prof. Dr. Sanjib Basu, Dean of Department of Commerce at St. Xavier’s College Kolkata who enumerated the growing aspiration of Indian students to pursue higher studies overseas and the common factors influencing their decisions.

Lord John Bird, MBE and Baron of Notting hill spoke in detail about the Future Generation Bill which is likely to affect the youths and talked about the relevance of the skill based education for the newer generations.Professor Jane Falkingham, Director of the Centre for Population Change at University of Southampton showcased the beautiful campus and the different courses on offer for international students by the University in her presentation. Special mentions were made on the specific connections Southampton has to Indian diaspora and India’s colonial history. Ms. Tara Panjwani, Associate Director at UK India Business Council spoke at length on the higher education opportunities in U.K. for the Indian student market which is the second largest student source after China.Mr. Daniele Petriello from the U.K. Home Office gave a crisp narrative on the new points based immigration system for the aspiring students, skilled workers and the trade and investor community to invest in U.K. businesses. Associate Director of global engagement at University of Nottingham, Prof. David Ouchterlonie talked about the internationalization strategy and priorities to co-develop new and expand existing partnerships in support of India’s national and regional priorities and the UN sustainable development goals 2030. He also mentioned how the University is building meaningful civic and cultural exchanges to connect with the Indian staffs and students diaspora, especially those who are passionate about India across the University without borders, culminating with sharing of euphoric experiences of global students celebrating the Indian festival of colours, ‘holi’ in the campus.

The entire programme was coordinated and moderated by LOCCA Secretary for Advanced Studies CMA Udayan Guha from London, supported by the ICMAI admin team at New Delhi, India. He interacted with the speakers with deft and understanding to make each session quite lively, touching upon relevant anecdotes and references.The three and half hour long packed programme was finally concluded with the vote of thanks by CMA H. Padmanabhan, Chairman CAT and AAT Committee of ICMAI.

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