A new report released on Friday suggests that there is much interest in the 1.5 million-strong British Indian diaspora and others for a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, setting out many examples of individuals establishing and running large enterprises in Britain.

Compiled by London-based consultants Grant Thornton and launched at the Indian high commission with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), the report, titled ‘India in the UK: The Diaspora Effect 2.0’, reflects the diaspora’s growing economic influence in Britain.

The post-Brexit United Kingdom is keen to have an FTA with India. Initial talks for the agreement have begun.

The first such report released in February 2020 estimated that there are at least 654 diaspora-owned companies in the UK with an annual turnover of £100,000 or more – excluding partnerships or sole traders – with combined revenues of £36.84 billion.

The largest employers – those with more than 1,000 employees – provide around 174,000 jobs. Together, the companies contributed more than £1 billion in corporation tax and invested some £2 billion through capital expenditure.

The figures do not include nearly 900 Indian companies based in Britain, but reflect those owned by generations of Indian-origin professionals, individuals and groups who migrated to Britain over the decades.

Anuj Chande, head of South Asia Group, Grant Thornton, said: “India is already an important partner for the UK, so an FTA is a natural next step to further strengthen the relationship. Current generations have been described as Britain’s best ambassadors in India and have a key role to play in attracting Indian investment into the UK and UK investment into India”.

The new report looks deeper into the dynamics of the diaspora’s contribution, exploring the sectors where their businesses are making a sizable impact and features a series of interviews with leading entrepreneurs, both those running established businesses and others breaking new ground.

It also sets out the geographical spread of the diaspora across the UK and explores its contribution beyond business, including some of the challenges diaspora entrepreneurs face.

The entrepreneurs are active in several sectors, the most popular being hospitality, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, retail, real estate and construction, food and beverage, technology and telecoms, and business services.

The first generation of migrants set up successful small and medium-scale businesses, often employing fellow community members. Many developed these businesses into successful, larger-scale ventures, such as Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja, Swraj Paul, Lakshmi Mittal, Karan Bilimoria, Kartar and Tej Lalvani, Mohsin and Zuber Issa, the Arora brothers and Kuljinder Bahia. Their lead has been taken forward by a large number of later generations.

The report identifies some common themes in the diaspora’s success stories: the importance of family support, the determination to succeed against all odds, a strong work ethic and optimism for the future.

Usha Prashar, chair of FICCI UK, said at the launch event: “The Indian diaspora connects India to the world. It is heart-warming how the members of our large diaspora have well integrated into the countries and societies where they live and work”.

Indian high commissioner Gaitri Issar Kumar said: “One of the key pillars of the strong relationship between India and the United Kingdom is the Indian diaspora – described as the ‘Living Bridge’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.

“(This) community is valued for its outstanding contribution in every sphere of activity: academics, literature, arts, medicines, science, sports, industry, business, and politics, among others, which has been widely acknowledged with appreciation”, she added.

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