UK must treasure 'symbiotic' India relationship
Last week London was filled with tens of thousands of tech enthusiasts celebrating London Tech Week.
Along with showcasing the ground-breaking innovations emerging from across our capital, London Tech Week is now a truly international affair, drawing delegates, politicians and business leaders from across the globe to explore the events and network.
The UK-India Tech Summit was a prime example of this. From talent to trade, and innovation to investment, the event sought to look at the growing collaborative relationship between the two leading nations in the technology sector.
Individually both countries are thriving in this space, and as the UK and Indian governments demonstrate an ever-increasing commitment in the sector, we can expect an impressive boom of bilateral trade over the coming decade.
In the UK, the tech sector is going from strength to strength. Tech Nation announced this week that since London Tech Week last year 13 new unicorns – technology companies worth more than $1bn – have been created, bringing the total number in the UK to 72.
At 18, London has more FinTech unicorns than San Francisco, and the most in Europe.
The UK government is now also putting their best foot forward in the space, with Prime Minister Theresa May opening the event for the first time, using the opportunity to pledge a further £205m to the UK tech sector, including a boost for quantum computing and AI educational courses.
In India, the tech revolution has already transformed the nation. The Digital India campaign was Prime Minister Modi’s leading legacy from his first term and it has placed technology as an indispensable part for the modern growth of India.
One of the most significant outcomes in India has been connectivity. By connecting rural areas with high-speed internet for the first time, the country is becoming empowered by the smartphone, with close to 300 million Indians expected to own smartphones this year.
Digital penetration is growing rapidly and revolutionising the way we live. While India is low in the global rankings of internet usage-to-population ratio, this will not be the case for very long. The government’s policies in this area mean that internet connectivity is growing at a rate of 31% year-on-year – a seriously impressive speed that is outpacing the USA and China.
The UK and India are both experiencing a period of rapid growth in our tech sector, and are now working together in collaborative effects to accelerate their success even further.
In April 2018, Theresa May and Prime Minister Modi came together to establish the UK-India Tech Partnership. Since then the partnership has become a stalwart example of a mutually-beneficial relationship, which the incoming UK Prime Minister must prioritise.
New data from London & Partners released ahead of London Tech Week shows that India is the fourth-ranked destination for London technology companies looking to expand outside of the UK, and India is now ranked fourth in terms of foreign direct investment into London.
Along with this, London is now host to its first ever dedicated UK India Tech hub and the annual UK-India Week programme, taking place in London this June, will have a significant focus on the role of innovation and technology in this collaborative partnership.
However, the relationship in the UK-India tech scene goes beyond investment and trade opportunities. A recent report from Tech Nation highlights that 83% of the tech community in the UK believe their biggest challenge is access to skilled workers. This is a continuing challenge to the UK tech sector and is one that will be solved by increased collaboration and movement of skilled workers between the UK and India.
This special relationship is invaluable for the UK. As Brexit reduces the number of skilled European workers available for the UK’s business sector, Indian workers continue to receive more skilled work visas than the rest of the world combined. A recent government White Paper set out plans for a new skills-based immigration system which favours experience and talent and the UK must continue to foster this relationship in order to prevent a looming skills crisis.
Theresa May’s successor must make sure that this access to talent is facilitated in the coming future, regardless of Brexit, otherwise our technology industry - and consequently the other countless industries dependent upon it – will suffer for it.
There is no doubt that 2019 has seen politics at the top of the news agenda for both countries. In India, Modi recently won his landslide victory in the largest elections ever in the world, whilst in UK, political turmoil continues on, with a new prime minister imminent.
Despite this shifting backdrop, the UK and India need to continue to strengthen their relationship and collaborate in order to support one of the most important sectors in the world.
We must see definitive action as a result of the current change, to ensure future partnerships between the UK and India drive forward innovative developments within technology.
The UK and India have developed a truly symbiotic relationship when it comes to technology and this is something that must be treasured.