Indian Industry View-- Strong rays of sunshine piercing the clouds of gloom

Jim Bligh, Chair, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), UK India Business Forum Wednesday 20th March 2019 03:06 EDT

In these uncertain times for the economy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the business community is all doom and gloom. But success in business is about risk- taking and hard work with a dose of courage. In business, rarely are you certain about the future of your market, your business or your workforce, but you are prepared to take big risks to be successful on the way.

Brexit looms, markets are uncertain, and few can map a clear route to a prosperous future for the UK - and yet many Indian businesses are hugely successful here. IT is the UK’s fastest-growing sector, spurred on by Indian IT giants and start-ups. Indian businesses of all sizes are making waves in manufacturing, food and drink, legal, professional and financial services across the length and breadth of the land. In short, Indian businesses are boosting growth and productivity, while providing skills and jobs. These firms see Brexit as both a risk and an opportunity, and there’s no sign that Indian investment is on the wane despite the clouds of uncertainty hovering over the British economy.

This optimism and dynamism would have made one pioneering risk-taker proud. This month, the whole Indian business community mourns Lord Bhattacharyya. A pioneering industrialist who is credited with revitalising a dying manufacturing sector in the UK, Professor Kumar Bhattacharyya will long be remembered for his commitment to British and Indian business. As the CII director-general said, he was “deeply committed to fostering India’s manufacturing excellence. Working on policy development, manufacturing competitiveness and research, he believed in deepening India’s global manufacturing footprint to make the country a leader.”

Nowhere is that commitment clearer than in the Midlands, where he founded the Warwick Manufacturing Group. The group’s work turned around the fortunes of the sector, introducing new working methods and attracting serious global investment, not least in Tata’s acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover 11 years ago.

The automotive sector is clearly challenged by Brexit and changing market dynamics. The challenge for the government is to ensure that Lord Bhattacharyya’s legacy is strengthened, not squandered, in the coming years, focusing on securing investment which preserves jobs, skills and supply chains.

March also marked the 180th birthday of another pioneer, Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the global group which bears his name and carries his immense legacy. Tata set himself four goals: to set up a world-class university, build a hydro-electric plant to power Mumbai, grow an iron and steel business, and found a unique hotel. He achieved only the last during his lifetime, but his successors built the rest, and more. Tata is now a major investor across the globe through dozens of successful companies, including world-leading IT services and technology giant TCS. (I declare
an interest here, as UK corporate affairs director for TCS.) At 151 years old, the group has seen off all manner of risks, threats and challenges - yet continues to thrive.

It is in the twin examples of Lord Bhattacharyya and Jamsetji Tata that we can find the inspiration to succeed through difficult times. And it is in times of uncertainty that the most courageous innovators take risks and win prizes - so there are strong rays of sunshine piercing the clouds of gloom.

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