London Overseas Centre of Cost Accountants (LOCCA) celebrated organised its first international webinar UK–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 marked April as the MSME month and was also supported by Federation of Small and Medium Industries (FOSMI) West Bengal, SME Chamber of India Maharashtra, Pointers Business Group, Kolkata.
LOCCA Chairman, CMA Anirban Mukhopadhyay in his opening remark said, the primary objective of the seminar was to extend business and higher education opportunities for Indian students and facilitate interactions from UK stakeholders to enable new businesses connecting both countries.
The International Affairs Committee Chairman, CMA Vijender Sharma highlighted the Institute’s legacy and talked about its 500,000 members and the presence of over 85,000 students across the globe.
Bengal and post-Brexit opportunities
The FOSMI Bengal President Biswanath Bhattacharya set the event on the roll with comprehensive insights on the opportunities in Bengal for UK trade. He spoke about areas of supply chain manufacturing, joint venture, technology transfer and buy back, highlighting specific industry sectors in Bengal viz. railway equipment, 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.
The founder president of the SME Chamber of India and Federation of Indian SME Associations, 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 role in empowering SME growth in India. He also spoke about 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 and focussed on 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 Debashis Ghosh for publishing the inaugural edition of the newsletter.
In his keynote speech, guest of honour Nick Low, the British Deputy High Commissioner of Kolkata touched upon how the impending UK - India enhanced trade partnership would help to make up the contraction in trade deficit in UK economy post Brexit. 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 for Indian business diaspora in the UK with new investments and incentives offered by the UK government to push for the signing of the free trade agreement.
Kevin McCole, MD of the UK India Business Council touched upon how his organisation is helping the trade and investment growth between UK and India particularly connecting the UK 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 that UKIBC is working on, along with government of India and the Indian High Commission in London. Mr. McCole also mentioned about the growing market for SME start-ups in the UK
Chairman of Cavendish Corporate Finance, Lord Howard Leigh, Baron of Hurley, a chartered accountant himself, spoke about how his organisation is helping selling UK businesses to overseas buyers and talked about the security and investment bill, finance and allied taxes, business acquisition and access opportunities in the UK and the competition faced by private equity community, although being advanced and sophisticated.
Scottish Development International Director Dr Farzana Lakdawala in her presentation showcased why Scotland is now a preferred destination for investments the UK and highlighted how the government of Scotland is supporting Indian companies to set up operations and facilitate inward investments.
Alex Parker, the senior policy advisor at Department for International Trade gave interesting detail about the UK’s free ports (similar to SEZs in India) which is likely to create a huge potential for Indian manufacturing sectors to explore exports in the light of Brexit.
Indian students and skill-based education
The Education segment of the webinar saw equal gathering of eminent speakers from academic fraternities of the UK. The first speech was 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.
Daniele Petriello from the 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 UK businesses.
Associate Director of global engagement at University of Nottingham, Prof. David Ouchterlonie talked about the internationalisation 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 staff members and student diaspora.