The State Bank of India (SBI) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) organised an economic conclave on Thursday 10 March 2022 with a reference to the roadmap 2030, agreed between the UK and India to double bilateral trades in the coming years. Representatives from different sectors such as defence, life sciences, technology, manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, green finance attended the whole day event, and explored the benefits as well as the industry expectations from the FTA negotiations.
The conclave also commemorated the centenary of India’s largest bank- State Bank of India in the UK, followed by a gala dinner in the evening, co-hosted with Rt Hon Vincent Keaveny, the Lord Mayor of City of London at the prestigious Mansion House.
SBI Chairman Dinesh Kumar Khara who was visiting from India opened the historic London Stock Market on Thursday as part of the centenary celebration of State Bank of India in the UK and silver jubilee of the bank’s listing on London Stock Exchange.
The conclave held at the Intercontinental Hotel in London’s Park Lane was divided into various sessions that covered topics and relevant issues that affect the UK-India trade partnership. The goal was to find ways to enhance employment opportunities and growth for both countries. Speakers on different panels included Patrick Horgan OBE, Director Global Government Relations, Rolls-Royce Plc, Sagar Ahuja, CEO, QX Accounting Services, Philip Bouverat, Director, JCB, Nandita Sahgal-Tully, MD- Infrastructure Asset Management, Thomas Llyod Group, Ashish Kumar Gupta, Head of EMEA & Corporate VP (IT Outsourcing), HCL Technologies, Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia, The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Lord Karan Bilimoria, Pankaj Munjal, Chairman and Managing Director of HMC, A Hero Motors Company, Richard Heald OBE, Chair, UK India Business Council, Jason Wouhra OBE, Chair, west Midlands Partnership, Tim Newns, Chief Executive Officer, MIDAS to name a few. Moderators included Dr Mohan Kaul, President, Indian Partnership Forum, Sunil Mitra Kumar, Senior Lecturer, King’s College London and Ashwini Kumar Tewari, Managing Director, SBI.
The morning inauguration saw a welcome address by SBI Chairman where he spoke about the bank’s vision to expand beyond just NRIs and diaspora as well as a balance of paper and digital banking, to ensure a balanced future.
Speaking at a press conference organised especially for Indian Journalists’ Association (UK) Mr Khara said, “These (UK and India) are two mature democracies coming together, with many common themes being pursued, including fintech and green financing. We see huge complementarity in the new FTA regime, which will be beneficial to both India and UK. And SBI UK is here to help achieve those aspirations.
“While we will continue to serve the NRIs (non-resident Indians), we do not want to be restricted to that as we expand our services to the wider population and assist the trade related relationship of citizens of any country…” The bank has helped Indians moving to the UK to open an account more easily, with the launch YONO UK.
He added, “The way we have scaled up in the UK is a matter of pride for us. When we started out, we were seen as the foreign operations of an Indian bank. Today, we are seen as a foreign bank from India… our model in the UK is doing very well. It is our best performing overseas subsidiary.”
Mr Khara also explained how there were widespread concerns that Covid-19 was going to impact the banks and their balance sheets, but on the contrary their performances improved, showing higher profits- possibly because of growing responsible behaviours due to the introduction of factors like Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
Moving away from ‘bad history of colonialism’
Alex Ellis, the British High Commissioner to India in his speech referred to the FTA as a means of moving away from the “bad history of colonialism” to a new “forward looking footing for the next 75 years” on India’s 75th year of independence.
He added, “The UK having got itself out of the European Union (EU) has an opportunity to negotiate a free trade agreement with India in a way that it probably could not whilst it was a member of the EU. We must utilise that opportunity. We have already achieved some significant trade liberalisation in both countries, even in roughly a year that we have been doing the preparations. So, the process actually matters… It’s quite hard, given two very differently shaped economies and deals mean dealing with disappointments.
“But the question is whether the macro framework which surrounds the negotiators is conducive to a deal – I would say it is, and there is also a high ambition in terms of the timetable set for the end of this year.”
Richard Heald, Chair of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) emphasising on the purpose of ease of doing businesses said, “I believe there is a lot of commonalities in terms of what the UK business is asking of the UK side and Indian business is asking of the Indian side. It is all about ease of doing business, all about standardisation and harmonisation, mutual recognition of standards.”
Baroness Usha Prashar, Chair of the FICCI UK Council in her speech, that was read out by Param Shah, Director- UK, FICCI (in her absence), said, “The education sector is another key area where there is enormous potential to develop bilateral collaboration in multisectoral research and knowledge-sharing between industry and academia and to develop new capabilities within universities. The Education Policy announced last year by the government of India should make it easier.”
Centenary gala dinner
The dinner that was co-hosted by the The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Alderman Vincent Keaveny saw London's beautiful Mansion House decked up to receive the who’s who of the business community. The guests enjoyed a rhythmic ensemble by The Bhavan’s artists followed by speeches.
The Lord Mayor said, “I congratulate the State Bank of India on their one hundredth anniversary and am delighted that they have chosen Mansion House as the venue to host the celebration. The UK and India share a long history and have close links, but this isn’t just about looking back but also forward, especially with the ongoing UK-India trade negotiations which we hope will include a financial services chapter.
"The City of London Corporation is committed to deepening financial sector engagement with India, including through its active membership in the India-UK Financial Partnership, so that this can be the beginning of another 100 years of positive relations."
Sharad Chandak, Regional Head of SBI UK, said, “This celebration is a testament to how far our operations in the UK have evolved in the last 100 years. We started with London Branch to offer wholesale banking and enlarged the operations in the retail space. After formation of SBI UK Ltd in 2018, we have introduced our YONO SBI UK mobile banking app, launched new products, and grown the customer base in the UK. We look forward to expanding our offering to our corporate, small businesses and retail clients throughout the next century of operations.”
The evening concluded with a donation by SBI UK to their charity partner Pratham UK - an organisation providing educational resources to children in India.