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India Inc making waves abroad: PM

india Updated: Oct 10, 2006 20:19 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Indian community in UK on Monday evening that India was on the move. And India's "high rates of growth on a sustained basis" is not all that he had in mind.

The expansion of Indian business, not just in India but abroad as well, was another.

It has been a point that Singh has been making, right from the time he left early on Monday for his two-nation visit to raise the level and content of India's business links, first with the United Kingdom and then, the rest of Europe.

"Several Indian companies have expanded their global presence in various sectors across the world, including in the UK," Singh told the community at a reception hosted by the Indian High Commission where he called the "transformation" back home in India as one of the "most far-reaching revolutions of this century".

Singh had noted just hours earlier that "Indian companies are amongst the major investors in the UK".

The UK Trade and Investment's (UKTI) report this year ranked India as the third largest investor in 2005-06, up from the eighth rank in terms of number of projects the previous year. An Ernst and Young report released last week estimated India jumped one more rank in the first six months of 2006.

It isn't the East India Company working the other way yet—Indian companies made up for £1.02 billion of the £219 billion investment into UK in 2005—but the trend has certainly been reversed. "Indian investment into UK is significantly higher than the UK's direct investment into India," Confederation of Indian Industry president R Seshasayee—who led the CII delegation at the UK—India Investment Summit on Tuesday—told Hindustan Times.

Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon had last week pointed out that more 500 Indian companies have offices in UK. Seshasayee said it is the broad base of Indian companies that is more important than the money per sec.

It isn't just that India Inc is only looking at UK. London is also turning out to be the gateway to Europe; 60 per cent of Indian investment in Europe comes via UK.

Seshasayee sees a major signal in the trend; "that India Inc is turning outward looking, externalisation of India is going in a big way… What makes it better is that the externalisation is broad in scope and approach."
 
Nothing suggests this better than the fact, the CII delegation leader added, was that "external investment by Indian companies in the first quarter of in 2006-07 is higher than the FDI inflow into India. This is the big story". 
 
But the CII team leader lamented that British business had not yet started focussing on infrastructure development in India. It is in this context that Singh is asking British business to invest in infrastructure projects in India. Delhi estimates the country's investment requirements to be in the vicinity of US $ 150 billion in the next seven to eight years. 
 
British companies, explains Seshasayee, are still "waiting and watching" India, not actually moving in. They seem to be waiting for the perfect market to arrive; quite unlike their traditional self. "British industry has always rebelled and ventured into new territories, right from Africa to South Asia".

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