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Britain woos Indian talent

UK, suffering from an acute skills shortage, hopes Indian students to stay there and start businesses, reports Naomi Canton.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2007, 03:52 IST
Naomi Canton
Naomi Canton
Hindustan Times

When Hemendra Aran told his family in a tiny village in Uttar Pradesh that he planned to start a business in the UK, they were horrified.

They, like many Indians, had been thinking that their well-educated relative would take up a safe well-paid job a large company after finishing his MBA.

Aran, 33, is now making more money than he would have done if he had taken a job in a top Indian business house. CEO and founder of high-end research consultancy Aranca, he employs 150 staff in Mumbai and two in the UK, and is expecting a turnover of £2.4m (Rs 20 crore) in 2008.

He originally went to the UK in 1997 as a software professional with Infosys and then in 1999 switched to a student visa and enrolled on a two-year MBA course at London Business School.

After a short spell of work in 2003, he started his business through his uncle’s IT firm on company-sponsored work permit.

“Most Indian MBAs need a good job to pay their fees back so they opt for stable jobs in the UK. What I did was quite unusual,” he said.

“But you get a lot of help in the UK to start a business and you don’t have to wait for a green card like you would in the USA. Raising finance and starting a business is identical for an Indian as for a local. You can do it in one day there whereas it takes one month in India and it is easy to get a large low-interest loans there.

“I think it is a good idea to train overseas, like I did, as you can see different models that are not in India yet, so you can bring and implement them here.,” he added.

As more than 20,000 Indians fly to the UK this month to embark on degrees and postgraduate courses, Britain, suffering from an acute skills shortage, is hoping they will stay in the country and start businesses or pursue careers.

Although illegal immigration has been a hot topic, the British High Commission in India maintains that foreign entrepreneurs and talent are vital to the success of the economy.

Dan Chugg, spokesman for the British High Commission in India, told HT: “There are some extremely good Indian students and if they want to apply to us, then we are keen that they do. We are very keen that they choose us above the USA to study in.”

Indian applications for student visas are rising by 30 per cent a year and there are currently over 23,000 Indians studying in the UK.

Sushil Rana, trade and investment adviser at the British High Commission in New Delhi, said: “We have a number of specific programmes to help Indian companies start businesses in the UK. We have a venture capitalist focussed solely on India who assesses companies.”

Alpesh Patel, a UK board member of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), said: “Quite a number of overseas Indians are looking at moving to India because talent will move to where the capital is. But we are also seeing a lot of Indians doing MBAs in the UK and then starting businesses there afterwards – in all sectors.

The Home Office gives permission to international students on student visas to transfer their visas into work permits, if they are offered employment.

They can also, under the new International Graduates Scheme, stay in the UK for up to a year and work or become self-employed. Those wanting to start businesses can apply for business or innovators visas.

MBA graduates are being particularly encouraged to stay in the UK as Britain tries to fill its gap of strong managers.

Once someone has spent a continuous period of five years in the UK they get indefinite leave to remain.

Jan Kemal, a Home Office spokesman said: “Indians who can demonstrate they have the right skills and qualifications can come legally and start a business. Britain wants to make it easy for people that have the skills that Britain needs to come.”

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