India forged a partnership with West Midlands to boost tourism, trade and investment on June 26. Situated in the western-central area of England, West-Midlands comprised of cities like Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, Solihull amongst others, is an area that is home to more than 2,00,000 people of Indian origin, biggest outside of London.
West Midlands-India Partnership was launched virtually due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and it includes industry heavy weights like the Jaguar Land Rover, PwC, State Bank of India UK, Birmingham City University and DLA Piper as the signatories. The endeavour of the partnership is to support the region’s long-term economic growth plans by developing stronger links and opportunities for collaboration as part of a five-year programme of activity with the Indian market.
To a region that saw a drop in its foreign direct investments in 2019, this would come as good news. India is the second biggest sources of FDI after the US in the region and has created about 13,000 new jobs in West-Midlands over 10 years.
West Midlands-India Partnership (WMIP) is yet another step towards strengthening this number.
Dr Jason Wouhra OBE, Chair of the West Midlands India Partnership, said, “The West Midlands-India Partnership is a confident step forward at a time when building resilient, productive economies is key. Through the Partnership’s long-term strategy, we aim to identify opportunities for both Indian and local businesses to trade, innovate and grow.”
Defining what the initiative will entail he added, “By strengthening networks, collaboration in academia and airline connectivity, we want to build on our shared history to forge new opportunities for a confident future. As the former co-owner and director of East End Foods plc a globally trading, West Midlands success story, I want to encourage Indian-owned businesses to follow in my steps and capitalise on this region’s potential.“
WMIP has had the support of Invest India, the Confederation of Indian Industry, and the Consulate General of Birmingham office.
Responding to the extent of the partnership, Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India, Birmingham said, “This initiative offers both British and Indian companies a fantastic new platform to collaborate on a wide range of established and emerging technologies. For SMEs in particular, it presents a real opportunity to develop more connected supply chains and scale through new commercial partnerships.”
“I encourage enterprising businesses with ambitions to drive forward the industries of tomorrow, to join this exciting programme and realise the innovative potential of the West Midlands, as well as India’s growing ambitions in high-growth manufacturing and technology. I look forward to supporting the important and inspiring vision of the West Midlands India Partnership,” he added.
Apart from trade and investment, the Partnership is looking at bolstering tourism in the region along with attracting ties between the universities.
Already the region attracted about 38,000 visitors from India in 2018 with a 16 per cent increase in leisure visits in the last five years. West Midland universities too have seen a 33 per cent increase in their Indian student intake over the same period, official figures reveal.
The partnership aims to build further on this with targeted marketing and communications campaigns. Calling West Midlands a melting pot of cultures, Lakshmi Kaul, Head & Representative UK at Confederation of Indian Industry, said, “Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is pleased to support the West Midlands by working alongside the Partnership to amplify business-to-business, as well as the people-to-people connection, while also addressing the economic growth and recovery roadmap.”
With an aim of strengthening civic partnerships between West Midlands and Indian towns, the WMIP will explore joint activity through a twin city model, enabling both places to expand their networks, seek investment and collaborate on investment and visitor projects.
Hoping to attract the best talent to stimulate cross-market trade, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands said, “The West Midlands’ innovation-led Industrial Strategy alongside the scale and ambition of India’s manufacturing, life sciences and technology sectors presents a major opportunity for world-class industry collaboration, helping to attract significant investment and create new, local jobs.”
WMIP aims to support the UK government, “matched-funded Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Tourism, Trade and Investment Programme designed to maximise the economic benefits of the global spectacle.”
Governed by advisory as well as executive board, WMIP will have range of Indian and British stakeholders.
The advisory board will be responsible for the strategic direction of the Partnership, providing advice and guidance to the executive board, which will shape the planning and delivery of the programme’s activity.