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Brexit: An Opportunity For Indian Companies?

As Indian companies follow the Brexit situation in the UK, business leaders and investors would be wise to see the market as an opportunity to usher in a new era of partnership and leverage Commonwealth ties to strengthen and increase market share

Photo Credit : Reuters


In the three years since the referendum to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union, debates have raged about the impacts to businesses in the UK during this period while a deal is worked out. Unfortunately, the debate on business is usually polarised between those who want to protect the status quo and those that want a free for all. Neither, in my opinion work and from my experience, most successful business leaders are pragmatists, who just want clarity of direction, so we can pivot our business towards a new reality. Our ability to adapt is and should be more important than our ability to protect. Despite the uncertainty today, there are many potential opportunities for businesses in the UK, as well as other nations - particularly those within the Commonwealth. 

As UK Trade Minister Liam Fox noted last year, Brexit affords the country the opportunity to “reinvigorate Commonwealth partnerships,” by renewing exchanges of “expertise, talent, goods, and capital” in a manner that has not been done for at least a generation. This perspective has allowed many to come to the conclusion that a UK-India Fair Trade Agreement (FTA) would not only be a useful deal, due to India’s services culture and scale but also its strong technical workforce. After all, India is considered the fourth most attractive investment market, surpassed only by the U.S., China and Germany, according to a PwC survey of global CEOs announced at the latest World Economic Forum. In the midst of political or economic change, it is a market that draws even greater attention. Several industries could potentially benefit from a UK-India FTA, not only technology but also textiles, engineering, healthcare and many more.

As the leader of a technology firm that is listed on India’s NSE with operations in the UK, I see significant short-term opportunities that are ready to be realised in both markets – whether Brexit moves forward or not and irrespective of the flavour of Brexit we end up with. In the technology space, India’s long standing focus on innovation has made the country a global leader and top exporter of information and communication technology, and a key source of exports to the UK. As one of the top 10 digital technology solution suppliers to the UK government by revenue, we see the opportunity for Brexit to create additional opportunities, contrary to the way that things may appear at present. 

While innovative tech exports are important, drawing from India’s high-quality service culture is even more critical to sustainable success for Indian companies. I have found that this culture, which stems from a desire to serve customers well, is focused on improving overall experiences with the company’s product or service. In the tech sector, this is manifested through a commitment to creating value for our customers that goes beyond the simple benefits of specific product features. So too with the growth of digital, new technologies and projects are helping the public and private sector engage with their stakeholders in different ways. For us it is all about the customer experience and having an impact on their operations, not a race to develop technology at a low cost. 

India’s burgeoning IT sector must evolve and must innovate. We must leverage new technologies such as AI and RPA to drive productivity improvements and for this we need new talent, new skills and new business models. Indian tech firms, such as ours, and companies undergoing digital transformation in other sectors are making recruitment a priority this year. With such a phenomenal talent base in the Indian economy, it is now a key moment to invest more skilled capacity within our companies to exploit the huge benefits digital technologies will create. I would argue this is the way to drive sustainable competitive advantage for India and maintain India’s global leadership in technology services.  

As Indian companies follow the Brexit situation in the UK, business leaders and investors would be wise to see the market as an opportunity to usher in a new era of partnership and leverage Commonwealth ties to strengthen and increase market share. Anglo-Indian partnerships have a tremendous opportunity to set the agenda for global prosperity and the pragmatists will be the ones to benefit.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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John Owen

The author is Group Chief Executive officer, Mastek

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