When it comes to Indian investment in the UK, among the most high profile is Tata Motors’ ownership of carmaker Jaguar Land Rover.
Yet this is just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to UK firms owned by Indian businesses.
The visit to the UK by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which starts on Thursday, comes at a time when India is emerging as perhaps the strongest player among the so-called Bric nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China.
While the Brazilian, Chinese and Russian economies are all showing signs of slowing, India is booming.
Shielded from China’s slowdown thanks to its huge domestic market, India’s economy is growing at a rate of 7 per cent/ per year, putting it neck and neck with the Chinese.
And some of that Indian growth is finding new markets in the UK.
According to a report earlier this year from government department UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), India is now the third-largest source of foreign direct investment into the UK.
In 2014 alone, investment from India into the UK increased by 64%, and is now almost level with France, the UK’s second-largest investor after the US.
Throughout last year, India invested in 122 projects in the UK, compared with 124 for France and 564 for the US. This meant that Indian investment created 7,730 new UK jobs in 2014, and safeguarded a further 1,620, said UKTI.
Meanwhile, the UK India Business Council, the non-profit body that aims to boost trade and business links between the two countries, estimates that the total value of Indian investment in the UK in the 2013 to 2014 financial year totalled £1.89bn.
Overall there are now more than 800 Indian-owned businesses in the UK, employing more than 110,000 people.
In addition to Tata Motors, Indian IT firms Infosys and Wipro have UK operations. Meanwhile, sister Tata business, Tata Global Beverages, owns best-selling Tetley Tea; and Tata Steel has significant UK operations, despite recently announced job cuts due to falling demand and cheaper steel from China.
Alpesh Patel, of London-based private equity business Praefinium Partners, says that while the success of companies such as Tata and Infosys is well known, the quality of Indian small to medium-sized enterprises has improved significantly over the past 10 years, and many are looking to enter EU markets using the UK as their gateway.
He adds that the ease of doing business in the UK, as well as the English language and familiarity with UK institutions, also makes the UK an attractive proposition for Indian investors.
“Ease of business here is often overlooked and taken for granted,” says Mr Patel.
“We’re used to comparing things in absolute terms – we might say it took ages to fill in a tax return for example – but we don’t compare it with the same thing in India where it really is a pain.”
He adds that one area that particularly appeals to Indian investors is the ease with which they can raise finance in the UK.
“They’re often not looking for money from the UK to go into their company in India, but looking for UK money going into their UK operations. We really overlook the size and strength of our angel investor and venture capital community.
“Relative to companies in India, we’re seen as an absolute haven in terms of access to capital if you’ve got a good business.”
Mukesh Rajani, UK India business group leader at accountancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that besides the EU, the UK’s historical connections with the rest of the world, including Africa, are key in attracting Indian investment.
He adds that Indian firms are also keen to tap into British hi-tech expertise.
“Advanced engineering is a big strength for the UK,” says Mr. Rajani. “High-end engineering, high-end advanced services, high-end pharmaceuticals are very interesting areas for Indian companies.
“Clearly at the high-end what is on offer in Britain is in a different league, and these things would take time for India to develop as it acquires its own talent.”
Richard Heald, chief executive at the UK India Business Council, says that most of the investment in the UK is in the IT sectors and driven by Mr Modi’s policy of making India the world’s hub for IT industries.
He says: “A lot of the growth in indigenous Indian industries has to be sustained through technological development.
“If Modi’s policies are to succeed then it needs to have exposure and involvement with a lot of the technological development, incubation, catapult centres, upstream technology companies that we have here.
“The Indians naturally look to us for that in the form of joint ventures, or acquisitions, or just investment.”
Mr Heald highlights pharmaceutical firms Piramal and Cipla as two other Indian businesses that have made significant moves into the UK.
Between 2000 and 2015, the UK invested $22.2bn (£14.5bn) in India, accounting for around nine per cent of foreign direct investment in the country, according to a report by UK business group the CBI.
This makes the UK the largest foreign investor in India after Singapore and Mauritius.
The CBI study added that in total UK companies are estimated to employ 691,000 people in India. That is 5.5 per cent of the organised private sector workforce.
Mr. Heald says, “We estimate that there’s been a 300 per cent increase in the number of British companies setting up there in the past 10 years… there’s been a huge acceleration.
“And the type of company is changing too – it’s more e-commerce, services, IT and education.”
Under India’s federal system, individual states are now more competitive, and are seeking inbound investment by cutting red tape, and simplifying the country’s notoriously arcane state tax systems.
Mr. Heald adds, “The term ‘competitive federalism’ is now being bandied around these states really have to compete for the investment pound.”
Also, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, arrives in the UK on Thursday where he is expected to hold discussions about increasing investment and trading links between India and Britain.
One of the highlights will be a 60,000 strong event at Wembley, which will be a celebration of the contribution the Indian diaspora has made to the British economy.
But the two countries have relatively low levels of trade – the buying of goods and services which is often more closely related to job creation.
“I think both Britain and India could do more to expand the trading opportunities,” Mr Mathai said
“If you look at the level of trade, and the level of investment, you see a major contrast.
“We are today the third largest investor in the UK, and the UK is the largest G20 investor in India, so investments have done well.
“When you talk of trade, we are still stuck at the level of around $18bn (£11.8bn), which is less than 2% for both of us of our global trade, So obviously there is much more that can be done.”
One thing that could be done to increase trade, Mr. Mathai suggests, would be allowing “easier” travel between the two countries.
There has long been criticism from India that Britain’s immigration rules limiting the number of skilled migrants entering the country to work for specific businesses (using what are called Tier 2 visas) are hampering the expansion of trading links.

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