Tata doing great job in UK; more Indian car cos welcome

Written by Rituparna Bhuyan | Updated: Jan 11 2010, 05:38am hrs
Chief executive of UK Trade and Investment, Sir Andrew Cahn, was in India leading a British business delegation to the ongoing Auto Expo. He also met senior government officials to discuss bilateral issues. In an interview with Rituparna Bhuyan, Cahn talks about increasing prospects of Indian companies in UK. Excerpts:

What do you have to say about the lay offs in the Teesside steel plant run by Tata-Corus

We have not intervened (in the matter). We always talk to companies in the UK. In this case, the Tata group was the owner. We have been talking to the Tata Group both in the goods times and bad times. We have very high regards and respect for them. Where there is a prospect of closure, any government always wishes to have a conversation to ascertain how might that happen, are there things that may be done differently, can the situation be mitigated etc. Any government would have such a conversation.

After Tatas entry in to UK, do you foresee entry of other Indian auto makers in to your country

Tata bought JLR. I think they are doing an excellent job in Britain ... they are bringing new models. I had the privilege of seeing those models. I think that more Indian car manufacturers will get involved in the British market. Britain is a major car exporter. In fact 10% of our exports are from the automotive sector. It is mainly foreign ownedlot of Japanese manufacturers are in Britain, so is American. Indian car manufacturers could be the next wave the Tatas have led the way and we welcome that. I personally welcome Tatas presence in the UK market and we welcome other car manufacturers as well.

So this means we will also see many technology transfers

Thats what happens when we have takeovers or joint ventures- sharing of technology. For a long time it was one wayBritish technology was being shared with India. In due course, Indian technology will come to UK. I was very impressed by the sheer quality and range of Tata models... not just JLR, but SUVs, trucks, pickups, limos, getting down to the Nano. Tata is a world class manufacturer and off course, it is not the only one here in India.

Both India and UK have tightned their Visa norms recently. Will that impact bilateral business and investments

India is the second biggest investor in Britain now. Britain is the number one European investor in India. We are major partners in each others economies. Thats relevant because what you find is that despite whatever visa arrangements- it is right that all countries at the moment are concerned with the acute security issues. And all countries are seeing how they can protect their borders and security. India and Britain are no different from any other country.

When I met home secretary GK Pillai here, we discussed this issue on the basis of mutual understanding. Each country has the sovereign right to impose restrictions it thinks it is appropriate. India and Britain have made their own arrangements in this regard. But I think, both countries are keen to ensure that we do not get in the way of proper and legitimate business visitors. Both these countries are committed to keep their borders as open as possible for business visitors. I am very confident that will happen.

You do not expect any operational problems because of the visa norms

Fundamentally, there should not be any problem. In the margins, we may have a little bot of problems. But fundamentally, both the countries want business ties to remain strong and both want investments from other countries. I also had discussions with the Invest India and they very strongly encouraged British companies to come to India. There may be some inconvenience at the margin and we will try to minimise and avoid that. But I do not think there is a fundamental problem here.

UK is strong in financial services and many British Banks want to expand in India. What do you have to say about that

British banks are here alreadyHSBC and Standard Chartered have been here for 150 years. Standard Chartered has over 150 branches here. We already have a major British bank commitment to India. It is true that many British Banks would like to expand in India, including Standard Chartered and HSBC and others like Barclays and RBS by opening new branches. I met the deputy governor of RBI in Mumbai and we discussed this issue. We think that British banks can make a real contribution to the financial inclusion in India and provide improved standards of customer service and care.

At the same time, what are prospects of Indian Banks in UK

They are there and there are no constraints. Britain has no restrictions on opening of banks or branches. Indian banks are completely free to set up branches in UK, as long as they completely meet the regulator requirements like capital adequacy and so on. Where as Indian banks meet obstacles and barriers in getting in to other countries, US for example. Britain is one country where Indian banks are completely free to set up shop if they meet regulatory requirements, which are same for British Banks.

UK is a major destination for Indian exports. When do you see the demand in the UK economy improve for foreign goods

The European Commission did a study in the middle of last year, where they made a forecast of likely growth rate in the European economies in 2010-11. They saw Britain returning to substantial growth by 2010. I fully expect that during the course of this year that demand will pick up and that there would be a demand for Indian goods. But I would say that one must be realistic there was a major shock to the world financial system. We wont return to the levels seen previously just in a few months.