Britain in Bangalore

Speech by British High Commissioner, Sir James Bevan KCMG, at launch of Bangalore British Business Group, 5 July 2013.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Sir James David Bevan KCMG


When I first visited Bangalore in 2011 I stayed at the Bangalore Club, that beautiful Victorian institution. There’s a sign by the terrace bar which says: “gentlemen will not discuss business on the terrace”. Since we are not on the terrace of the Bangalore Club, and since – as my wife sometimes says – I am not always a gentleman, discussing business is precisely what I propose to do now.

I want to set out this afternoon why there is already such a strong business partnership between Britain and this great city and this great state, and how we can make it stronger still.

The UK/India relationship

My Prime Minister David Cameron wants a stronger, wider, deeper partnership with India. Working together India and Britain will be safer, richer, and stronger.

Nowhere is there greater potential for that partnership than here in Bangalore – which was one of the reasons why on his first visit to India after becoming Prime Minister, it was to this city and not to any other outside the capital that David Cameron chose to come. And why I am a frequent visitor myself.

Why Bangalore/Karnataka is good for Britain

Bangalore and Karnataka are good for Britain. Britain wants strong partners, and this city and this state are strong and thriving. Bangalore understands business and wants to encourage it. So does the state: I welcome the decision of the new state government to allow FDI in multibrand retail. That will send a powerful and positive signal that Karnataka is open for business.

The attractions of Bangalore have already brought many successful UK businesses here:

  • Rolls Royce, whose India Head Kishore Jayaraman will be speaking shortly, recently opened a manufacturing facility here in partnership with HAL. Other big UK aerospace companies like BAe are here too, and I’m pleased they are also present today.

  • ARM from Cambridge, whose Bangalore premises I have visited. ARM microchips are in 95% of the world’s mobile phones. They are in almost everything else too, from Kindles to i-Pads.

  • Tesco, who have a huge service centre here, which I have also visited, and which controls operations in all Tesco stores around the world. So when you go into a Tesco in London, everything you don’t see is controlled from Bangalore: the temperature in the freezing cabinets, the stock movements, and even – should the store catch fire - calling the fire brigade.

  • Many other UK hi tech and IT companies are here too, like Cambridge Silicon, Silicon Radio, NDS, Zenith and Genisys Software.

  • So are the UK’s leading financial services companies, like HSBC, Barclays and Aviva.

  • And some of the UK’s top life sciences companies, like GSK and Astra Zeneca.

These companies are not here because of low labour costs. That isn’t Bangalore’s USP any more: its USP is a highly skilled workforce, great technical expertise, relentless innovation, a strong ecosystem and huge scaleability. That’s a powerful combination.

Examples of Indian investment from it into UK

So the UK is big in Bangalore. And the story is good the other way too. In the last few years Indian companies have invested more in the UK than in the whole of the rest of the European Union.

We’ve seen that strong pattern of investment coming from Karnataka too. Infosys and Wipro are major employers in the UK. I had the pleasure of being hosted for dinner by Azim Premji, the Wipro Chairman, when I was last here. And Mr Narayana Murthy, now back at the helm of Infosys, has just returned from London where he was a judge on the Queen Elizabeth prize which inspires engineering globally. One of the previous winners of that prize was a Brit you may have heard of, and to whom Bangalore should perhaps erect a statue: the man who invented the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners Lee.

Many other ICT companies from Bangalore are now in the UK as well: Mindtree Consulting, Microland, Sasken, ITC Infotech and Symphony Services to name but a few. In the life sciences, companies like Biocon (whose impressive operation here I have also visited), Avesthagen, Strides Arcolabs and Microlabs all have a presence in the UK. In the engineering field, local companies like HighTemp Furnaces and JVS are collaborating with UK companies and academic institutions. In the aerospace industry Dynamatics are in the UK and growing fast. All of those companies are welcome in Britain: they are helping create the jobs, the growth and the innovation we want.

Why Britain is good for Bangalore/Karnataka

So Bangalore’s been good for Britain. And, I submit, Britain is good for Bangalore, and for Karnataka.

Britain is a great place to do business. According to the World Bank, it is the easiest major economy in Europe in which to do business. We have less red tape. We have a strong and flexible labour force. We have low tax: corporation tax will be down to 20% by 2015, the lowest in the G7. We have the strongest R+D environment in Europe, with four of the world’s Top Ten universities and 76 Nobel Prize winners. We are one of the biggest economies in the world (the sixth largest by GDP). We are where most international companies put their European HQs.

Britain is not just a great place to do business, it’s a great place for India to do business with. That’s partly because of the natural ease with which the British and the Indians work together: we both speak English, drink tea, and play cricket. And we both understand that Yes Minister is not a comedy but a documentary.

But we also work well together because there is a natural fit between our two economies.

India’s strategic goal is transformation: inclusive development that benefits all its people. To achieve that:

  • India needs investment: Britain is by some measures the largest single investor in India.

  • India needs infrastructure: roads, metros, railways, ports, airports: the UK specialises in designing, building, and running infrastructure.

  • India needs new cities and to manage the successful expansion of its existing ones: the UK specialises in urban planning, urban renewal and architecture.

  • India needs more manufacturing: the UK is one of the world’s top ten manufacturers, and specialises in precisely the high tech manufacturing India wants to develop.

  • India needs power, from both traditional sources like oil and gas, and renewable sources like wind and solar: the UK specialises in all those areas.

  • India wants to educate the 500 million of its young people who will be coming onto the labour market in the next ten years: the UK specialises in education and skills.

  • India wants better healthcare for its 1.2 billion people: the UK has great expertise in health and medicine.

  • as Indian businesses become global players, they want the kind of international services which the UK offers: in banking, insurance, accountancy, law.

  • India wants access to global markets. The UK is a great base from which to access the world’s largest single market, the EU; and the world itself via the City and the London Stock Exchange.

One example of where this natural fit comes together is in the proposed Bangalore Mumbai Economic Corridor. The UK aims to partner with India, and with the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra, in the design, development and delivery of that corridor. We are working with the Indian side on a feasibility study. We hope it will become a flagship for the broader UK/India partnership we seek.

The same natural fit applies the other way round: India offers what the UK wants. We in Britain are looking for a return to strong and sustainable growth. That will happen in three main ways:

  • First, through export led growth: selling more UK goods and services to other countries. India is one of the largest markets in the world. It will soon have the biggest population in the world. If the UK is going to succeed in export led growth, we have to succeed here. And we’re making progress. In 2010 the PM set us the ambitious goal of doubling trade between our two countries by 2015. We’re on course to achieve that.

  • Second, Britain will grow through inward investment into the UK. Which is why the UK welcomes it. Example: Jaguar Land Rover, acquired by Tata and now hugely successful. Consider this: how many other countries would allow a foreign investor to acquire one of their flagship national companies? Not only did the UK allow it, we welcomed it. And it turned out to be great for Tata and great for us, generating thousands of new jobs in the UK and runaway sales for JLR. That openness to foreign investment has meant that the UK has become the largest recipient of FDI in Europe and the second largest recipient of FDI in the world after the US.

  • Attracting talent to our shores. The UK has done well in that over the last forty years. The Indian diaspora in the UK is the biggest, richest, and most successful diaspora of any in our country. We will continue to welcome India’s top talent to Britain. In the light of recent headlines, let me reassure you that Britain will remain open: for businesses, for students, for visitors.

Congratulations to the new BBG

So the UK/India business relationship is in good shape. But there’s no room for complacency. Part of the way we will take it to the next level is through stronger business to business links.

That’s why I am delighted to be here today at the launch of India’s newest British Business Group, BBG Bangalore. I congratulate its first Head, Marc Drew of Rolls Royce; and all of its members for getting to this moment; and I encourage you to be as ambitious in growing BBG as you are in growing your own businesses.

BBG Bangalore joins a strong and growing network of British Business Groups across India. There are chapters now in Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune.

To those of you who have already joined BBG Bangalore: congratulations, you made a good choice. To those of you who haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to consider joining. BBG membership will provide you with a huge network of business contacts in the UK and India, advice and support from the top people in their field, and a close link with the UK government through our Deputy High Commission here.

Strengthening our support for business

We also want to strengthen the support the British government gives to business here. That’s why we decided a few years ago to open a full Deputy High Commission in Bangalore. Our excellent Deputy High Commissioner, Ian Felton, leads a very strong UK Trade and Investment team. They are extremely active in promoting business links, not just here in Bangalore itself but through outreach to other cities like Mangalore, Mysore and Shimoga, with more to follow. We have also deliberately based the leaders of our India-wide work on aerospace, ICT and life sciences here in Bangalore. Our team for inward investment from South India to the UK is also based here.

We want to take this support to the next level too, which is why we’re building a new partnership with the UK India Business Council to provide even better services to business. Their CEO, Richard Heald, will say more about that in a moment.

The importance of the right environment

So the British government will do all it can to support UK business in India and to support Indian business in the UK. We welcome the efforts of the Indian authorities, at both state and national level, to do the same.

All of us in government need to remember that it is business that generates the wealth that government spends. And we need to remember that all businesses have a choice. They will go to those states and countries in which they can operate most successfully. So a business-friendly local environment is critical in attracting and retaining the private sector investment we all want, and the jobs and growth that go with it.


I first visited this city in 2011 when I was travelling around India in preparation for taking up my post as High Commissioner. I learnt several things then that I have not forgotten.

I learnt that this is a great city; that it is constantly reinventing itself; that most things which I thought were invented elsewhere were actually invented here; that it has strong links with Britain (the Trinity Church bell was cast in London by the same company who made Big Ben), and that it is a welcoming place for most Brits. Though not quite all: I also remember that there is a memorial on the wall of Trinity Church to a British surveyor in the 19th century who was eaten by a tiger. I hope at least to escape that fate today.

It’s great to be back here, and I wish the BBG, Bangalore, and the state of Karnataka every success in the future. As we meet that future, Britain will be a strong partner for you.

Published 5 July 2013