The CII-Grant Thornton India Meets Britain tracker, 2020, released against the backdrop of COVID-19 which is devastating economies across the globe, offers a sliver of hope and positivity. Even as both India and UK face significant challenges, the economic ties remain strong. 

Although the number of Indian companies – 842 – remains the same as in 2019, the number of employees has risen from 104,783 in 2019 to 110,793 in 2020, a record high.

The publication tracks the fastest-growing Indian companies in the UK, basis percentage revenue growth year-on-year and presents the scale, width, and impact of Indian-owned companies in the United Kingdom. To qualify for inclusion in the tracker, Indian companies must be headquartered or have a significant base in the UK. The 2020 tracker, the 7th edition, is compiled basis information for almost 850 UK-incorporated limited companies, either owned or controlled by an Indian-incorporated parent or an Indian citizen resident outside the UK. 

Key Highlights

  • The fastest-growing Indian company in the UK is from the energy sector – the Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), set up by the Indian Government.
  • Technology and telecom companies, which have dominated the tracker since 2014, accounted for 38% of the tracker companies and continue to be the fastest-growing Indian companies in the UK. 
  • Pharmaceuticals and chemicals companies, accounting for 15% of the companies in the tracker, are the second-most dominant sector.
  •  The share of engineering and manufacturing companies declined from 18% of tracker companies in 2018 to only 14% in 2020, just as the number of business service companies also fell from 16% in 2018 to 11% in 2020. 
  • London remains the favourite region for Indian companies with 54% of tracker companies based in London.

Employment generation by Indian companies in the UK has also been rising and is impressive. Indian companies employed 110,793 people in 2020, with the Tata Group being the largest employer, employing almost 70,400 people in the UK, up from 68,466 in 2019.

The total number of people employed by Indian companies would go up sharply if one were to calculate those employed by UK branches of Indian companies. Companies such as Infosys, WIPRO, TCS employ almost 30,000 people in their UK branches.

The representation of women in the companies evaluated has also risen from the previous year – from 125 companies with one or more woman directors in 2019 to 129 in 2020. Not only that, compared to India, 20% of Indian companies in the UK have a woman director compared to just 16% of NIFTY 500 companies in India.

India-UK Ties in the Time of COVID-19

India and the UK are keen to strengthen economic ties, and while a UK-India trade deal is awaited, the UK Government has identified India as one of its top targets for a free trade agreement, with Mumbai as one of the 18 cities in the new GREAT ‘Ready to Trade’ campaign launched after UK’s departure from the European Union.

The outbreak of Coronavirus has no doubt had serious ramifications for the Indian and UK economies, with a forecast of a 3% contraction of the global economy due to the pandemic.

In the new world order emerging, which will demand new and different ways of operating, companies will need to carefully assess the opportunities and the risks involved, and the CII-Grant Thornton India Meets Britain Tracker, 2020 lists 6 parameters for close evaluation: people; liquidity; technology; customers and suppliers; operations and regulatory. 

Traditionally, the UK has offered a positive and encouraging business climate for Indian companies to operate it. The regulatory environment, ease of doing business and factors such as good security have been attractions for Indian companies to invest in the UK. The sound fundamentals are expected to remain strong, and the disruptions caused due to COVID-19 could cause a dip in bilateral economic activity, which is likely to get back on the growth track soon with both countries taking several measures to minimize the damage due to COVID-19.

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