Earlier in August, I visited Tamil Nadu and Kerala to meet with business and industry in my capacity as Shadow Business Minister. I was supported in the visit by local residents who are members of the diaspora communities, and on my visit I backed calls for greater trade links between Britain and India. This has been an important issue and subject of debate as India, which is now the world’s fifth largest economy. In September India will host the G20 summit of world leaders – the first G20 summit to be held in India or South Asia. My visit followed the Leader of the Labour Party Rt Hon Keir Starmer’s keynote speech at the India Global Forum conference in London in June, where he laid out the serious and deep diplomatic relationship a Labour Government will seek with India.
I was proud to meet and visited businesses, universities, colleges and diplomats to understand national and state level priorities for the state and national economy, and areas of common interest. Earlier this year, the Hounslow Chamber of Commerce also hosted an event on promoting trade opportunities for local businesses with India and other economies, and it was a matter I was able to raise at a reception on UK Export Finance held in the Foreign Office earlier this summer. On my visit, a range of meetings were also organised by the dynamic Indian Business Network founded a few years ago supported by local businessman Badri Balavenkateshan and which work to support links with diaspora businesses across the UK and Tamil Nadu.
I also was able to visit and address 300 students at the renowned Soka Ikeda College of Arts and Science for Women in Chennai, which is supporting many young women from families in rural areas to attend college for the first time in their family. I am also grateful to Feltham Tamil Makkal association coordinator Pushpakala Vinoth Kumar and City of London Common Councillor Rehana Ahmed.
Rehana also convened the UK-India Friendship meet held at Amir Mahal Palace and hosted by the Prince of Arcot His Highness Nawab Mohammad Abdul Ali at which I spoke about the importance of trade links and Labour’s mission to grow the UK economy to be the fastest growing in the G7. The event was attended by senior business leaders from across a range of sectors, representatives from almost ten embassies, politicians, university vice chancellors, technologists and health care leaders and also addressed by UK Deputy High Commissioner Oliver Ballhatchet MBE.
At the event I highlighted how we want to see increased trade links not just from centre to centre, but from Indian regions to UK regions and nations – building on strengths like those of Tamil Nadu in the medical sector to life sciences clusters in the UK like Cambridge or the North East of England.
The strength of the economic contribution of Indian businesses in the UK is shown in this year’s Grant Thornton annual India Meets Britain Tracker this year identifying 954 Indian companies operating in the UK, with a combined revenue of £50.5 billion. There are opportunities for our Hounslow-based businesses to also further pursue following the UK India Business Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2021, with the aim boosting business and industrial development in Tamil Nadu and strengthening collaboration with British businesses in Tamil Nadu.
I was also able to make short visit to Kerala and visit the UST campus, a global technology and professional services firm operating in the UK also and headquartered in Kerala. The visit discussed their innovation labs, research and development, company values and the growing impact of artificial intelligence. As part of my ongoing work to support the progress of women in industry and in public life, it was inspiring to meet senior women employees and to be able to talk about my journey into politics and Labour’s plans for tackling women’s inequality in society and the workplace.
With Hounslow’s story and our diversity being a story of global Britain, all our communities are part of the living bridge we have with other nations, and those relationships are ones on which we can build new economic ties that lead to greater prosperity for all at home and abroad.