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Why economic ties between Scotland and India need to be strengthened – Punit Gupta

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It is fair to say that the Scots adopted many aspects Indian culture, but despite the cultural ties between the two countries, I believe we could do much more as a nation to improve Indo-Scottish trade relations.

While the free trade agreement between India and the UK is currently being negotiated, I think as a delegated nation Scotland could do more to play a role in improving relations with India and I would like to challenge the Scots Government work more actively with the Government of India to seek ways to strengthen our ties with the economic and cultural benefits of both sides.

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India is currently the 11th largest domestic investor in Scotland, but there are opportunities to further increase this, I don’t think we are using enough.

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The LSE event, organized by Nicola Sturgeon, strengthens the “gateway to global investment” …

For example, the lack of direct flights between India and Scotland is a real obstacle to increasing trade between the two countries. A few years ago, there was talk that Air India or Jet Airways would launch a new direct line between the countries, but a new route from Manchester was implemented instead.

This is very disappointing, as it is clear that a direct flight schedule between India and Scotland would be beneficial to our economy. Nowadays, it is usually Indian tourists or businessmen who come to Scotland London before heading north of the border.

This means that their time in Scotland is often reduced and most of their spending goes to the London economy if they could be spent here. These visitors stay in London hotels and visit London restaurants rather than maximize their time spent in Scotland, which for us is a real lost opportunity.

“India is currently the 11th largest domestic investor in Scotland, but there are opportunities to increase that,” Mr Gupta said. Photo: Matthew McGoldrick.

Indian tourists are the second largest spenders in the world when traveling, so if we could attract more such visitors to Scotland and make sure this is the main focus of their trip, we could benefit greatly from what it will bring to our sector hospitality and tourism. Now this is more important than ever as many of these businesses continue to feel the effects of the pandemic.

Unused

India is also one of the largest consumers whiskey in the world. The duty on whiskey in India is now significant – something the UK government hopes to reduce in the future, and I hope it will be significantly reduced to increase product sales – but until a decision is made, I believe there is more we could mix whiskey and tourism to target this untapped market of Indian visitors.

But whiskey is not the only option. India is also a huge importer of cheese, so food and beverages can be a significant area for growth overall. Tartan, cashmere and wool also present fantastic possibilities.

Education is another key area we need to explore. Scottish universities have been counting on income from students from China for several years, but few realize that Indian students are now the fifth largest group of people from abroad studying in Scotland.

We need to shout louder about this and about the benefits it brings to attract more students from India. Developing and expanding our relationship with Indian students could be another great way to improve relations between the two countries, and I believe that if we were more closely linked in other areas of trade relations, it would be easier.

It is clear to me that the Scottish Government needs to make a much more concerted effort to build relations at the state level to secure greater domestic investment while creating greater opportunities for exports.

Opportunity

In my view, while relations between the UK and China governments are strained, there is now a huge opportunity to do more business with India.

I am glad that an inter-party group in the Scottish Parliament for India was set up to promote Indo-Scottish relations. The group’s remit is to liaise with relevant stakeholders to expand cooperation between countries, and my priority is to work with the group to discuss my experiences and make suggestions on how trade can be improved.

I believe this is a really positive step, but I am aware that any significant action can take a significant amount of time, so for now I remain a cautious optimist.

The benefits of improving trade relations cannot be denied, and the positive economic effect will create a number of benefits, such as job creation and greater prosperity. More trade is good for the economy, and we need it now more than ever.

Our priority should be to rebuild the economy after COVID-19 as we slowly emerge from the pandemic and I believe that expanding trade relations between India and Scotland could be a fantastic way to do this.

Punit Gupta is an entrepreneur with a diverse business portfolio covering healthcare and hospitality, and he is a joint CEO PG paperone of Scotland’s largest exporters with a presence in 55 countries.

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