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Trade deal tech boom

Feb 07, 2022
Last Updated on May 22, 2024

Indian tech firms are lining up to get a foothold in the UK as trade talks begin between the two nations.

London immigration firm, A Y & J Solicitors, which specialise in arranging visas for Indian businesses and skilled professionals, has seen a marked increase in interest from tech workers and tech companies in the past six weeks. The rise in inquiries comes in anticipation of new trade initiatives between the UK and India. 

The interest in UK visas comes after government trade officials, now in talks with their counterparts in Delhi, appeared to row back on comments made by PM Boris Johnson last month in which he told Parliament that the UK will not consider offering any visa concessions to India in exchange for a free trade deal. The UK’s international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan confirmed this month that “everything is on the table to discuss”. She said her team had “a broad mandate to crack on from cabinet”, including to address India’s demands of easier visa access for students and skilled workers. 

Yash Dubal, director of A Y & J Solicitors, said the UK’s new liberalised immigration system, in addition to several new visa routes which are scheduled to be introduced in the spring, will make it easier than ever for qualified Indian tech workers and IT companies to set up shop in Britain.

He said: “There has been a definite increase in inquiries from those in the Indian tech sector looking at UK visa availability. There is a buzz in the industry in apprehension of a trade deal and further changes in the regulations around immigration to the UK. 

“There has been a lot of hype and several fresh initiatives designed to woo India’s tech sector. As the pandemic recedes, these developments are beginning to bear fruit and Indian businesses and workers are starting to make plans to come to the UK.”

Immigration measures being introduced this year include a streamlining migrant sponsorship to make it easier for UK firms to hire skilled workers from overseas, introduction of the Scale-up visa that will allow qualifying, fast-growing businesses to hire high-skilled overseas workers, the launch of the Global Business Mobility route for overseas businesses wishing to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK and the introduction of the High Potential Individual visa for graduates from top global universities wishing to come to the UK to work. 

Mr Dubal continued: “Any fears the tech sector in India had about difficulties accessing the UK through the new points-based immigration system are unfounded. The system is set up to welcome skilled workers and tech companies. Successful businesses wishing to expand to the UK are starting to realise this.”

Other measures that will attract Indian tech expertise to the UK include the Global Talent Network which aims to source science and tech talent from universities, innovation hubs and research institutions overseas. A hub will be established in Bengaluru, India, this year. 

The tech partnership between the two nations began in earnest in 2018, two years after the UK voted to leave the EU. At that year’s Commonwealth Summit, the UK and India signed the UK-India Tech Partnership, an agreement designed to nurture relationships between SMEs, VC funds, universities and other investors in both countries. It was estimated the partnership would create thousands of tech jobs in the UK.

A year later, a tech hub funded by UK-India venture capital fund Pontaq opened in London to promote business between the nations. It gave Pontaq’s portfolio of companies access to funding as well as office space and aimed to host 50 businesses. The project promotes cross-border support for early-stage tech firms between the UK and India, focusing on fintech, blockchain and AI as well as smart cities tech. Although it was slowed by the pandemic, it is set to gear-up again this year.

Over 40 percent of Indian companies operating in the UK are technology firms and tech-based trade between the two nations was valued at $25bn last year. Pandemic driven digital transformation has increased this value and several of India’s largest technology companies – including Tata Consultancy Services, HCL Technologies and Infosys – have recently expanded their operational presence in London. 

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