Over 50 delegates from academia, industry, finance, media and entrepreneurs gathered at the House of Lords to explore ways to enhance the contribution of Indian ventures and technology entrepreneurs in the UK. Participants included representatives from Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, PwC and the FCO. The meeting was chaired by Lord Bilimoria and organised by the Indian Professionals Forum (IPF.)
The main objective of the gathering was to address a number of issues to assist in galvanizing the entrepreneurial spirit among the UK’s Indian professional community and ultimately implement a framework to direct specific collaboration, investments and community engagement:
IPF had also circulated a white paper on Enhancing Technology Entrepreneurship prepared by one of its members Subhash Jogia, an accomplished technology leader in investment banking formerly with Morgan Stanley and the UK cabinet office. The paper highlights key aspects essential for an ecosystem to support start-ups and scale ups to flourish over a long period of time.
The main points of debate are summarised:
We are at the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution, some might say that we are already there. Unlike the preceding 3 revolutions, this one differs in Many aspects. Distance is no longer a barrier thanks to the Internet & digital communication. New technologies are adopted almost overnight. And industrial scale no longer relies on physical human labour. In this paradigm shift the scarcest and most valuable resource is neither ordinary labour nor ordinary capital. Rather it will be those people who can create new ideas and innovations. People with ideas, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production, productivity and prosperity.
UK Ecosystem for Influencing Change
The UK ecosystem for start-ups is actually doing rather well, both start-ups and mature multinationals are very actively engaged. But the rules of the game are changing, the political, economic and social climate is changing. However more needs to be done by the UK Government as UK investment in AI / Big data is the lowest of all G7 - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tech-sector-backs-british-ai-industry-with-multi-million-pound-investment--2.
Unicorns - Making the Difference
The number of unicorns as a basic indicator of the health of the Ecosystem tells an interesting story. Of the 241 companies worth over $1bn, the unicorns, there are only 3 countries with double digits:
So is the UK doing OK? 2/3rd of those 241 Unicorns were incorporated within the last 10 yrs. And in 2017 alone there were 65 who made unicorn status. With 3 Chinese Unicorns within 2 years of incorporation. And these are coming from less familiar Tech Hub locations: Berlin, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, which are fast becoming sweet spots.
Issues of Capital
Entrepreneurs spoke of a constrained access to risk capital in the UK compared to other jurisdictions due to structural or cultural reasons. Many UK accelerators provide access to corporate sponsors and facilitate funding but there is a need for a ’Sequoia’ in the UK - ie ambitious, risk taking VCs with depth and mentorship that can also strengthen the network among UK accelerators.
UK –India Corridor
Participants expressed the need to create a platform for Indian entrepreneurs to access the UK more easily. Currently the Indian tax regime inhibits cross border M&A and balance sheet restructuring. On access to India, start-ups should not assume that a successful product/service will automatically succeed in India and accelerators are struggling in India. Participants overwhelmingly echoed that mentoring CEOs, Founders and nurturing start-ups through the growth curve is critical for UK-India start-ups to succeed.
While summarising the above key points of the debate Lord Karan Bilimoria assured the Forum of his continued support for the initiative and stressed:
Greeting the delegates to the meeting of the Indian Professionals Forum, IPF President Dr Mohan Kaul said that as well as representing the work of the Indian diaspora in the UK, the impending Brexit had strengthened the need for the creation of the IPF.
He said: “Brexit or no Brexit, the UK and India will remain as strong partners, with the UK continuing to be the first choice of location for a lot of Indian business. London will remain a strong financial centre for raising finances for Indian businesses and infrastructure.
“Our focus has been on advanced technology companies and particularly start-ups in the UK and India as we look to strengthen the UK-India technology corridor for UK companies to scale up in India and for Indian companies to innovate in the UK. We are focusing on strengthening the technology parks in the UK to match Silicon Valley in the US. As you are aware, 20% of the technology start-ups in Silicon Valley are by Indian diaspora while the number of such companies in the UK is very small and we are looking at ways to increase this.”