The UK is increasingly looking to shore up trade connections and secure business allies with prosperous economies worldwide. As a pillar of the Northern Powerhouse, Manchester is playing an important bridging role between the north and Asia, and the launch of non-stop flights from Manchester Airport to Mumbai marks the latest step in the increasing connectivity between the regions.
For centuries, UK and India have maintained strong and complex ties, and there has been renewed collaboration in recent years. India is the world’s seventh largest economy, growing at 7.2 per cent year-on-year, and has become the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power worldwide. By 2050, India could have an economy thirty times larger than now, and a workforce larger than that of the US and China combined. With this impressive potential, it is understandably one of the government’s major targets for the UK’s global trade strategy.
Manchester has been the torch-bearer in fostering close ties with India. Earlier this year, Deloitte played a central role in the launch of the Manchester-India Partnership (MIP), an initiative designed to build trade, investment, cultural and educational ties between the two locations, and involving organisations across the North West. At the heart of the partnership is the commitment, 'Make in India, Innovate with Manchester', with the aim of bringing Manchester's innovation and research capabilities into alignment with Indian industry and research institutes.
The public-private partnership was named ‘Trade & Investment Promotion Organisation of the Year’ at the UK-India Awards 2018 earlier this month. Judged by a panel of leading figures in business, technology and media, the awards celebrate the individuals and organisations that are strengthening the global partnership between the UK and India. The Special Recognition Award was awarded to MIP in recognition of its successes, which include securing direct flights and attracting leading Indian companies to Greater Manchester.
Direct flights can have a transformative impact on the economy, as seen with the launch of the Manchester-Bejing air route in 2014. In its first year, the airline carried 90,000 passengers between the two countries, greatly enhancing collaboration between the two cities. The number of Chinese students opting for Manchester soared, with twice the national average choosing the city for their studies. Tourism also received a monumental boost, with £138m added to Manchester’s visitor economy in the first year of operation. Exports from the north to China are now valued at over £200m a month. With strong parallels between the two, there is every reason to believe that we will see a similarly marked impact born out of the Manchester-Mumbai route.
This is especially encouraging thanks to existing activity, which has seen knowledge-led Indian firms invest significantly in the region. Multinational IT company HCL Technologies, for example, launched a global partnership with Manchester United in 2015. HCL and Manchester United work together to develop and introduce digital initiatives to enhance the experience of the Club’s global followers.
Manchester’s tech industry and talent pool also act as huge pull factors for Indian investment. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) recently announced plans to open a software, IT and engineering centre in the city, to create the next generation of connected-car technologies. JLR is Britain’s biggest carmaker, and is owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd.
The move confirms Manchester’s status as the UK’s second largest digital hub, and follows a wave of Indian investment in the city’s tech space. Bangalore tech company 42Gears, which specialises in mobile software for professional use, chose Manchester as a base for its European expansion last year. 42Gears was the first Indian SME to win a Manchester establishment package as part of the Deloitte Fast 50 contest, and was one of two companies to win the associated Manchester Prize, coordinated by Manchester's inward investment agency, MIDAS. The prize consisted of a package of start-up support worth £25,000 for companies looking to establish themselves in Manchester, ranging from professional services support to office space.
Another recent tech arrival was IT company Tech Mahindra, which officially opened its ‘headquarters for the North’ in Salford Quays in April, creating 60 new jobs in Greater Manchester. One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of bicycles, Indian-owned Hero Cycles also opened a £2m global design centre in Manchester in 2017, employing the industry’s best design and marketing experts from across Europe to develop the next generation of bikes. The company chose Manchester due to its large student population, and the city’s strong connection with cycling.
As this flurry of investment shows, the Manchester-India Partnership continues to bring both regions into closer alignment. Further to these robust business links, we will most likely see an influx of tourists, after Manchester, Birmingham and London recently formed an alliance to promote English tourism to China, India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - countries that include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Manchester holds exceptional connections with Asia, and a growing network of direct flights will undoubtedly reap huge economic rewards. It is vital that we continue to showcase the incredible draws the North West has to offer.