The UK government has tapped India’s tech industry by giving thousands of Indians the opportunity to work in the UK for two years, as well as creating a tech envoy to the Indo-Pacific region.
Through the migration scheme, which was marked by a visit by foreign secretary James Cleverly to the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, up to 3,000 young Indians and an equal number of Brits will be able to work in each other’s countries for two years.
On a visit to India, Cleverly discussed trade opportunities for the two countries. The government says the UK-India trade relationship is now worth £34bn, growing by £10bn last year.
The migration program means that technology professionals from India will be able to take up roles in the UK. Indian universities produce many technology graduates and the country’s IT service suppliers, including giants such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro, provide services to major UK businesses.
In 2017, India’s high commissioner to the UK at the time, YK Sinha, said that any future trade deal the UK agreed with India would require the UK to relax rules on the movement of professionals. in India to work in the UK.
At the time, he said: “I’m not talking about unrestricted access or unrestricted travel, I’m talking about the movement of professionals – doctors, technicians and engineers. I think both sides will benefit from in this exchange, and obviously it should be a two-way exchange, not a one-way.
Wise said: “India is an important partner for the UK, and the deepening relationship we are building today will help grow the UK economy and boost our industries for the future. This meaningful approach to immigration will enable the brightest and best of our two countries to benefit from new opportunities.
The lack of technology skills due to fewer people coming to the UK because of Brexit can be reduced by attracting more IT professionals from India, but because the scheme for young people can also be reduced the opportunities for UK graduates starting their IT careers.
In the past, IT professionals in the UK claimed that businesses using migration programs to hire low-cost staff from India made it impossible for them to compete. There are also accusations that Indian staff brought to the UK are being trained to perform certain roles remotely when they return to India so that they can replace more expensive UK staff.
Peter Schumacher, CEO of management consultancy The Value Leadership Group, said: “India has the largest pool of educated English speakers across all disciplines.”
He added that the UK is not currently attracting the best Indian students to its universities because strict rules mean Indians cannot work in the UK after their studies.
According to Cleverly, the tech envoy for the Indo-Pacific region will “raise the technological expertise of both countries”. This is the second tech envoy announced in the UK, with the first being appointed in the US in late 2020.
One prize that Indian IT suppliers in the UK can target is public sector contracts. Indian IT service providers have many contracts with the UK’s biggest businesses, but relatively few players in the public sector.
According to Tussell, which analyzes government spending data, India’s largest IT supplier, TCS, made £30.9m in sales to the UK public sector in 2017, and this figure rose to £52m in 2019, before the pandemic slowed things down. There is huge potential for growth in the UK public sector for TCS and other Indian service companies.
For UK businesses, there is an opportunity to tap into India’s rapidly growing economy through large business services.