Nalin Kumar Kateel, Member of Parliament, Dakshina Kannada | Bharatiya Janata Party

Nalin Kumar Kateel

Vibrant Gujarat – attracting business from India and beyond

The State of Gujarat, an hour’s flight north of Mumbai, can claim many important contributions to India. It was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, another key leader of the independence movement and India’s first Home Minister, and Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the massive eponymous conglomerate, hails from Navsari in Gujarat.

Gujarat is also a major contributor to the Indian economy. It has massive oil refineries in Jamnagar, including one of the largest in the world, and major engineering plants in Hazira where turbines and generators are manufactured and exported to numerous countries. More recently it has seen a major increase in the automotive sector, including a new plant near Ahmedabad for Tata’s famous $2000 car, the Nano.
So it was little wonder, when the State organised its biennial Vibrant Gujarat business jamboree in January, that many of India’s top business leaders gathered in the capital Gandhinagar. The heads of some of the biggest companies in the country were at the launch of the 3-day event, including Mukesh Ambani, his brother Anil, Ratan Tata and his successor Cyrus Mistry, Anand Mahindra, Shashi Ruia and many more. They all underlined the vital importance of the State to their companies.
It was also no wonder that many foreign companies and countries were present at the event. The largest foreign delegation was probably from Japan, one of the sponsors of the promotion, but the UK was not far behind with a range of companies backed by visits by the High Commissioner Sir James Bevan, Patricia Hewitt, the chair of the UK-India Business Council, who wowed a 2000 strong audience with her Gujarati, and a number of the deputy high commission team in Mumbai supporting our small trade office in Gujarat.
In a meeting we had with the State’s Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, the High Commissioner agreed there were a range of areas, including education, healthcare and research, as well as business, where there were big opportunities for collaboration. The interest in education was amply demonstrated by the throngs of potential applicants for UK universities at one of the two stands the UK had in pavilions at Vibrant Gujarat.
Another area of potential collaboration is financial services. The Gujarat Government has pioneered a new Gujarat International Financial Services and Technology Centre (GIFT) in a landmark building in Ahmedabad, and at a seminar Patricia Hewitt and I addressed there were over 300 business people looking at opportunities to develop international links with the City of London.
No-one who attended the Vibrant Gujarat’s events can have been left in any doubt of the State’s importance to the Indian economy.
It also has a growing influence on the UK, with one of the largest groups – probably around 600,000 – of British – Indian families hailing originally from the State. That huge diaspora presents a major opportunity for UK businesses and universities to build on the close ties that exist between Gujarat and the UK.

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