The British Business Group in Pune invited me to their AGM (Annual General Meeting) in mid June. Pune is Maharashtra State’s second largest city and I have heard estimates of a population between four to six million. The national census this year should give the figure.
Pune is the major centre for the automotive sector in India, and most of the world’s largest manufacturers have operations there: the fact that Lufthansa runs frequent services from Frankfurt direct to Pune speaks volumes.
Despite a large German presence, the British Business Group is vibrant, and with the enthusiastic leadership from Vandana Poria and her team, has great plans to keep the India–UK links high on the agenda.
There were over 100 businesspeople at their AGM. The guest speaker was Mr Sanjay Kirloskar, who gave a fascinating account of his company Kirloskar Brothers’ Limited (KBL) partnership with a UK subsidiary SPP in the pumps, valves and turbines business. Mr Kirloskar noted that the UK company, acquired in 2003, had brought values like world class delivery, a lack of hierarchical discrimination, and an appreciation of staff time to his organisation. He noted that contrasts with Indian business culture in the UK company included some risk averseness, a reluctance to do business in challenging areas, and a number of preconceived notions about India: plenty there for the British Business Group to digest about bringing UK and Indian cultures together in one business!
The following morning I went with Avnish Malhotra from our Trade Office in Pune to hear another example of how Indian and UK business were co-operating to both country’s advantage. Bharat Forge is one of India’s, and the world’s, largest automotive component manufactures. The company’s chairman and managing director Baba Kalyani told us how, faced with the recession across Europe, he had been forced to close a Scottish subsidiary. But looking for new opportunities, Bharat Forge was moving into the renewables sector, and plans this year to open a wind turbine factory in Glasgow which within twelve months should provide several hundred jobs.
Mr Kalyani was full of praise for UK expertise in renewables, and engineering more generally. He also described how Bharat Forge was co-operating with the University of Warwick to provide courses in Engineering Management for his employees. The first degrees will be awarded to graduates in Pune this July, and Mr Kalyani has plans to expand these links with Warwick to start a fully fledged engineering university in Pune.