Sir Nigel Knowles, International Advisor to the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, looks at how the collaboration with the Maharashtra region of India has come about and what it means for both regions.
“When two regions with great synergies work together incredible things can be achieved. Sheffield City Region and the Maharashtra region of India are on a journey towards collaboration, which should introduce huge benefits for both.
The journey started three years ago when Sheffield City Region identified India as a potential partner for collaboration and greater business opportunities. UKIBC (UK Indian Business Council) carried out detailed market research on mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities in India. The report confirmed that Pune and the Maharashtra regions held great synergies and would be compatible with Sheffield City Region’s specialisms in Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing, Healthcare and Digital.
UKIBC developed a strategy to grow trade and investment for the mutual benefit of the businesses of Maharashtra and our region. This included establishing a bold new brand ‘Make in India: Design and Develop with the Sheffield City Region’ and with an eye on supporting businesses, we rolled out an export growth programme to help Sheffield City Region firms to overcome barriers to entering the Indian market.
With the support infrastructure in place, we believe that there is tremendous potential for businesses from both Maharashtra and Sheffield City Region to trade, invest and generally collaborate. Particularly in sectors like advanced manufacturing, med-tech and digital, which have the potential to create great jobs and prosperity in both locations.
India Growth Champions
Over the past three years, our region has been working proactively to build on our civic and business relationship with Maharashtra. This has included two separate visits to the region, including one where I led a trade mission. The trade mission included a visit to a number of businesses including Bharat Forge, the Automotive Research Authority of India (ARAI), Pune College of Engineering, IIT Bombay, the National Centre for Aerospace Innovation and Research (NCAIR), ISME School of Management and Entrepreneurship and the MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation).
In 2020, we launched the India Growth Champions Scheme a joint venture between our City Region and UKIBC. This involves several South Yorkshire companies that were looking to build business links with India who receive 10 funded days of dedicated support, alongside the development of an India business plan, workshops and business mentoring. It also includes taking part in a virtual trade mission, where over 40 meetings have been organised between businesses from the two regions. We hope a Trade Mission to India will be possible once current travel restrictions are lifted.
A number of our India Growth Champion companies joined a recent Roundtable event, which has helped to enhance relationships and increase trading opportunities with Maharashtra.
The event was purely business-focused, involving Mr Prashant Girbane, Director General of the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), Kevin McCole from UK India Business Council, myself as International Advisor to the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, plus a number of South Yorkshire businesses, such as Magnomatics, Kycker, Zoo Digital and Macalloy involved in the India Growth Champions Scheme.
The Roundtable event was a great opportunity for some prominent local businesses to build relationships with contacts that could be useful to them in the Maharashtra region of India. There were some interesting discussions about how participants in the India Growth Champion Scheme could work with partners in India, which of course makes it all so worthwhile.
India offers huge potential in the digitisation of advanced manufacturing and shares many industrial synergies with our region. We hope this will be just the start of a series of Roundtable discussions, for mutual benefit.
A second roundtable event had a civic theme and involved Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis MP, Mayor Murlidhar Mohol, The Mayor of Pune, Vikram Kumar, Municipal Commissioner for Pune, Dame Sarah Storey, Active Travel Ambassador for Sheffield City Region, local South Yorkshire businesses and the Vice Chancellors of the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.
The two mayors and the other delegates discussed a number of topics including active and urban transport systems, climate action through a low carbon economy, water and waste management, trade, investment and business partnerships. The Roundtable event concluded with a reciprocal invitation back to South Yorkshire from Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis MP.
Discussions showed that our two Mayors have shared priorities in making our cities better places to live, including on urban transport and environmental issues.
Kevin McCole, Managing Director of UKIBC, said: ‘There is no doubt that Pune and wider Maharashtra have an immensely impressive manufacturing, healthtech, and digital clusters. These are areas two where excellence is no stronger anywhere than in the Sheffield City Region.”
So, it’s a real pleasure to be bringing together businesses from the Sheffield City Region and Maharashtra to meet, partner and collaborate. It is particularly pleasing to be supporting an exciting group of SMEs – The India Growth Champions – who have met with potential partners in Pune and the Maharashtra state. We look forward to supporting that journey in the future and to further strengthening links between both regions.”