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Mayoral visit writes Manchester’s modern passage to India

Categories: India

Related sector

Manchester India Partnership

A 30-strong Manchester India Partnership (MIP) delegation recently returned from a mission to strengthen business, education, tourism and cultural relationships with Bangladesh and India, part of an ambitious plan to boost trade and offset the potential impact of Brexit. In Business and Business Live got the inside story.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is engulfed in a sea of Indian journalists keen to hear about a new education partnership between the State of Karnataka and Salford University.
It’s a spectacle indicative of the “soft power” magnetism being exerted by Manchester India Partnership’s 30-strong delegation to Bangladesh and India. At times, the welcome is what would be expected for a small country rather than a city-region.

But with innovation and trade in its DNA, there’s a growing sense that devolution has left Greater Manchester uniquely placed to flex its influence internationally, and the ballroom of Bengaluru’s Taj Palace hotel is bearing witness.

Bengaluru, modern Indian name for Bangalore, is the third stop on a mayoral-led MIP tour that visited two countries and five cities, travelling 15,000 miles over 10 hectic days.

By the end of the week, the delegation has shared Manchester’s story at dozens of events and meetings, had one-to-one engagements with around 1,000 people, and secured media coverage with outlets ranging from ESPN to The Times of India.

It’s anticipated that the economic opportunity between the North of England and India could be worth £400m in the next five years. A 600-job pipeline worth £45m to the Greater Manchester economy has already been secured by the time the delegation returns home.

This inaugural MIP mayoral India visit is another highlight for an award-winning idea crystallised in 2018 with the formation of the public-private Manchester India Partnership, which is administered by MIDAS and supported by Marketing Manchester.

A 10-strong mayoral delegation first visited Bangladesh, where the ink has now dried on a new agreement with Biman for a direct air route between Sylhet, Dhaka and Manchester.

Backed by three sponsors – Salford University, Bolton University and digital agency MiQ – the India leg of the visit centres around showpiece Manchester Comes to… events in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi.

First stop in India is Mumbai, with the MIP delegation including representatives of Manchester’s tech, health innovation, education, travel, culture and sport sectors.

There are nerves ahead of Manchester Comes To… Mumbai but the event is a showstopper.

There are introductions from compere Jo Ahmed, a Deloitte partner and MIP board member, then presentations on Manchester’s sector strengths, showcasing opportunities for collaboration between the two regions.

Giving his opening address, the mayor makes it clear benefits from this week’s activity will be felt mutually in Manchester and India. It’s a nod to the historic threads of the cotton trade, then the support Indian healthcare professionals provided the NHS. Burnham explains:

“It’s not just a trade visit. I’m coming out of respect for the 50,000 residents of Greater Manchester whose predecessors came from India to Manchester and built Manchester.” 

Jon Corner, Chief Executive of Salford’s digital and creative incubator hub, The Landing, announces a new partnership with Bollywood’s Famous Studios.

Then Bollywood itself arrives in the room: ace singer and Manchester restaurateur Asha Bhosle, Guinness World Record holder for the most studio recordings, receives an honorary doctorate in arts and media from Salford University, best known to UK audiences as inspiration for Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha, the honour becomes the talk of Indian media.

Lancashire County Cricket Club Foundation director James Sheridan announces a pre-season tour to India in March 2020. Later he’ll meet contacts in a country where cricket is a religion and scope potential venues. Sheridan explains:

“When you consider that there are more than a billion or so people in India, and most of those people are cricket fans, as a business and cricket opportunity it’s miles at the top of the list.”

Manchester Comes To… is the main event of a packed programme. The various Manchester delegations are out in force across Mumbai, then do the same in Bengaluru and Delhi. The MIP-led digital and health innovation delegations attended more than 15 thematic events, meetings and visits throughout the trip.

Marketing Manchester’s managing director, Sheona Southern, joins the mayor in media interviews with Business Traveller India and Lonely Planet India, then meets travel trade contacts to explore opportunities to build on the 20,000 Indian visitors to Manchester last year.

Tim Newns, CEO of MIDAS, also joins the mayor in numerous meetings with Indian journalists and senior business figures to promote and progress opportunities for trade and investment between the two regions.

The frenetic pace continues as the delegation travels to Bengaluru and Delhi, where guests are welcomed to events by Manchester Airport CEO and Chair of the MIP, Andrew Cowan.

There’s the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Salford University and Karnataka State Higher Education Council (Bengaluru); and a similar arrangement for Manchester Museum and Amritsar’s Partition Museum.

In Delhi, Indian healthcare giant Apollo Hospitals signs a deal with the University of Bolton, while Marketing Manchester and Visit Britain agree a deal with travel giant WeGo.

The tech delegation visits Tech Mahindra, which already has a Salford base, and Manchester United partner HCL’s 26,000 strong campus.

At both companies, the mayor is feted as a state visitor, indicating the status given to Manchester globally. He is invited to plant trees and given gifts.

The visit has the support of the Department for International Trade and the British Deputy High Commissioners to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi.

Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, British Deputy High Commissioner to Bengaluru, says the idea of a city-region bringing a business delegation to India is “absolutely excellent.” Influential Indian travel agent Amish Desai says the visit is what he would expect from a country rather than a city-region. “It’s a fantastic initiative,” he adds.

Back in Manchester, Jo Ahmed and Deloitte host a Diwali dinner at Manchester’s Dishoom, an opportunity for delegation members to regroup.

The mayor reflects on the warmth of the welcome, confident the delegation will produce positive news on jobs, Burnham says: 

“There’s huge history between Greater Manchester and India and it was great to strengthen ties.

This is the time to give back through partnership and write a new chapter. That partnership is based on equality and mutual benefit, which was perfectly represented by the announcements we made in India last week, acknowledging our past while building new opportunities for the future.”

This article previously appeared in the Manchester Evening News business magazine, In Business. 

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