MPs from UK/ EU/Indian Parliament & EuropeIndia40 leaders on Cultural relationship b/w India & UK/EU
Updated: Jul 24
As part of Europe India Centre for Business & Industry’s (EICBI) campaign called “EuropeIndia40 VIEWS: Hear from the leaders who will shape the future of UK–India/ EU–India relations’’ an initiative to promote the works of #EuropeIndia40 leaders and which involves participation of Members of Parliament from India/ UK and European Union, the 4th MINI SUMMIT was successfully delivered virtually on the 2nd July, 2021. The 3rd Mini Summit was on Strengthening business co-operation between India and UK/ EU. The 2nd Mini Summit was on the Green Economy & Climate Change Cooperation between India and the European Union/ UK and was held in February whereas the 1st Mini summit was on the Impact of Brexit on EU India and UK India relations and was held in January.
The Mini Summit saw prominent Members of Parliament from UK Parliament, European Parliament and Indian Parliament sharing the stage with EuropeIndia40 Leaders to discuss the "Cultural relationships as Key driver for stronger trade and investment partnerships between India and UK/ EU". Current Leaders from British Parliament, European Parliament, and Indian Parliament who participated in the discussion were
● Mr Sandro Gozi, MEP- Member of European Parliament - France/ Member - EU Delegation for Relations with India, European Parliament/ Former Undersecretary for European affairs of the Italian Government
● Lord Hannan- Member of House of Lords - UK Parliament/ Advisor - UK Board of Trade
● Mr Anto Anthony, MP- Member of Parliament - India / Member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Tourism, Transport and Culture
EuropeIndia40 Leaders who were part of the panel discussions included
● Mr Kosta Mavroulakis- Founder and CEO, Empact Ventures.
● Ms Valentina Manduchi- Founder, Apsaras Events.
● Mr Dan Ram- MC | 5x TEDx Speaker | Coach.
● Mr Nayan Gala- Founder & Managing Partner, JPIN Venture Catalysts LTD.
● Ms Chiara Lo Faro- TEDx speaker | Founder, Société C. Lo Faro.
● Mr. Vijibabu Gurugubelli- Director, Lead Process India Pvt Ltd.
● Ms Monica Florina Boța Moisin- Founder, The Cultural Intellectual Property Rights Initiative.
The panel discussions were moderated by the following leaders from the UK - India and EU - India corridor
● Mr Pratik Dattani - MD - EPG London/ Former UK Head - FICCI India/ Advisor - Bridge India.
● Mr Vas Shenoy - Member of Board of Advisors, EU India Association.
In his welcoming remarks, Mr Sujit Nair FRSA, Chairperson, Europe India Centre for Business & Industry (EICBI), emphasised the increasing role played by the EICBI in promoting the closer trade relation in India-UK-EU tri-corridor in the past 10 years. He mentioned that EICBI had organised 24 major Summits in Europe with 22 summits at the UK Parliament in London and 2 summits at European Parliament in Brussels, engaging 3240 delegates from 2190 companies, which helped businesses, Members of Parliament from EU and UK and Indian lawmakers engage in fruitful discussions and understand each other’s needs and demands. EICBI organised numerous delegation visits for companies and MPs from Europe to get first-hand experience of the Indian market. He talked about the EICBI’S ongoing #EUROPEINDIA40 campaign and the series of virtual summits organised under it. These virtual summits helped lawmakers, members of parliament, businesses and EUROPEINDIA40 leaders from the UK, Europe and India, engage in thematic and broader intellectual talks and discussions, presenting ideas and opinions that can pave the way for a better business environment and ease of doing business. Mr Sujit Nair then welcomed Mr Sandro Gozi, Lord Hannan and Mr Anto Anthony for this 4th virtual summit.
Delivering his keynote address, Mr Sandro Gozi, Member of European Parliament – France/ Member – EU Delegation for Relations with India/ Former Undersecretary for European affairs of the Italian Government – began his speech by expressing his admiration for India, her culture and democracy. He mentioned how India and the EU are entering a new phase of the relationship and pointed out that now is the time for both sides to take advantage of the potential that deeper economic and geopolitical links that India-EU present. He highlighted the recent India-European Union (EU) Leaders’ Meeting, wherein leaders identified new common goals providing a new direction to the Strategic Partnership and giving a fresh impetus for implementing the ambitious India-EU Roadmap 2025 adopted at the 15th India-EU Summit held in July 2020. He also emphasised the importance of resuming negotiations to conclude the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement and the Investment Protection Agreement as soon as possible. He emphasised increased clarity in geopolitics and termed India a friend of the EU, citing mutual issues such as climate change, a free and open Pacific, adherence to international laws, and China's increasing assertiveness at international borders and open sea lanes of Communication. He concluded his speech by stressing the increased convergence of interests between New Delhi and Brussels and urged both unions to step up their efforts to improve bilateral relations.
Delivering his keynote address, Lord Hannan, Member of House of Lords – UK Parliament/ Advisor – UK Board of Trade, began his talk by congratulating EICBI for hosting this summit and its continued efforts for enhanced trade cooperation between India and UK. He recognised the necessity of free trade, as there are no losers in it and urged for concluding the FTAs between both India-UK and India-EU for the prosperity of all. He mentions that it is a peculiar opportunity, as both India and UK are rethinking their trade policies. India, the third-largest economy (GDP-PPP), is significantly opening up its markets, and the UK, a member of G-7, is regaining control of its trade policies post Brexit. He mentioned that the UK attaches great importance to its relations with significant English-speaking trading partners like India. The two countries enjoy unique complementarities in various sectors. Shared history, well-established channels of cooperation, open and pluralistic societies, commitment to democracy, legal system, rule-based international order, revival, safeguarding and preservation of multilateralism and rule-based international trade with WTO at its core, makes India - UK, as called by Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Natural Allies. The UK now has approximately 1.5 million people of Indian origin, equating to almost 1.8 % of Britain's population. Emphasising this close ideological and cultural bond, Lord Hannan mentioned that geographical proximity matters less and cultural similarity matters more, making India and UK naturally fit for increased bilateral relations. He recalled that post-independence India went on a protectionist path for varied reasons, but now has realised the importance of free trade. He stated that India and the UK have a lot in common, both countries want free movement of labour and zero red-tapes. He further added that a UK-India deal, encompassing free movement will be not just an economic boom but revitalise and give impetus to the alliance of democracies. He appreciated the Honourable Prime Minister of UK, Mr Boris Johnson’s effort to bring vital democracies of the world together in D-10. He expects that, with UK - India shared democratic ideals at the core, both the countries will end up as closer friends and allies than ever before if the countries continue to work together.
Mr Anto Anthony MP, Member of Parliament – India / Member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Tourism, Transport and Culture began his keynote address by sharing happiness to be part of the summit and commending EICBI for the tremendous work done by it in bridging the trade and market gap and enhancing business to business and people to people ties. Stressing on the current theme of the summit, Honourable Parliamentarian then mentioned how India’s heritage and culture, the oldest civilization in the world, gave birth to many visions and perspectives that became a model to the whole world. The birthplace of Buddhism, India, has ideals as non-violence seeped into her veins. He explained how India manifested these values in her freedom struggle, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, by subduing the British empire not by weapons but by virtuous means. Such great undertakings continue to inspire the world to adopt non-violent behaviour. India is living testimony to the adage of unity in diversity with more than 19,500 languages or dialects spoken in India as mother tongues and almost all major religions and various caste and cultural practices continue to exist happily together in India. Admiring India's unity in diversity, he emphasised that India’s fast economic growth exists along with its ideals and principles that knit people together based on humanity. He then talked about the importance of cultural interaction. He said that the values of British democracy had a crucial influence in the progressive evolution of Indian parliamentary democracy. His native land, Kerala, gained immensely from millennials of cultural exchanges with people around the world. He mentioned that India’s huge demographic dividend could learn much from yesteryear’s cultural heritage and contribute immensely to the betterment of the world. He opined that the collaboration of great ideals of India and the world could come to fruition through cultural exchange and it will serve as a key driver to the industries and progress. He concluded his talk in the hope that events like this will help us in enhancing cultural understanding and increasing cultural interactions for a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Following the inputs by the MPs, the delegates were given an opportunity to participate in the Question-and-Answer session and put forth their queries and ideas to the MPs.
Following the Honorable Members of parliament addresses, there were two-panel discussions.
The 1st Panel discussion was on "Cultural relationships as Key driver for stronger trade and investment partnerships between India and UK". This discussion was moderated by Mr Pratik Dattani - MD - EPG London/ Former UK Head - FICCI India/ Advisor - Bridge India. Following #EuropeIndia40 leaders were part of the panel discussion.
● Mr Kosta Mavroulakis - Founder and CEO, Empact Ventures
● Mr Nayan Gala - Founder & Managing Partner, JPIN Venture Catalysts LTD
● Mr. Vijibabu Gurugubelli - Director, Lead Process India Pvt Ltd
Mr Pratik Dattani kicked off the panel discussion by asking Mr Nayan Gala about cultural differences and language hurdles that prohibit potential startup deals from being completed. Mr Gala spoke about the challenge the startups face in India. He finds that ways of starting and expanding the business are complicated in India. Since India is very culturally diverse, as an investor and advisor, he suggests startups to follow the hub and spoke model, with a strong base in a particular part of India. According to him, India has a more relationship-driven business model compared to the UK/Europe, where the startup ecosystem is much more developed. He mentioned that he’s working to bring similar systems both in India and Europe to make business transactions seamless.
Mr Dattani then asks Mr Gala about the difference in investors in both parts of the world in the way they approach startups. Mr Gala responded by comparing the VC/Angel investor ecosystem in India and Europe/UK. He said while the Venture Capitalist ecosystem in India is still in its adolescence, it is much more developed in the UK/Europe. There is high involvement of investors in startups in Europe and the UK , where they not only invest capital, but also help with time, experience, technology and other resources too. In India, SEBI is coming out with newer and better rules and regulations for startups. Policies like Startup India, Digital India initiative, Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Production Linked Incentive scheme by government of India provides an impetus for further development of such ecosystem in India.
On being asked about what makes Indian startups attractive to investors around the globe, Mr Gala mentions the growth opportunities that the land of India holds. He explained this citing the rising number of unicorn startups in India. He mentions how India has more than 620 million-odd mobile users and rising talent and business opportunities in India's tier 2/3/4 cities. Mature startups like OLA and OYO are building their own startups. This and other such reasons make India one of most lucrative investment destinations in the world.
Mr Dattani goes further to ask Mr Kosta Mavroulakis about the role technology can play in strengthening the cultural relationship in terms of trade and investment between the countries. Mr Kosta responded by saying how tech has always helped bridge the gaps, and more so now post the pandemic. Platforms like zoom, Google Meet have made it possible to follow the pandemic guidelines and continue with the business. He explains how his own company has been able to organise virtual events. He said that governments and corporations around the globe are increasingly realising the potential of virtual events and work from home and how technology is making the world more inclusive. Mr Dattani then asked Mr Kosta about how he would co-design and co-deliver trade and investment initiatives in India and UK? Mr Kosta stated that they are organising events and courses, such as with the National Institute of Health (NIHR), where they are co-curating, co-designing, and co-planning solutions. They collaborate both with public and private sectors and tap into their existing channels, bringing speakers and partners from around the globe. They’re using data collection and analysis to understand the needs of people and design solutions for them.
Mr Dattani then asked Mr Vijibabu Gurugubelli about the initial reaction of the British Market to his product like Pappadom and the challenges he faced while promoting them. According to Mr. Vijibabu, in his experience, Indian businesses typically make decisions based on instinct and gut feelings, whereas British enterprises are more strategy-oriented. He stated that consistency in quality and transparency in business are the attributes that have allowed his company to expand in the United Kingdom.
On being asked by Mr Dattani about how he built awareness about Indian food in the UK,
Mr Vijibabu explained how centuries of people to people ties, and the presence of large Indian diaspora and business has already created a taste for Indian food and delicacies among British people. According to him, there's no need to build a taste for Indian products in British markets, but instead, India can learn from British business culture and improve. Mr Vijibabu encouraged Indian startups aiming for the British market to learn about British standards and specifications and to incorporate Indian culture into these specifications. He advocated for the creation of additional green channels and policy level agreements to improve commercial prospects between India and the United Kingdom.
Moving on, Mr Dattani inquired of Mr Gala about the current conversation brought up by other panelists about expanding up business in the UK. Mr Gala then mentioned how his own company has spread to about 50 cities in India and has invested in many startups. While seeking investment in the UK for Indian startups he realised the lack of awareness among the UK’s angel investor/venture capitalists about investment opportunities in India. He is attempting to make India a lucrative investment destination for UK investors, and he is collaborating with several organisations to do so. Simultaneously he mentions how he is hand holding the startups in India guiding them with what and how of starting a business and getting investments.
Furthermore, the moderator, Mr Dattani, made a comparison between UK and US investor behaviour towards India, stating that while the US has a “known unknown” issue, in which they have a specific idea about India and make a decision based on that whereas UK investors have a “unknown-unknowns” issue, in which they have little to no idea about opportunities in India. Adding to that Mr Kosta says that there are pockets of the investment ecosystem in cities outside the bigger cities in the UK, especially in places where labour is cheaply available. He said that the lack of awareness about the business ecosystem in other cultures is a significant issue. He expressed that had he not been involved with EICBI, he wouldn’t have learned about pockets of startup excellence in different parts of India, like Hyderabad and Bangalore. Gaps exist in the UK ecosystem like the lack of agritech enterprises. He suggests that tapping into the startup ecosystem in different parts of India can help fill those gaps in the investment pipeline and that’ll improve cultural relationships for future investment as well. Concluding remarks came from Mr Vijibabu who desired more Indian representation at different levels of UK and European business cultural forums and greater government to government cooperation and policy level agreements.
The 2nd Panel discussion on "Cultural relationships as Key driver for stronger trade and investment partnerships between India and EU” was moderated by Mr Vas Shenoy - Member of Board of Advisors, EU India Association. Following #EuropeIndia40 leaders were part of the panel discussion
● Ms Valentina Manduchi - Founder, Apsaras Events
● Mr Dan Ram- MC | 5x TEDx Speaker | Coach
● Ms Monica Florina - Founder, The Cultural Intellectual Property Rights Initiative
● Ms Chiara Lo Faro - Founder, Société C. Lo Faro
The moderator, Mr Vas Shinoy, began the panel discussion by asking Ms Chiara Lo Faro about her role and experiences working in Corporate India. She mentioned that she worked as a management consultant in India and then in one of the reputed commercial banks of India. In both cases, she helped foreign companies settle and expand their businesses in India. This required skillful handling of multiple fields like management and strategy, regulations, finding funding and partners etc., in India provided her varied experiences and understanding of India’s business climate. She further added that she established a closer bond between companies and their customers and partners in India. One of the key takeaways from her experience of working in India is that to succeed in India one has to develop a passion for understanding the local culture, language and perspectives to gain insights into why things are the way they are. She said that this will help in better understanding, cooperation and flourishing business opportunities.
Continuing on the previous note, Mr Shenoy then asked Mr Dan Ram about his experiences and learnings growing up in different cultures. Mr. Ram began highlighted the importance of diversity in our lives and how important it is to step out of our comfort zone to ‘understand, empathise and connect’ with others. He stated that in order to do so, we must ask questions rather than make assumptions about other cultures. He emphasised the importance of ‘entire immersion' in order to truly engage with and understand different cultures. He suggested a three-pronged mantra to adapt to a new culture. 1) Letting go of the past 2) Engaging with the present 3) Position for the future.
Mr Shenoy further goes on to ask Ms Monica Florina about cultural intellectual property rights in Europe and India. Ms Monica began by explaining how we’re still living under archaic colonial rules and are forced to live under an intellectual property legal framework that favour industries and deprive cultures of others from an atmosphere of protection. She believes innovation in the law and legal framework could bring the required protection for the traditional cultural knowledge. She spoke on how huge businesses appropriate and profit from traditional knowledge of many cultures that is in the public domain in many countries, with no contribution to the source communities. Centuries of heritage and traditional knowledge not factored in the profits. She defined cultural intellectual property rights as a new generation of rights, a sui generis protection system, advocating a unique system of protection for traditional knowledge and traditional culture to create fairness and inequity in business relationships.
Moving on further, Mr Shenoy commented on the big fat Indian weddings and how Europeans and people from other parts of the world are preferring destination weddings in India, with elaborate artefacts, elephants and camels inside the forts. He then asked Ms Valentina Manduchi about her experiences about destination weddings in India, Italy and Europe. Ms Valentina then stated that Italy and India are becoming popular wedding locations because they offer natural beauty, from mountains to beaches, a unique cultural experience, which generates a lot of interest. She also emphasised that it is vital to pay attention to details in Indian marriage as ritual differs throughout India.
Ms Chiara then relates to the experiences of Mr Ram in terms of entire immersion or deep diving into other cultures and enriching oneself. She added that understanding local culture helps in fostering commercial ties, understanding and relating to people better.
Mr Shenoy then asked Mr Ram about his experiences as a ‘third culture kid’ working in a cross cultural environment. Mr Ram opined that developing cross-cultural sensitivity in this remote working environment is a necessity. He urged to keep relearning, keep adapting as cultures keep changing too, so do the expectations. Work culture differs from one place to another. A meeting in India has different rules and customs than a similar meeting in Germany. He believes that as a leader or CEO, it is critical to engage with various groups to bring out the best in the firm and its employees. He stated learning is a two-way street where employee and employer both need to exhibit sensitivity and openness.
The moderator, Mr Shenoy, asked a question to Ms Monica about how the EU/India partnership can lead the global narrative on sustainability? Ms Monica cited examples of her own company where cultural engagement between the staff has led to an amicable work atmosphere. She stated that it is critical to follow culturally engrained laws and to consider cultural intersections while developing future economies and societies.
Ms Monica further explained how cultural commonality between India and Romania could help build a better business partnership between the two countries. She said that the global narrative on sustainability revolves around the triple bottom line of ‘planet, people and profit’, but the missing part of the puzzle is culture. By adopting culturally embedded sustainability practices, like treating plants as a part of the family or donning Saree, zero-waste apparel, India and the EU can give a new direction to the global narrative on sustainability.
Following that, Mr Shenoy inquired Ms Valentina about the pandemic influence on her business and her expectations for the future. Ms Valentina considers arts as her life mission. After initial hardship during the pandemic, she regained her strength by following the Indian philosophy of staying connected to her soul. She understood herself better and established connections with more people, did more online shows and conducted online classes for people far away. For her, the glass is half full and her optimism resulted in opportunities during hardships. She sees better opportunities ahead as the lockdown lifts and pandemic declines.
Mr Shenoy then asked Ms Chiara to elaborate about her post-graduation on Sociology of Organisation. Ms Chiara explains that Sociology of Organisation (SOO) extends teachings of sociology to an organisational environment in both internal and external functioning. It is sociology of market and management that encompasses 1) how humans operate in the context of a group 2) our behaviour while making transactions. She explained that for a generic mindset these two are often kept separate but SOO combines both. She emphasised thoughts, society and culture play a part in the acceptability of a product. Indian and European businesses can enhance their trade effectively by taking into account these group thoughts and cultural effects into their marketing strategy.
Mr Shenoy then asked Mr Ram to give top tips on building cultural relations. Mr Ram responded with five points 1) Asking questions and not assuming others. 2) Respect yourself and respect others. 3) Leave yourself open to adapt, evolve, keep growing, keep changing. 4) Taking responsibility for cultural adaptation and inspiring others, creating awareness about other cultures. 5) Reading, watching movies, and actively learning about foreign cultures.
Taking the discussion further, Mr Shenoy then asked the panel whether more cultural sensitivity comes into play with Indians than with other people?
Mr Ram opined that we do not need more cultural sensitivity, but we need more filters in the Indian context given how massive and diverse Indian is. He urged us to remove presumptions and understand others actively on our own, and be more open. Ms Valentina agreed with others in the panel and suggested that everyone should be inclusive for enhanced cross-cultural understanding and success. Ms Chiara suggested participants engage in frequent dialogues with individuals from diverse cultures without having any prejudiced notions in order to gain a better understanding.
"The ancestor of every action is a thought," said Emerson. The summit ended with insightful thoughts and ideas and optimism that learnings from here would be put to action for a better cultural understanding, inclusive outlook and enhanced trade relations between India-EU and India-UK.