How Asian businesses in Yorkshire could be influential in increasing trade with Canada

The Asian business community in Yorkshire is being urged to seek trade opportunities with Canadian firms by extending the ‘living bridge’ concept from diaspora to diaspora.

Sharon Jandu, managing director of the Northern Asian Power group, returned from a exploratory business visit to Canada earlier this month, where she spent time in Toronto and Ottawa.

She found that large entrepreneurial communities originating from the Asian subcontinent had established themselves in the North American country.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Ms Jandu said: “They are real entrepreneurs. It reminded me of when our parents came here in the 60s, where they would do every job. It reminded me of that flair. It’s really nice to see that.”

Sharon Jandu, managing director of the Northern Asian Power group, returned from a exploratory business visit to Canada earlier this month.

Ms Jandu believes that there is an opportunity to extend the living bridge concept - which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi originally used to refer to the movement of people, ideas, goods and services from India to the UK and back - to build relationships between communities that share the same heritage in other countries.

She added: “The purpose of the visit was to look at any trade opportunities by using the diaspora as a link.

“When we say diaspora, it’s any connections, any opportunities, any relationships to hook into to see if there are any trade opportunities with connections that we already have.

“There’s a huge Indian diaspora out there. It made me laugh - I thought the whole of Punjab had moved out there when I went there. You’ve got large areas where they speak Punjabi.”

The Northern Asian Power group is now in the process of putting together a trade mission to take out to Canada in February 2023.

Ms Jandu found that “there’s a huge appetite” from both businesses and politicians to improve trade links with British firms.

Canada is interested in working the whole of the Northern Powerhouse as a bloc rather than individual parts of it, Ms Jandu said.

She added: “That’s the only way there will be a real opportunity because people are interested in scale. Individuals working in isolation doesn’t make business sense.

“Working together, looking at identifying key sectors and then pitching at that level is of interest.

“They’re interested not in just Yorkshire but the whole of the North as a trading bloc because of the numbers.”

The managing director of the Northern Asian Power group wants to have at least 50 per cent of women on the trade mission. She hopes half of those women will be made up from the South Asian community.

“We’re really looking at focusing on those particular demographics but then also opening it up to different groups as well,” Ms Jandu added.

She says that there are opportunities in Canada for all Northern firms, not just Asian businesses.

Ms Jandu is reaching out to other business organisations in the region to see how she can put together the most effective trade mission for next year.

She said: “What we’re trying to do is create a package. We’ll offer a lot of support prior to going on the trade mission.”

“Part of the plan will be that they’ll already have conversations before they go out so that when they do go out a business deal is part way ready,” Ms Jandu added.

Technology is an area of interest to Canadian businesses as is knowledge transfer, according to Ms Jandu.

“We’re still in the exploratory stages but there’s an opportunity to look at how we can match up talent,” she said.

Don't withdraw from international opportunities

While businesses are facing pressures as a result of rising fuel costs and inflation, they shouldn’t pull away from seeking trade opportunities in other countries, according to Sharon Jandu.

She said: “You can’t get away from the fact that business is really tough. You can’t get away from the fact that Covid impacted us, Brexit impacted us, the war and supply chain issues. But good businesses are entrepreneurial. They think of new ideas, they think of new markets.

"The key to all of this is being a step ahead, looking at new opportunities. We have to be innovative. Those businesses that will be able to ride out the storm are doing that.”