Why a free trade agreement between the UK and India will create 'huge' export opportunities in Yorkshire

A free trade agreement between Britain and India would help businesses in the region realise huge export opportunities in both goods and services, according to the founder of a professional services firm in Yorkshire.

Rajeev Dewedi, founded Cleckheaton-based Shenward in 1989, three years after he arrived in the UK from India.

The business is hosting an ‘India visa surgery’ to help businesses navigate red tape associated with travel between the two countries.

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Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Dewedi said it was “welcoming” that both India and the UK were taking steps towards a free trade agreement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson even promising a deal by Diwali this year.

Rajeev Dewedi founded Cleckheaton-based Shenward in 1989.

He added: “It will definitely encourage a lot of businesses here to see what they can export. The Government of India is quite happy to take off duties and levies to make our British goods much cheaper and competitive to sell in the Indian market and likewise as well.”

India has been pushing for concessions on immigration and Britain has signalled a willingness to relax rules.

Currently, Mr Dewedi says, Australia and the United States are the primary choices for Indian students wanting to study abroad.

However, he expects that to change with the UK becoming the “number one choice very soon”, given the historic ties between the two countries.

“We have established universities and a lot of knowledge to impart,” the accountant added. “We are a country of innovations, inventions and discoveries.”

Shenward, which employs 25 staff across two offices, has a lot of clients wanting to either expand their business operations in India or to explore new ventures in South Asia.

Mr Dewedi said: “There is a very big market for British goods in all the Asian countries. We thrive on quality and we thrive on technology.”

He added: “We will be able to tap into the market of India when the import duties by the Government of India is reduced and there’s a free trade agreement between the two countries.”

But a lot of business owners are “finding it really difficult” to find the proper travel advice with “so much red tape” associated with obtaining visas, Mr Dewedi says.

Shenward is holding a one-day ‘India Visa Surgery’ and hopes it will become a regular thing.

Businesses will be able to obtain the necessary information to facilitate travel for commerce exploration from the High Commission of India.

Mr Dewedi said: “We’re just trying to build a living bridge relationship between the business leaders and make it more viable. We want to avoid the problems that people have in securing a visa.”

The event will take place on June 18 at Guardian House on Manor Row in Bradford.

Bridge between the two countries

Rajeev Dewedi moved to the UK from India in 1986 as a qualified accountant. He then studied here and got qualifications that would allow him to practise in the UK.

Shenward also has an office in Leeds and Mr Dewedi’s wife, son and daughter-in-law are involved in the business.

He believes professionals from the diaspora can help build better ties between the two countries.

Mr Dewedi said the visa surgery also ties in well with Bradford’s City of Culture bid. “This is something which will tell the world how open we are and how diverse we are,” he added.