Alok Sharma, Conservative MP, has been appointed as Prime Minister David Cameron’s Infrastructure Envoy to India. Sharma says, “The India story is very compelling to British investors who are all chasing yield.” He notes that within the BRICS consortium, India’s is the only economy performing, and to deliver Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans for development, a robust infrastructure will be needed to support the desired level of economic growth.
Sharma represents Reading, a large British Indian community and an IT focused HQ, not quite Bangalore but developing in that direction. With his background as a chartered accountant at Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte, 16 years in investment banking with Nikko Securities and SE Banken, holding senior roles based out of London, Stockholm and Frankfurt, Sharma is well placed to facilitate Public Private Partnerships (PPP) with India. He says, “UK would like to be the destination of choice for IRFC with India. India has huge ambitions to raise billions of GBP, London is the pre-eminent financial chamber to achieve this.”
Following what Sharma called Narendra Modi’s iconic visit to UK last year, Sharma and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu have worked together to establish the Tax Free Rupee Railway bond on the London Stock Exchange. Sharma would like to help realise Prabhu’s vision of monetising 400 of India’s sprawling railway stations through development of the assets. Sharma quotes the example of the new manifestation of Kings Cross Station in London that offers shops, restaurants, internet cafes, etc. He believes UK has a lot of experience and expertise to offer in this area.
Till now the PPP programme has been more or less road oriented. Expanding into the infrastructure and financial technology domains presents a great opportunity for British-based companies to make it happen in India. In India, last month, Sharma met Suresh Prabu, Nitin Gadkari, Jayant Sinha, Raguram Rajan, Arundhati Bhattacharya and others in the private sector to advance the ideal of London raising the finances to fuel India’s future. Sharma discussed the importance of follow up from both sides at all levels of governance and civil administration. Sharma says, “Participation will be optimised when world stock markets are stable.”
Previously Sharma has served as a member of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, a member of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Treasury and from 2012-15 as the Conservative Party vice chairman. With Ranjit Baxihe he is co-chairman of the Conservative Friends of India whose two aims are: to connect the Indian diaspora to Conservative party values and policies to encourage British Indians to vote Conservative, to work with the High Commission of India to make business connections between the Indian diaspora and British industries. Just last week, Sharma attended N. Chandrababu Naidu’s launch at India House of the Prospectus for the new Andhra Pradesh smart city capital of Amaravati. Sharma’s envoy role will be key in raising investment and finding companies with the relevant construction and digital design expertise to build one of India’s pioneering projects.