Barry Gardiner, MP, the Minister responsible for the departments of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Education and Employment and Learning, is leading an 18-strong delegation to India from 29 October to 6 November to explore business and academic exchanges.
The Minister will brief political, business and university leaders in the key Indian business centres of New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai about Northern Ireland during the visit, which is being organised by Invest Northern Ireland. Invest NI will be represented by Tracy Meharg, the managing director of Innovation and Capability Development.
Lord Rana, the Honorary Consul for India in Northern Ireland, will be taking part in the mission in his role as President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI).
The Northern Ireland delegation comprises executives from 10 local companies and six senior academic and administrative staff from Queen’s University, Belfast, and the University of Ulster led by Professor Kenneth Brown and Vice Chancellor Gerry McKenna respectively.
Mr Gardiner said: “This mission will strengthen the already significant business and academic links with India, a market of over one billion people that is fast becoming one of the most important global growth engines. Last year, for instance, Indian customers bought goods from Northern Ireland suppliers worth almost £25 million.
“We are also seeing an increasing number of our Information Technology companies developing alliances in India that will increase their ability to compete in global markets and thereby help in creating wealth and employment in Northern Ireland.
“Close relationships that are currently being developed between our universities and those in India will also enhance our technology base and overall competitiveness as a key location for Indian companies wishing to access the UK and wider European markets. An excellent example of this is recent announcement by the Indian-owned HCL BPO company to expand its contact centre operation in Belfast,” he added.
Mr Gardiner will be the keynote speaker at events organised by the influential Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi and the Confederation of Indian Industry in Mumbai. These events will focus on furthering the mutual commercial and academic links between India and Northern Ireland.
He will also be meeting ministers from the national and state governments, including those representing departments such as Commerce and Industry and Education. Meetings are scheduled with the Chief Ministers of the National Capital Territory of New Delhi and Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu states.
In his role as Employment and Learning Minister, Mr Gardiner will be meeting Ali Ashraf Fatmi, the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, to discuss the country’s education and training programmes.
While in Mumbai, the Minister will be principal guest at a reception hosted by Tourism Ireland Ltd, which will allow him to meet leading figures in the Indian travel trade.
Supporting the objectives of the University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast, Mr Gardiner will visit two Indian universities, the Amity Group of Colleges in New Delhi and the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. He will also be outlining opportunities in Northern Ireland to a number of Indian companies and briefing the media during the mission.