Indians set up base camp

Indian software firms are flocking to London, encouraged by the Government's initiative to "fast-track" the work permit applications of skilled ITers from...

Indian software firms are flocking to London, encouraged by the Government's initiative to "fast-track" the work permit applications of skilled ITers from abroad.

According to London's inward investment agency, some 42 companies have already established operations in the City, and with two more about to announce a move here, that number looks set to grow.

Colin Wood, director at London First Centre, attributes much of the attraction to English being a common language, and to the fact that India and the UK share similar trade and banking laws.

The speeding up of work permit applications has also been a contributing factor, he adds. "It is now taking around three weeks for staff from India to get a permit issued, whereas a year ago applicants had to wait for up to eight weeks," comments Wood.

India's IT industry is booming and many of the businesses moving over here see London as the first step to European expansion. They tend to establish fairly small operations in the UK at first, although some employ close to 100 people, and increase in size as their businesses becomes established and further

contracts secured. Most hire English sales, marketing and administrative personnel, says Wood, and bring in their own Indian IT staff where expertise on their software products is required.

Yet while these companies are introducing Indian ITers to the UK, Britain is facing a possible loss of its own skilled contractors because of the Inland Revenue's IR35 tax rules.

Concerned by the country's shortage of experienced IT staff, Wood sees the influx of Indian software firms such as 3CRC and RS Software, as important to the economic development of London and to its promotion as "the next Silicon Valley". He claims that many of the overseas companies setting up here would eventually like to enter into joint ventures with British software firms, and combine the experience and knowledge of both to create "a magic mix".

Earlier this year, engineering software company, 3CRC, one of India's fastest growing IT companies and a subsidiary of Pentasoft Technologies, launched its European base in London.

Ramesh Pillai, head of European operations, says London was the obvious choice for its headquarters. "The ease with which one can access the continent from here was an important factor, as was the language, which means that communication between us is not a problem," he explains. The presence of an already established, large Asian community here was another factor, according to Pillai, as was the similarity of certain business laws.

While the company uses its own (full-time) software engineers and programmers from India, Pillai does not rule out the possibility of employing local ITers in the future.

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