India and the countries that form part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have historically shared a close relationship with cultural, economic, and diplomatic ties dating back decades. This is particularly true of the growing cultural, trade and investment ties between the GCC’s two largest economies: the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
The UAE, which is the second largest economy in the GCC, is home to a significant Indian diaspora and Indians have played a critical role in the development of the country, particularly in sectors including construction, trade and services. Both nations enjoy strategic bilateral collaboration through the UAE-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)¹.
Similarly, India’s relationship with KSA, the region’s largest economy, has deep roots too. India established diplomatic ties with KSA in 1947 and the partnership between the two countries has grown from strength to strength with collaboration in trade, defence, science, technology, education, and energy.²
Both the UAE and KSA present a favourable environment for Indian entrepreneurs given their robust economies, growing consumer base and focus on diversification. Together, the jurisdictions provide immense opportunities for business expansion, collaboration, and innovation. The breakneck speed of digitalisation and moves towards technology-based solutions in both economies not only creates a favourable ecosystem for entrepreneurs to thrive in but increases innovation and creates opportunities to collaborate.
The UAE, known for its business-friendly policies and infrastructure, offers a strategic location connecting the East and the West. The country’s strong financial services sector and significant government investments make it an attractive destination for businesses. The UAE government has also launched initiatives such as the Dubai Future Accelerators program, which encourages collaboration between start-ups and government entities, fostering innovation and growth, and making it an attractive destination for Indian tech players to expand³. India’s entrepreneurs additionally, through bilateral frameworks such as CEPA, can tap into the exciting opportunities being created in the UAE.
Similarly, KSA has been actively promoting entrepreneurship and innovation through its Vision 2030 plan. The plan aims to diversify the economy and reduce its dependence on oil by creating a vibrant start-up ecosystem. The country has established numerous technology parks, accelerators, and funding programs to support start-ups. In addition, the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) has also created a regulatory sandbox for fintech to operate. All of this should help Indian start-ups benefit from KSA’s large consumer market and the growing demand for innovative solutions across various sectors. Indian businesses have the opportunity and are in fact already at the heart of and involved in supporting these key initiatives.
The almost 14,000 financial services professionals operating from Jersey’s international finance centre (IFC) play a crucial role in helping entrepreneurs and investors leverage the trends highlighted in the previous section and realise their aspirations, whether it is expanding in the GCC markets, using countries like the UAE and KSA as a platform for global expansion or raising capital for their domestic needs. As a world leading, reputable IFC with expertise across wealth management, funds, and corporate structuring, Jersey offers several key advantages and a wide range of services.
Jersey helps Indian entrepreneurs access global capital markets by providing a robust financial ecosystem. Its well-regulated and stable financial services sector attracts investors from around the world, including institutional investors, family offices and high-net-worth individuals. Through Jersey’s network of fund managers, venture capitalists, and private equity firms, Indian entrepreneurs continue to secure the necessary funding to fuel their global growth and expansion plans.
It is also uniquely positioned among IFCs given its strong linkages to the GCC markets. Jersey has a bilateral investment treaty with the UAE, is licensed to operate out of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and has with India, UAE and KSA also various other ongoing bilateral engagements including MoUs and being party to global information exchange protocols. This gives entrepreneurs and investors using Jersey more efficient access to financial services, providing further alignment and increased opportunities in setting up a robust, globally recognised, and respected investment structure to help realise the global aspirations of entrepreneurs from India, the UAE and KSA.
The close relationship that exists between India, GCC and Jersey, extends beyond Jersey’s IFC. It is also an attractive investment destination as reflected in the case of Bahrain Telecom (Batelco) who last year announced plans to acquire Bharti Airtel-Vodafone’s telecom operations in Jersey.
A promising way forward
The relationship between Jersey, the GCC led by KSA and UAE, and India continues to grow in substance, strength, and depth. It is still early days and the GCC and India investment corridor has immense potential to grow with Jersey supporting these efforts with its international expertise, experience, and global reach.
Trade between India and UAE, which was already high, doubled within a year of the signing of CEPA⁴. The launch of Bharat Bazaar is expected to further boost trade and investment between the two countries. KSA too has ambitious goals on the back of Vision 2030.
The UAE is hosting COP28 later this year, and KSA and India will once again be strategic participants further demonstrating the growing ties between the world’s two leading and most thriving entrepreneurial regions. These opportunities will be a catalyst for growth and showcase sustainability credentials and alignment with the global green agenda for all three nations, who are already at the forefront of the world’s leading innovation and investment in this space. This is especially critical as both the UAE and KSA and wider GCC look to diversify away from oil and grow their non-oil revenues and sectors.
This article was first published by Forbes India.
¹Press Information Bureau, Government of India, May 2022
²The Embassy of India, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 2022
³The Economic Times, September 2020 (Dubai Future Accelerators Invites Applications from International Startups to Address Challenges in a Post COVID-19 World)
⁴Press Information Bureau, Government of India, May 2023