India and the UAE: Complementing for Accelerated Development
India celebrated its Republic Day in the august presence of the Rulers of the UAE and their special delegation. Y. Sudhir Kumar Shetty, the President of UAE Exchange Group and a long term resident of the UAE, was part of this select group. Eclat catches up with him to get insights on this special visit.
Can you tell us about your experience being a part of the special delegation that attended the Indian Republic Day celebrations, 2017?
It has been a great honour to have been a part of this privileged delegation and attend the Indian Republic Day celebrations along with the leaders of the UAE. As a non-resident Indian in the UAE for more than 25 years, it was a very proud and yet overwhelming moment to represent both the nations ÔÇô India, my land of birth and the UAE, my land of work.
As a part of this entourage I had the honour of interacting with several thought leaders, business leaders, subject matter experts, statesmen etc. The delegation actively discussed on various aspects of the relationship between the two nations, be it in the sphere of economy, business, education, trade etc. Business professionals from both nations deliberated on exploring possibilities of enhancing the engagements like improving investments across segments. It has been a very meaningful and insightful meeting, which gave me a new perspective at the way leaders envision the long relationship between the two nations. And I truly believe we are in the right direction in terms of progress.
How has the relationship between India and the UAE matured and progressed over the years?
The UAE and India have shared a historic relationship for several decades. Infact until 1970s Indian currency was widely accepted in the Gulf Region and was known as Gulf Rupee. It was not only the currency but also the talent pool of India that the UAE embraced and accepted. In the process Indian workforce was one of the major contributors in the UAEÔÇÖs growth journey. In turn Indian expats could also contribute to Indian economy in the form of remittances worth billions of dollars, making India the largest receiver of remittances in the world. This reflects the importance of the role Indians play, contributing to the trust between the two nations.
From USD 180 million in 1970 to USD 50 billion in 2016, the bilateral trade between the UAE and India has flourished. For the UAE, India was the biggest non-oil trade partner in 2015 (over USD 28 billion). Responding to IndiaÔÇÖs call the Make In India, the UAE invested over USD 8 billion, emerging as one of the largest investors in India. Along with it various dimensions like defence, technology, education etc., have also been redefined between the countries.
How are the NRIs contributing towards strengthening the ties between India and the UAE?
The Indian diaspora in the UAE are an enterprising community significantly contributing to both the host and home countries. The oil boom in the 1960s brought an influx of migrants to the Gulf region dominated by Indians. The UAE has been a welcoming host for Indians who work across the economic pyramid (entrepreneurs, skilled and unskilled workers), and has offered a solid platform to build their career in the Gulf soil. Several Indians have set up successful companies and worked across sectors including retail, infrastructure, hospitality, healthcare, financial services etc., because of the strong support that the country provides. Associations like IBPG (Indian Business & Professional Group) act as a platform for the business and professional communities, promote a healthy symbiosis between the two nations.
With over 2.6 million Indians residing in the UAE, this expat group roughly forms around 27% of the UAE`s residents. As on 2015, Indians sent back home money worth USD 13 billion as remittances from the UAE, making it one of the highest remittance senders in the world in terms of volume.
What role does UAE Exchange play in this dimension?
UAE Exchange, as a brand, has resonated with both the UAE and India as far as streamlining money movement is concerned. When UAE Exchange was set up in the year 1980, our primary aim was to offer convenient money transfer solutions for the expat population in the UAE. In fact
UAE Exchange was one of the pioneers in bringing remittances to mainstream, when expats struggled with illegitimate channels of money transfer. From thereon, the brand has customised its products and services, promotions to suit the diverse customer segments.
Until half a decade ago, there was no prudent mechanism for the government to track salary disbursals in the UAE. This led to the advent of the Wages Protection System (WPS) introduced by the Labour Ministry and monitored by the Central Bank of the UAE. In the pre-WPS era, several companies which did not pay salaries to their employees or delayed remuneration, went largely unnoticed causing a dent in the reputation of the country in protecting labour rights. Concurrent to the governmentÔÇÖs decision to introduce WPS, UAE Exchange introduced Smart Pay, a salary disbursal solution that enabled companies to streamline the payments. Streamlining payments also helped several Indian expats getting into the mainstream from being a part of the unbanked community thereby supporting IndiaÔÇÖs vision of complete financial inclusion.
As an organisation, UAE Exchange is an active corporate citizen extending its support to several social causes and crisis situations. In India, we are always on the lookout to do our bit to the community whether it was Tsunami in 2004 in South India or the floods in the North in 2013. Recently we also took up the cause of the homeless to initiate a housing project in Kerala - Akshara Veedu, which will benefit several underprivileged people putting a roof above their heads.
How do you see the two countries evolving?
The UAE and India are two countries that have a lot in common. Both the nations relied on their abundant natural resources. The UAE leveraged the availability of oil, while India nurtured its agrarian economy. However, this didnÔÇÖt stop the two nations from diversifying into infrastructure, manufacturing, hospitality, technology, tourism and education etc., to name a few.
Today, digitisation is a big leap that both the nations have taken and are incorporating in their growth strategies. Recently the UAE has rolled out several policies that enable digital innovation. The Central Bank of UAE has developed a digital payments framework, which is a significant move towards its vision of complete digitisation. India too is going big on digitisation and has in fact launched a ÔÇ£Digital IndiaÔÇØ campaign. Both these nations are working towards creating a cashless society. I am sure India and the UAE will continue to complement each other for mutual empowerment, which is necessary in the accelerated development of both nations.
This article was originally published on ├ëclat Q1 2017 edition.