John Ross is the man who advises Mayor of London Ken Livingstone on economic and business policy and promotes London internationally. In November 2007, the Mayor will come to India for the first time to open his office in Delhi and Mumbai to promote greater collaboration between the cities. In an interview with Mint’s Rana Rosen, Ross spoke about London’s relationship with Mumbai and India’s relationship with the world.
What brings you to India now?
India is one of the world’s most important markets. We (as a city) have done really well from the point of view of Russia. We are making a lot of progress in China. And we can’t possibly be a major international financial sector without India being included. That is why we are here. More immediately, we are working on opening up the offices. I also spoke at a Mumbai conference.
What was the progress in building London’s relationships with cities in Russia and China?
Russia has become the largest single source of the foreign section of the London Stock Exchange. China is rather different. The US started with a big advantage and I am not sure whether we have caught up, but we are gaining a great deal. The Chinese government just signed its first-ever agreement of mutual promotion of inward investment with London two weeks ago. We will have a one-stop shop for Chinese companies to offer them support and they will aid London and its promotion in China. Obviously, we have an important relationship with Beijing because of the Olympic games.
What has been the progress of London’s relationship with Indian cities?
The thing that had the biggest impact was the Tata takeover of Corus. There were no regulatory obstacles, and most of the capital was raised in London.
There have been many outbound mergers and acquisitions from India, will there be more inbound activity from London?
We expect India to go down the road of more liberalization. Doubtless, there will be some mergers and acquisitions but the main thing now will be organic growth to get into the market.
What will London’s relationship with India be like going forward?
I will be visiting India about twice a year and the Mayor will make one big trip. The Mayor of London has already been asked by the Maharashtra government to do a conference in November on building world cities. We don’t want to advise India on what it should do with its cities, but we have been asked directly about our experience in private financing of infrastructure, private-public partnerships in infrastructure development and management of big projects.
Given your expertise in the Chinese and Russian economies, what is your macro-economic perspective on India?
India is catching up rapidly. China obviously started out with some important advantages, and it continues to have certain advantages, certainly in infrastructure. But the Delhi metro is a huge success, and it is more advanced than the London underground. And there is the beginning to get the development of important roads and the beginning of the reconstruction of airports. But the big strength of the Indian economy is the entrepreneurial strength. In my frank opinion, the west – US and West European countries – completely underestimate the scale of competition in this country.