Mainstream media in the UK have made modest mutterings about the welcome elevation of Indian-origin MPs to senior government posts (for example in The Economist, aside from their families South Asian origins, Sajid Javid, the outgoing Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Rishi Sunak, the incoming one, have little in common).
It’s been left to the specialist press to provide a more intelligent and insightful commentary about the potential positives, including for mutually beneficial UK-India relations. The London-based India Inc (www.indiaincgroup.com) celebrated the massive diaspora effect with the elevation of Priti Patel (Home Secretary), Alok Sharma (Business Secretary), Suella Braverman (Attorney General), and now Rishi Sunak (Chancellor of the Exchequer) – with the latter adding even further weight to an already fairly desi UK Cabinet.
It’s certainly the appointment of Mr Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, that has attracted most interest. A vocal champion of small and medium enterprises, and happy to stress his own business and investment management experience, it’s his views on the importance of education however that are particularly interesting. In a podcast interview with the BBC (check it out if you can get through interviewer Nick Robinson’s 20th century performance https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07qtbdx) Sunak makes plain his belief that education is everything. As an ingrained family and societal value that’s how we can give you the opportunity to go and do want you want to do. On his personal website (https://www.rishisunak.com/about-me) he confirms this: my parents sacrificed a great deal so I could attend good schools. I was lucky to study at Winchester College, Oxford University and Stanford University. That experience changed my life and as a result I am passionate about ensuring everybody has access to a great education. I have been a school governor, a board member of a large youth club, and have always volunteered my time to education programmes that spread opportunity.
With his positive views on education, and a wealth (pun intended) of previous investment experience, it’s to be hoped Rishi Sunak can help stimulate beneficial developments in both the UK and Indian sectors. He may even have spotted a recent report The Future of India’s $2Bn Edtech Opportunity 2020, which highlights how the Indian market offers great opportunities for reskilling, skill development and upskilling. With the wider penetration of high-speed internet and smartphones, plus the higher consumption of video as a percentage of total traffic (from 58% in 2017 to 77% by 2022), forward-thinking Indian edtech firms, like www.questionbang.com, are already offering rich multimedia packages. Amongst many interesting conclusions the report’s authors, DataLabs by inc42, also point to potential future growth areas capable of attracting investment: an increased focus on regional language learning and data analytics will play an important role in the success of [Indian] edtech in 2020.
Datalabs observe that there is an increasing diversity of investment into Indian edtech (a 9% compound annual growth rate in the unique investor count between 2015 and 2019), underpinning continued growth in capital inflows (59% for late-stage startups and 50% for seed-stage in 2019). Perhaps Rishi Sunak will take note, and now encourage UK organisations and individuals to take a stake in India’s education success stories (for mutual benefit).