Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) concluded yesterday its week long engagement with leading business decision makers from India's banks, insurers, law firms, asset and wealth management companies in the country's commercial capital Mumbai.
As a part of its recently announced 2024 growth strategy, DIFC aims to increase the number of Indian firms to over 100 in the next 10 years in addition to expanding its physical and legislative infrastructure for financial institutions looking to fully realise their growth potential.
DIFC has seen exponential growth from only one Indian institution in 2007 to over 20 Indian banks and financial institutions at present. Indian institutions now make up the third largest community of financial firms at the Centre. Furthermore, more than a quarter of the current workforce employed in DIFC is of Indian origin.
This strategic initiative came shortly after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to the UAE to strengthen the relationship with the Gulf countries and seek investment to boost Indian economy. The visit presented opportunities both to enhance cooperation between the Indian financial community and the DIFC, and to promote the Centre's world-class legal and regulatory framework to businesses looking to access the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.
Senior DIFC delegation held over 40 meetings with high-level government authorities, private and public sector companies and current clients, in addition to partnering on three industry events hosted by professional services firm KPMG, the India Merchants' Chamber (IMC) trade association, and leading Indian law firm Khaitan & Co.
As part of their visit, the DIFC delegation conducted a series of presentations and discussions with leading industries and business professionals including KPMG staff, IMC members, delegates of GIFT (Gujrat International Finance Tech-City), banks, wealth management firms, insurance companies and law firms. In addition, the delegation met with the UAE Embassy in India to discuss key areas of mutual interest including trade and investments as well as collaboration on business and finance best practices.
The meetings were an opportunity to offer insights on DIFC's value proposition, 10-year growth strategy and reiterate its commitment to India's expanding private sector and emerging market.
Currently DIFC is home to 10 leading Indian banks and is in discussions with another 10 regarding future setup plans. In addition DIFC has received notable interest from Indian wealth and fund management organisations as well as key players in the insurance and reinsurance market.
Speaking about the implementation of the 10-year growth strategy, Arif Amiri, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, DIFC Authority said, "On our second visit to Mumbai this year, DIFC has demonstrated its continued commitment to building and maintaining sustained, long-lasting partnerships with the emerging Indian market. With an ambitious 2024 growth strategy, we envisage a key role for Indian banks, insurers, law firms and wealth managers as we seek to expand our services and become a top global financial hub."
Amongst the current clients, the delegation conducted several productive meetings with leading financial institutions such as State Bank of India and ICICI bank to further strengthen existing relationships.
"After the US and UK, Indian financial firms and banks have the largest presence at DIFC with more full banking licenses than banks from any other country. Indian firms seeking to expand their services and investments in the thriving MEASA economies continue to benefit from DIFC's diverse and sophisticated infrastructure, enhanced legal and judicial framework and investment-friendly laws. Furthermore, Indian Institutions can take great confidence from the excellent relations between the Centre's regulator which has MOU's with more than 70 jurisdictions globally including the Reserve Bank of India and Securities and Exchange Board of India.": added Amiri Amiri further added, "In the last 10 years, the accumulation of surplus wealth in the East and the Middle East has been phenomenal, with most accumulated as sovereign wealth funds flows that are driving the economic development of these regions. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to nine of the top 20 sovereign wealth funds in the world, with assets totalling approximately US$2 trillion.
"Moreover, post the financial crisis we've seen a significant shift in the dominance of the West in terms of the financial markets and financial flows. With regards to our new clients, almost 80% of our incremental business is from Asia and the Middle East. Our Centre's commitment is to allocate more resources to the needs of the emerging markets, such as India, as well as to integrate and connect their trade and investment networks to the South to South corridor and developed markets in the West."
In a recent announcement, the New India Assurance Company Ltd (NIA), a government of India-owned insurance company announced the opening of its regional hub in the DIFC, which will act as company's administrative control headquarters across the GCC. Earlier this year Bank of India, the third largest public sector bank from India opened its office in the DIFC.
Indian firms stand to benefit from the UAE's double tax treaty with India, which serves as an excellent incentive to invest in the DIFC. A recent illustration is that of is Gulf Petrochem, a multinational energy corporation, which in partnership with Gateway Investments, launched India's first real estate fund under DIFC's Exempt Fund.
Accounting for 30% of the UAE population, non-resident Indians have set up more than 40,000 Indian companies in the UAE and have contributed to an estimated US$55 billion in Indian investments, with as much as US$18 billion of this total being invested in real estate across the country. The UAE's investments in India currently stand at around US$8 billion. Trade and investment ties between India and the UAE will continue to grow following a pledge made by Prime Minister Modi and UAE government officials to increase bilateral trade by 60% over the next five years.
As India becomes a critical financial market for Dubai, DIFC will continue to visit Indian partners throughout the year to strengthen existing relationships, while identifying and exploring new trade and investment opportunities.