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Top UK fashion brands on first-of-its-kind India trade mission

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UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said she is “eager” to make it easier for such companies to do business with India as her department threw its weight behind the British delegation to India Fashion Forum 2023 in Bengaluru

London: Some of the top UK fashion and beauty brands have embarked on a first-of-its-kind trade mission to India to capitalise on rapidly growing demand for such high-end products in the country against the backdrop of the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, the UK government said on Monday.

UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said she is “eager” to make it easier for such companies to do business with India as her department threw its weight behind the British delegation to India Fashion Forum 2023 in Bengaluru.

Made up of the likes of cosmetics retailer Lush and luxury knitwear brand John Smedley, the UK mission has been organised by the Department for Business and Trade newly created as a merged trade and business ministry by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“India’s growing economy and middle class represent an enormous opportunity for enterprising UK companies looking for new markets,” said UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

“Removing barriers to business and boosting exports are two of my top trade priorities and I’m eager to make it easier and faster to do business with India through the free trade deal we’re currently negotiating,” she said.

According to the UK government, negotiations continue on a “forward-facing trade deal with India”, even as the countries already enjoy a trade relationship worth GBP 34 billion as estimated up to the year ending September 2022.

“The [FTA] deal, expected to boost the UK economy by billions over the longer term, is part of the UK’s strategy to forge stronger partnerships with fast-growing economies in the Indo-Pacific. The UK wants an agreement that slashes barriers to doing business and trading with India’s GBP 2 trillion economy and market of 1.4 billion consumers, including cutting tariffs on exports for British businesses such as Lush and John Smedley,” said the Department for Business and Trade.

According to the definitive luxury-lifestyle publication Robb Report’ in 2021, the Indian luxury goods market was valued at over USD 5 billion and is expected to grow by another 10 per cent over the next five years.

“Lush is very happy to take part in this trade mission and we’re confident that in India, with its deep roots in natural cosmetics, we can find a partner that lives our ethics,” said Anita Baker of Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics.

“India has the opportunity to be a very sizable market and we aim to give our Indian shoppers the amazing customer experience they expect from visiting our shops around the world,” she said.

The British government analysis adds that India is set to become the third-largest economy by 2050, by which time it will have a middle class of 250 million consumers.

“As India is one of the fastest growing luxury markets in the world, we are very excited to be attending the Fashion Forum as part of the trade mission,” said Bill Leach, Global Sales Director, John Smedley Ltd.

“It is hoped that the UK-India Free Trade Agreement that is currently being negotiated comes to fruition in the coming months so that a growing number of discerning luxury consumers in India will enjoy greater access to the World’s Finest Knitwear,” he said.

During the India Fashion Forum in Bengaluru, the British brands are keen to showcase their expertise in luxury, heritage and innovation to potential buyers and distributors in the Indian market.

Other companies participating in the first-of-its-kind delegation include fashion brands like Wormser, Organic Apoteke, Lilly and Sid, Legology, Benny Hancock, VENIA Cosmetic Ltd, Jennifer Young Ltd and ByErim Ltd.

According to the official UK government data, India accounts for 1.7 per cent of total UK exports and was the 12th largest UK export market in the four quarters to the end of the third quarter of 2022.

It is hoped an India-UK FTA, set for an eighth round of negotiations in New Delhi next month, could significantly enhance that figure.

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