The historic Silk Road connecting Europe with the Middle East and Asia saw centuries of trade of silk heading west, and wools and precious metals going east. Alongside physical goods, the Silk Road saw languages, cultures, philosophy and science move between continents. The partnership forged between the East and the West through its path has proven to be critical for international trade to this day.
One proponent of the new-age Silk Road is Gaurav Singh, a founding partner at JPIN VCATS. JPIN VCATS is creating the largest cross-border investment platform for start-ups between the UK and India. JPIN VCATS is sector-agnostic in its approach to investment and focuses on Seed to Growth stage start-ups.
In a modern world, trade with India is just as important as ever – India is currently the sixth-largest economy in the world, set to grow to the third-largest by the end of the decade. Over the years, the trade of raw material goods has become overshadowed, and the super-speed evolution of technologies across the world has meant pharmaceuticals and services replaced gold and silver as the country’s most valuable exports. Biotech, financial products, open internet initiatives, and space technology are key outputs for 21st century India, and as the economy continues to boom, it presents huge potential as a key partner for trade and investment for the UK – and a huge factor in its growth will be fintech.
India is amongst the fastest growing fintech markets in the world – it is ranked highest in the world for fintech adoption and is expected to see overall transaction value jump from $47bn in 2019 to $102bn in 2023. India’s fintech growth can be attributed to a wide range of factors – it has the second-largest unbanked population in the world, very low penetration of insurance, suboptimal portfolio allocations, a huge millennial base, and a big focus towards financial inclusion. By 2030, India will see an additional 140 million middle-income and 21 million high-income households, driving the demand and growth in the fintech space.
The UK fintech market is also thriving. Despite Brexit and the pandemic, fintech in the UK accounted for just under half of the total £6.78bn invested in Europe, receiving a total of £3bn in venture capital across 408 deals, an average of over £7mn per deal. This makes the UK the second-biggest fintech market in the world, after the US, when it comes to VC investment. A combination of the UK’s established expertise in finance, regulatory support for open banking, and the growing number of consumers giving up on incumbent banks means investors are banking on fintech remaining strong.
A modern Silk Road will see further growth in both countries, as fintech ideas, policies and products passing between India and the UK. As regulating fintech and creating a supportive infrastructure is crucial to creating an environment for innovation to occur, a trade route would put in place the framework for advancement while keeping consumer protection in mind.
Both India and the UK can learn from the other with regards to fintech infrastructures. In recent years, the UK has pioneered open banking framework and has been proactive in issuing digital bank licenses, allowing for innovation within the sector. India is also ripe for challenger banks to become digital banks and can learn and collaborate with UK regulators to implement that in India.
In other aspects, India is further ahead of the UK – India has been at the forefront of digital payments and could work with the UK to create and implement an ecosystem such as United Payments Interface (UPI) in the UK. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is looking to develop a cross border interoperable payments ecosystem for remittances and cross border commerce. There is an opportunity for the UK and India to work together and build a seamless borderless payments market at a regulatory level.
The introduction of borderless payments is also one of many ways to enable fintech trade and growth at the start-up level, as making and receiving payments abroad becomes easier. Fintech businesses are already expanding cross-border – in 2021 alone, UK fintech Tide has announced plans to launch in India, and London based CreditEnable has raised more than £2 million to expand its operations in the country. Putting in place the protocols and agreements to allow free trade of fintech products and services will also allow for the expansion of SMEs both ways, allowing UK fintechs access to India’s 1.3 billion rapidly fintech adopting customers, and India access to the UK’s £3 billion pool of investment.
The UK-India trade and investment relationship is already worth around £24 billion and supports more than half a million jobs across the UK, providing great building blocks for a growing relationship going forward. As Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi work towards a trade deal, it’s clear to see that fintech should be a key part of the deal – creating a modern Silk Road opening up both countries to a booming fintech community and billions of pounds of international investment.