UK could build greater trade ties with India through established relationships

Kath Hammond
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Future Group is one of India’s largest retailers; operating more than 17 million ft2 of retail space in 102 cities across the country, from which the firm serves 300 million customers a year. Sumit Saran is head of international foods and fresh business for the retail conglomerate and in this video interview he tells Produce Business UK how important relationships are in fresh produce and the role the UK has to play in India

There can be few fresh produce market professionals with as much varied international experience as Sumit Saran in terms of not only setting up distribution channels for imports, but also managing and implementing food projects and working with Indian government agencies to bring the sub-continent’s mangoes and organic produce to European and USA markets. So when he talks about a role for the UK in India, it’s worth listening. 

Increasing the UK’s footprint 

“I think the UK needs to play a bigger role in the fresh produce industry in the world and especially in markets like India,” says Saran.

He believes that long-established links are not being exploited. “The UK is a non-player so far [in India] and with our traditional, historical ties that go back generations and ages, I think there is big scope for the UK to increase its footprint.”

A lot depends on forging the right links, of course, and Saran is extremely positive about this aspect of the fresh produce sector.

Unique relationships

Indeed, Saran claims the fresh produce business is unlike any other in that it’s very much built on relationships; ties which the UK and India already have and could benefit from to a greater extent.

“It’s not about the grape that you have on the table; it’s about looking into my eyes and saying ‘this is the grape I’m going to get to you six months of the year’,” he explains. “And that only comes from confidence and relationships, which is unique to our trade.”

There are certainly established export channels from India to the UK, but what about trade in the opposite direction?

“From an Indian export perspective, the UK is a huge market and it’s a very important market for products like grapes, products like mango pulp… and mango is another one,” says Saran.

“From an import side, the UK is a non-player and I think the market in India is now big enough and vibrant enough for suppliers here [in the UK] to look into it seriously.”

Sumit Saran was talking to Produce Business UK at the London Produce Show and Conference 2015. Don’t miss next year’s event, which takes place on June 8-10. 

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