Notwithstanding Brexit, the UK — which is the fifth-largest economy in the world, is language friendly, and has Indians as the single-largest ethnic minority group — remains a favourite destination for Indian startups and enterprises. UK’s capital London, the world’s largest financial centre, was hitherto the most preferred city in the country for startups. However, given the fact that it is also the second-most expensive city in the world to rent, London dreams don’t come easy to everyone, particularly to bootstrapped Indian startups foraying into the UK market in their early stage.

As a result, other city clusters in the UK — Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham — offering digital and fintech infrastructure are now attracting Indian startups and enterprises looking to enter the UK and set up base there. With its brand new digital infrastructure (reportedly the best in the UK), affordable living, loads of coworking spaces, acceleration programmes, and funding access, Manchester has reinvented itself as the ‘digital city’ of the UK to feature high up on the list of startups exploring technologies like blockchain, cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and machine learning (ML).

The growing partnership between India and the UK is evident in various nodal programmes such as the UK Rocketship programmes, Mayor of London’s IE 20, Manchester-India Partnership (MIP), and Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency (MIDAS) programmes for five startups from Deloitte Fast 50. These are just some of the initiatives that enable Indian startups to soft launch in the UK and gain access to the market by bridging a huge gap in terms of legal, tax, and other consultancy requirements, funding (in some cases), and other operational requirements of startups. Given Manchester’s rising popularity, I recently took the opportunity to visit the city and interact with ecosystem stakeholders there to understand what it offers to Indian startups. The aim was to explore how suitable Manchester is as a base for Indian startups looking to expand their operations to the UK.

And I found that given Manchester’s unmatchable digital infrastructure at an affordable cost, subsidised pre-incubation, incubation, and coworking spaces, and availability of funding infrastructure — which includes a number of British Indian corporates looking to invest in Indian startups — the city is poised to become the next investment destination for Indian startups. After Brexit, Indian startups, with limited money in their pockets, often have to choose between the UK market and the EU market. The EU, as the second largest economy in the world, is attractive, but taking in 27 countries and different languages — German, Italian, French, Spanish — it poses its own challenges.

Manchester doesn’t have these problems as English is spoken here and it’s a one-stop shop for startups. Commenting on the Manchester ecosystem, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham says, “Manchester is the fastest growing city in the UK outside London. While it is the second home to the world’s largest broadcaster, BBC, now the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is also considering to set up its facility here. Read more from…

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