Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is attracting a number of Indian financial services related firms, making it the destination of choice for them to access the region. This was reaffirmed during a special event where DIFC hosted a number of top-tier consultancy firms from India on Wednesday to further reinforcing the financial centre’s strong ties with the country.
DIFC’s links to India are already strong. From hosting just one financial institution in 2007, DIFC is now home to many Indian firms. DIFC’s 2024 strategy aims for even further growth, and has ambitious plans to attract more Indian banks, financial institutions and firms operating out of the centre.
A number of recent developments are evidence of DIFC’s strengthening position in terms of Indian business and finance. UTI International, India’s largest asset manager, has just set up its latest fund in DIFC.
“We found that DIFC offers a comprehensive ecosystem required for a thriving asset management business – a world class regulator and a plethora of administrators, law firms, accounting firms and availability of talent,” Praveen Jagwani, CEO of UTI International said.
Current pricing incentives are designed to attract more Indian and other asset managers to Dubai, the largest fund regime in the region.
Recent changes to domestic regulations in India, and the India-Mauritius tax treaty, mean that Indian asset managers are seeking alternative fund juristictions. DIFC’s vibrant ecosystem, coupled with its efforts to improve ease of business and an enabling Qualified Investor Funds regime, has seen significant interest from Indian asset managers.
Recently, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Federal Bank upgraded their representative office status in DIFC to Category 1 Licence, with HDFC Life and Axis Bank, the third largest of the private-sector banks in India, also strengthening their operations in the centre. DIFC is also home to leading Indian banks, financial institutions and fund managers including ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank, Punjab National Bank, Union Bank of India, State Bank of India, IIFL Private Wealth Management, L & T Capital Markets Limited and Aditya Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company Limited.
“We are living in an era where UAE-India ties are accelerating. With 2.6 million Indian expats living in the UAE, 26,000 Indian firms and over 40,000 UAE-based firms owned by non-resident Indians, the bond between the UAE and India is already strong,” Salmaan Jaffery, chief business development officer at DIFC Authority, said.
DIFC has also recently signed two separate MoUs – with Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), India’s first financial services centre, and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Developmental Authority (MMRDA), an urban town planning and development authority established by the Maharashtra state government. Both MoUs provide for the sharing of knowledge and international best practice.
These developments come against a backdrop of strengthened ties and co-operation between the two countries, with 14 wide-ranging, bilateral agreements signed in January this year.
“Indian institutions make up the third largest community of financial firms in DIFC, behind the US and UK, and DIFC is the ideal platform for Indian businesses and institutions as it offers political and financial stability, an investor-friendly setting, strong regulation and an English common law base,” Jaffery said.
“DIFC is an important link for India in the South-South corridor, connecting the subcontinent to Africa and Central Asia. There is a huge opportunity for Indian firms looking to conduct business in DIFC,” he added.
In the last year, high-level delegations from DIFC have made visits to India as well as China, Europe, the UK, India, Africa, the United States of America and countries in the Middle East, with participation in well over 100 different events driving knowledge sharing and demonstrating thought leadership across the globe.