Britain must 'simplify' visa system to boost growth

The boss of Tata Consulting Services, one of India’s biggest companies, has urged the Government to reform Britain’s immigration laws and close the skills gap to boost growth.

Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chief executive of Tata Consulting Services, part of India’s $100bn (£63bn) Tata Group which has 9,000 staff in Britain, said investing in the UK would be far easier if “labour mobility” was improved.

“Britain must simplify the visa system for workers wanting to come in and out,” Mr Chandrasekaran told The Sunday Telegraph in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The boss of the IT and technology services group said economic growth would be driven by companies overhauling their processes and driving efficiencies. He said Tata was in a “unique position” to help but Britain’s immigration laws were hampering his efforts.

“Our people don’t want to immigrate [to Britain], they want to come and work and leave,”: he said. “We want to be able to help clients but need more flexibility of labour.”

He also called for the Government to focus on skills. “Invest in education and make the skills relevant to business,” he said.

“Government and business need to work together to develop a skill set that in changing rapidly.”

Tata Group is India’s biggest industrial conglomerate which also owns Jaguar Land Rover.

Under Mr Chandrasekaran’s leadership, TSC has become one of the group’s fastest growing divisions. TSC, which is listed on the Mumbai Stock Exchange, has 254,000 consultants in 45 countries and reported $10.2bn in the year to March 2012. In the UK, the company has expanded from having a couple of hundred employees to around 9,000 in six years.

“We are hiring all over the world,” said Mr Mr Chandrasekaran. He argued that all companies, from banks to retailers and manufacturers were looking to adapt their business models and their systems to achieve growth. He said the rapid pace of digital technologies was changing business fast.

“At the time of the Beijing Olympics, no-one had heard of the iPad,” he said. “By the London Olympics there were 55m tablets in use… companies need to re-imagine the way they work to take advantage of these changes. Technology is shaping the economy and playing a central role in the recovery.”

He said businesses should not just use technology for cost-cutting. “You can’t be taking costs out for ever,” he said. “Every company needs to grow. Technology is driving huge opportunities.”

Mr Chandrasekaran said he was not fazed by David Cameron’s pledge of an “in-out” referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

“There maybe benefits to the UK being in Europe but it won’t effect my business either way. We treat the UK and Europe as different countries already - different currencies, visas, markets. [The Europe debate] doesn’t matter to us.”

Mr Chandrasekaran said he still had confidence in the British economy despite last week’s disappointing GDP figures.

“The UK is in a process of recovery. There’s no point complaining that it’s taking time, it will take time.” Britain is not alone with its problems of debt and unemployment, he said, “Look at Europe, America, India... who doesn’t have a problem?”