I landed in London Heathrow at 9 pm on 19th September 2012 along with my Associate. We head straight to tube station which I heard a lot about, while I was in India. We thought that we would reach destination in next 20 minutes. We reached Holborn station and the pilot ! announced that due to technical difficulty we are terminating this train here. That was an experience that after-all we are human beings and dealing with Machines.  We came up asking for a taxi, it took about 10 minutes for Taxi to arrive. As expected a chilly cold wind welcomes to you to UK…. that reminds me of a friend sent a note before “Welcome to cold and Wet UK”. I did not understand the word WET but yes it was pretty cold.  Day One : is so important that every employee who joins an organisation remember.  I am no exception for an Induction into a New country. I remember this for ever.

I spent next few days meeting people in Central London, Harrow on the Hill, Liverpool Street, London Bridge to be able to explore the opportunities.  I had one meeting which was definitely productive at London Bridge on a Friday evening ( I know I was holding the person to get into a weekend mode) to talk about some opportunities. I understood why he was not so keen initially to meet us because of his few of his India Experiences (Nod Head for every thing and forget to fulfill – I guess the sample may be very less to judge), but ultimately client has own opinions to formed based on his/her circumstances.  During the conversation one thing which was repeated that if you can’t do something do let me know now. We did not promise much to move ahead and thought for ourselves that our work should speak volumes.  Here goes the test, we survived the first week, thank to Naresh Deevi for making it possible with his team back in Delhi. In the process we have made sure that we educated the Indian environment in-terms of the Human Resources scenario and the challenges to make him appreciate the other side of the fence, Now, Its in auto pilot and I do hope that we build a value for their company as we did for many in India. Lesson: In an excitement accept business we commit so many thing which we can’t fulfill and it haunts you for ineffectiveness. It is always better to be bitter in the beginning and close to reality than to spoil a long-term relationship with any business partners. I guess they are more than willing to understand if you speak realities, set less expectations and ofcourse, deliver more.  A key lesson for SMEs growth.

SME Market in UK : I looked at the figures of SMEs in UK and there are 16% of organisations less than 10 people. 43% of organisations account for employees more than 10 people and  less than  250. Only 41% of the organizations have more than 250 employees.  A View of economic activities is more at SMEs in UK with more than 60% accounting for SME’s in London Areas.  While the Wales economy is primarily on SME organisations with 95% of them are less than 250 employees.  Of course for me more SMEs means more fresh oxygen.

The Welsh Encounter : Me and my Associate traveled to Cardiff, Wales via Birmingham. It was a heavy rain all through and first time UK experienced floods worst in 10 years.  Now I know the meaning of WET England   First, We arrived at Birmingham International station and a good HR friend from LinkedIn connections picked us up. After meeting and his excitement of information sharing, I was convinced that the journey with SMEs in any country would be a great opportunity.  We had the whole of afternoon spent in understanding the perspectives and what we do back in India. He dropped us at the Birmingham Street Station with a lots of hope and anticipation that we work together.  I am sure the time spent would be of great help in working together in future, we are exchanging notes since then. What I realised that every other HR person I met are aware of the opportunities in SME market (I wish my fellow HR Professionals wake-up to this reality soon in India) .  While some took plunge in their own enterprise, others working currently but eventually be there.

My Visit to Cardiff and Swansea in Wales : My first feeling landing at Cardiff and looking around “Yes – I am in an English Country”. We have encountered every where helpful People with warmth in dealing. I was amazed to see the efforts of the government to promote business is amazing.  They have taken every care to make sure that we get the information that we are looking for. We have been supported by a person during our meeting in both places. While we met the people who are key for establishing business in Wales, we also attended a program organised by Wales Government, Indian High Commission with SME business owners from India on 27th September 2012 at The Park Plaza, Cardiff. It was an exciting meet to know the eagerness to promote the business by the Minister of Industries and the local Business Associations. We have met many Indian SME owners and also the Wales based SME business owners. As in any networking event it was an unwritten theme of “What’s in it for me” every business owner trying to promote his business. We also had the opportunity to share thoughts with the Indians who are based in UK working in multiple disciplines.

We moved to Swansea at Wales an hour train journey from Cardiff. The landscape on the way is awesome and it remains in your memory. We attended a program organised by the South Wales Chamber of Commerce in association with University of Wales at Victoria Stadium @ Swansea. I can feel the excitement in everyone whom I met about a football match that took place at the stadium few days ago. This time the meet was with the members of Chamber members along with Professor Medwin Hughes – VC & team of Wales University. This event was organised by the Business Incubation center of University of Wales and the students a did a tremendous job of organising this wonderful event. We had the opportunity to meet all the 20 SME business owners from Swansea attending this event. The University Incubation center helps the start-ups to locate themselves and provide the Business services like any other Business Center.  They help the startups to grow to 2-3 people and help them settle in their business independently. I felt that was a great Eco-system for development of Business and entrepreneurship. The Camber of commerce created a HR Help line for the members - hearing that was music to my ears.  The awareness about the HR is quite high among the SME owners whom I interacted.  May be because of the stringent administration of employment laws and appreciation of HR Systems support for business growth.  But of-course, the opportunities for employees are less and they stick to the company that they get an opportunity.  That’s one of the challenge for SMEs in UK to upgrade their skill level and Government has a great provision of grants for the businesses to upgrade skills for their workers. This means a great opportunity for HR companies to identify the Skill gap, Training needs and build support for SMEs.