Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor for Business

Sadiq Khan’s Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, was the first guest to visit the new home of the Collective at the Auction Rooms in Camden.

Speaking to Simon Pitkeathley, Rajesh reflected on the Brexit landscape, perceptions of London at home and abroad, and what City Hall is doing to support SMEs in the capital.

He opened by talking about moving to London from India in 2001, starting his life in Britain with only £200. He quickly established his own foreign exchange trading business, before he was appointed as London’s Deputy Mayor for Business in the days following the Brexit vote in 2016.

He explained that his role is now to support the Mayor in protecting London’s jobs and supporting its companies. Describing his current responsibilities, he compared himself to a gardener, looking after the ecosystem and making sure the conditions were right for growth.

On Brexit, he said there were three key priorities: unfiltered business access to the single market; passporting for financial services firms; and keeping an open door to amazing talent.

He also explained how City Hall is working to promote businesses and entrepreneurs in London, and the specific initiatives being led by the Mayor. These include the Growth Hub, which puts key support systems and resources all in one place, and the work of London & Partners which is aimed at promoting the capital to international stakeholders.

Discussing Business Rates, Rajesh said that the current system is hugely unfair for companies. The capital has 16% of the England’s workspace, yet it pays 32% of total rates. He said that tackling the challenge will remain a mayoral priority, particularly as responsibilities for rates are handed over to London.

Finally, Rajesh and Simon touched on perceptions of London at home and abroad. Rajesh described the capital as being ‘front of office’ in the UK, and a gateway to commerce in this country. He said that the way London communicates with its regional partners is particularly important, and looks forward to bringing together recently-elected Mayors from across the country at a forthcoming City Hall summit.

Questions from the audience touched on the skills agenda, London’s housing challenges, the life sciences sector, and the advent of artificial intelligence and automation.

Thank you to all of those who came to the event. Details of the next in the In Conversation With… series will be available soon.