The seminar most effectively evoked the strategic and key advantages offered by India


May 23 - 29, 2005



Perhaps there could not have been a better setting for the Indian government and businessmen to present a seminar titled "Advantage India", as more than 1000 delegates and an army of Press Corp, had descended on the city of Istanbul, that conjoins two diversely rich continents, for the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank, which concluded on 6th May 2005.

I reached the Topaki auditorium at the convention centre, where the seminar was being held, late by about 5 minutes, owing to my extended meeting with bankers from Kazakhstan and was surprised to see that the auditorium was packed to the full. With some looking around, I found a seat, luckily in the second row! Rakesh Mohan, Secretary, Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, remarked that, "since P. Chidambaram, the Finance Minister (who was scheduled to be present) could not made it to Istanbul, due to some impromptu engagement in India, they had thought to remove a few seats from the seminar room, but I am pleasantly shocked at this interest in India, that we have in the last 20 minutes been only adding rows of seats, to accommodate participants...."

The almost one and a half hour seminar was a capsule shot of the India economy and its future growth potential, including India's emerging partnerships for regional cooperation and how Indian companies are spreading their wings across the globe; the seminar most effectively evoked the strategic and key advantages that make India a preferred investment destination.

The first presentation was by Sunil Kant Munjal, President, Confederation of Indian Industry and CEO, Hero Corporate Services Ltd. With the help of a multi-media, he impacted favourably on the audience by highlighting India's building economic cooperation in South Asia and also its growing "look east policy" leading to cooperation with both, South East and North East Asia. A snapshot of the key figures indicate that for year 2004-2005, the percentage growth of the agricultural sector would be 1.1%, the industrial sector 7.8%, the services sector 8.9% while the over all GDP growth would be 6.9%.

India, with an annual expected GDP of 7-8% in the next decade is expected to be among the top 3 economies of the world by 2020. India through a serious and well thought out policy is spreading its frontiers to the global market place. Already on the London Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange the Indian companies listed, so far are 15 and 7 respectively. The Indian business houses are now ready and ripe to become willing and active "globalisers". India today is the 8th largest investor in USA and 9th largest in UK.

The Indian quality "manufacturing" is substantiated with robust export performance. The export front runners during 2002-2003 were Bharat Forge (Rs282.2 billion), Mico (Rs256 billion), Brakes India (Rs71.4 billion) and wheels India (Rs44.1 billion).



The opening of economic borders to overseas investments, started at a much brisk pace in Pakistan, while India was slow but steady. With the political upheavals, we are now sadly way behind. India continues to attract huge FDI into various sectors of the economy.

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India, announced that domestic private banks could be foreign owned up to 74 percent. In the next 24 months, Global Consumer Finance giant, General Electric will foray into retail banking in India. They may either set up a subsidiary or acquire a domestic bank. Merill Lynch and Goldman Sachs are already on the look for a big bank blast in India.

Some notable examples of investments in India are, the proposed US$ 500 million Siemens expansion over a 3 year period; Warburg Pincus, a global venture capital and buyout firms investments of US$ 1 billion in Indian companies equities and more than 265 firms from Japan have invested US$ 2 billion in India.

The first presentation was followed by a rather "loud" but most effective video presentation on India. It was most aptly titled, "Brand India". I was most impressed by the speed of the video, not to mention the contents, which were highly inviting, to say luring would be most appropriate for the potential investors. These investors were aplenty in the audience. Also present were bankers, economists, industrialists, media, credit rating agencies, government functionaries etc. from the West, Middle East, China, Korea, Taiwan & Japan.

Following the video Dr. Naresh Trehan, a leading cardiologist and currently Chairman, Health Care Committee and Executive Director, Escorts Hospital Group, though being from the medical profession made the most impassioned business plea for India's cause. He remarked that health care services sector is growing at 8% and its contribution to GDP would peak to 51%. India spends US$22.7 billion on health care, which is 5.2% of GDP; the sector employs more than 4 million people. Dr. Trehan spoke about the potential of KPO i.e. "knowledge process outsourcing" of the Indian medical sector and suggested that by 2010, it would earn about US$17 billion. India's medical services sector can be easily proud of the fact that annually about 60,000 cardiac surgeries are performed with a mortality rate of less than 1%.

It was highlighted at the seminar that 35% of India's population is below 15 years and 52% is below 35 years. The average or median age is 24 years and hence there has been a rapid decline in the "dependent age" bracket. All this leads to the fact that India shall in the very near future have a robust human resource talent pool, which inevitably would counter the shortage in human resources, in the West. Today the middle class of India is booming with a figure that tops 300 million and who enjoy a per capita income of US$250.

Rakesh Mohan, the Economic Affairs, Secretary who stepped in for the Finance Minister, Chidambaram, spoke most eloquently, although at the start of his talk, he remarked that may be he will be a disappointment to the audience, since he cannot match, Chidambaram's inexhaustible sea of vocabulary and fluency! I am always impressed by the 'humility' of Indians, no matter what their station in life is! (wasn't this supposed to be an innate quality of a Muslim?)

Mohan, who spoke extempore, punctuated his message of "look at India only" for business with light humor. He took jibes not only on the business community but also on his own fraternity of 'bureaucrats.' He swayed the audience with his brilliant presentation.

India, undoubtedly presents the most attractive investment destination, through its marketing efforts, which is a function very finely shared by the governments and private sector; where they portray the following five fundamentals i.e. independent regulatory authorities, solid democratic institutions, vibrant financial institutions, buoyant stock markets and an extremely independent and free press/media.

Despite the anticipated 7-8% GDP growth, India painfully suffers from what the Finance Minister, Chidambaram calls "infrastructure deficiency". The country needs about US$150 billion infrastructure investment in the next 10 years to deal with, what he says, "we have heritage sites, we have no hotels near them; we have got airports which cannot take more than 15-20 aircrafts at the same time.....".

India has successfully attracted ADB to host its 2006 Annual Conference in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. The city of Hyderabad, after Bangalore is the second silicon city of India! It has in the recent past attracted visits by Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. The last slide which said." See you in Hyderabad!" had a picture of a family; where the wife has a huge box next to her and she says, "Fill Good"; the daughter who is clinging to her father says, " Feed Good" and in reaction the Father standing between the two says, " FEEL GOOD".

Pakistan has so much to learn from India. We are in no way less than an average Indian why can't we take such steps that will allow us to proclaim instead, "Pakistan-Advantage too!". Like each year, our country's participation at the ADB was pathetic. Where are our Chidambarams and Manmohan Singhs? We patiently wait!