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
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
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
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
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