By Sanjay Thapa
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘India hard sell’ at various fora, including Japan and Madison Square, through his appropriately carved out slogan “Make in India” is yet to cut ice. This was more than apparent in the recently concluded India Economic Summit, 2014, of the WEF. Having covered the WEF for over a decade now, I recall the hubbub of activity and private parleys that heated up the summit venue in the post-session tete-e-tete. This time though, it was sad to see that the satraps of the corporate world missing from the summit, even as PM Modi himself did not attend.
‘Make in India’ in India will only be possible if there is less of government interference, along with adequate infrastructure, political stability, less of criminal and industrial disputes, easy labour laws, easier profit repatriation …amongst others. Incidents like the Vodafone retro taxation, the recent Samsung dispute and the earlier Tata’s Nano controversy in Singur and the political arm-twisting by Trinamool Congress, and the Maruti labour mayhem at Gurgaon has made severe dents on the foreign investor’s psyche.
The recent pull-out of the Japanese telecom multinational DOCOMO from Tata Tele Services Ltd, is an example of how the foreign investors channelize their multibillion dollar investments in any economy. They need assurances that if things go bad, they will be given enough space to back track. That’s how funds flow internationally.
Besides getting the economy’s fundamentals stable, – the rupee’s stability, economic growth, pro-corporates taxation regime, less of red tapism and adequate infrastructure-, it is indeed the Indian government’s efforts towards these that are benchmarked by the eyeing foreign investors. Otherwise why would Intel- the world’s biggest chip manufacturer- go to Indonesia and not India? That question I had put to the Intel CEO– fondly called the ‘Ninja’ –many years back. “Give me uninterrupted power supply, I’ll come to India,” he had retorted to me.
Though I’m not a pessimist, yet over the years I have seen the popularity of the WEF and the Indian chapter of this esteemed body waning. Mere rhetoric of making India pro-investment, and chanting statements of political stability, freedom from corruption et al, does not work. Global corporates are sharp and should be treated like ‘girlfriends’ not ‘wives’, as they need constant wooing and a one-time adulation doesn’t work with them!