India Improves Investor Appeal

You may want to take a fresh look at business opportunities and investments in India, if a new World Bank report is to be believed.

In November 2001, Goldman Sachs published a landmark paper where they identified India, along with Brazil, China, and Russia as the four “BRIC” economies that the world needed to watch. Many companies and investors began investing in these countries.

In 2002, the World Bank launched a project to rank the Ease of Doing Business in countries across the world. For well over a decade, more than 135 countries ranked better than the world’s largest democracy — India continued to be stymied by red tape, limited infrastructure and an army of bureaucrats who seemed to revel in creating complex, conflicting, and even arbitrary rules. India ranked worst among the BRICs and many companies mitigated their enthusiasm for India as a result. Persistent players such as Abbott, Accenture, Boeing, Coca Cola, Cummins, Deloitte, Exxon Mobil, GE, Hewlett Packard, Mylan, Oracle, PepsiCo, Vodafone and Western Union thrived despite some setbacks.

In our consulting, we always advised clients to look at specific Indian states, rather than the entire subcontinent when locating sales offices, subsidiaries, or manufacturing plants; some states welcomed businesses while others did not care. For the first time in India’s 67-year-old democracy, the leader (Chief Minister) of a state was elected as Prime Minister in 2014. One of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first goals was to improve India’s business environment.

The latest report from the World Bank, “Doing Business 2018“, published this week, shows that India made important reforms in six of the eight areas that the Bank measures for its report. Small economies can pass reforms relatively easily and it is important to note that Nigeria and India are the only large economies to make significant improvements as shown in this table:

Table

To global companies and investors, it is even more important to note that India jumped by 30 ranks overall to go from 130 to 100 and leapfrogged over Brazil, which is stagnant at 125. Such an improvement in just three years since the new government took over is quite remarkable. The juggernaut of the BRIC countries is China and it is currently ranked at 78. If Modi’s government can keep up the momentum, it is not inconceivable that India might vault ahead of its autocratic neighbor in three to five years.

We often help clients to start a new company or office in India and that process has improved considerably. Getting credit and obtaining construction permits for a business has also become easier according to the World Bank’s research. Minority foreign investors in India felt vulnerable in the past but new procedures protect them a bit better while enforcing contracts might also become easier once the new National Judicial Data Grid starts paying results. Paying taxes electronically is becoming the norm and import of goods is being streamlined with more and more online functions for customs clearance.

Does this mean that India is an easy place to do business now? Not at all. The World Bank only measures a few criteria. Foreign companies have many challenges in India: the weather, the pollution, the current government’s tendency to place non- tariff barriers, even occasional price controls, and most importantly the illusion that they can readily understand India, just because they can understand their Indian-American physician.

Skeptics may ask, will progress continue? What if Modi’s party loses the next general election, scheduled in 2019? One major initiative that cannot be rolled back is that the states of India were encouraged to compete with each other for foreign and domestic investment. State leaders in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and at least seven other provinces and territories have led the charge in improving their own attractiveness. This genie cannot be put back in the bottle and we anticipate that up to 20 of India’s 29 states will join the race shortly.

If you have questions about how your company can do better in India or if you want to take a fresh look, Contact Us or drop me a note here on Linked In.

November 2, 2017   No Comments

India and USA Are Natural Allies says Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in India as part of a multi-stop tour across the Middle East and South Asia. He had discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and  India’s minister for Foreign Affairs Ms. Sushma Swaraj. Tillerson and Swaraj stressed the close relationship and shared values between the two countries and pledged to work closely on matters of security, and also to enhance defense and economic cooperation.

The US Secretary of State, Mr. Rex Tillerson calls on the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on October 25, 2017.

The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson calls on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on October 25, 2017

Tillerson mooted a larger role for India in stabilizing the economy of Afghanistan, and pledged American support to fight terrorists. “In the fight against terrorism, the United States will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with India. Terrorist safe havens will not be tolerated,” he said.

Tillerson expressed concern that extremist groups could threaten the security of Pakistan. “We also are concerned about the stability and security of Pakistan’s government, as well as that these terrorist organizations have enlarged their numbers, enlarged their strength and their capability,” he told reporters.

While recognizing India as a key partner in the face of what he considers as China‘s negative influence in Asia, Tillerson reiterated that India could play a wider role in the region, reports Voice of America.

“The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region.” He said Washington was willing to provide New Delhi with advanced technologies for its military modernization.

“We also look forward to further cooperation in the broader Indo-Pacific region as we both promote a rules-based approach to commerce, and a transparent and sustainable approach to economic development,” he said.

October 27, 2017   No Comments

Corporate America Bets on India

John Chambers, executive chairman, Cisco, and chairman, U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum says, “While India has long been an important global market, never before has it attracted so much enthusiasm from the American business community.”

Chambers attributes India’s economic transformation, from “slow follower to fast innovator in a matter of several years,” in large part to Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious economic reforms, reports Business Today.

PM Modi and John Chambers

PM Modi and John Chambers

So what are these changes, that Chambers thinks can propel India to be “the second largest economy by 2050“?

In his words…

Rebooting India’s Economy

Demonetizing India’s monetary system is a critical step towards dismantling the cash-centric black market and getting more of the population on a formal, taxable economic grid. The banking system will improve as India heads towards a cashless society, which will ultimately increase credit access and financial inclusion beyond reducing the “black economy.” More importantly, it moves India’s economy into the 21st century.

Adopting the Goods and Services Tax

The Indian government formally adopted the Goods and Service Tax (GST) to streamline the country’s complicated system of local and national tax levies into one payment. Some economic experts project that the implementation of the GST will increase the Indian GDP by 1 to 2 percent.

Propelling India into the Digital Age

Launched in 2015, his [Modi’s] Digital India program has committed unprecedented investments to building the country’s digital infrastructure. Of all the changes ushered in by Modi, I believe this will play the greatest role in providing jobs to India’s rapidly growing workforce, which grows by over 1 million new people each month. And this will not only impact India-collaboration on the digital front, it has the potential to uplift bilateral trade to new heights.

The Prime Minister has the ability to create a vision, communicate it well while building hope for its future, and eventually execute that vision – once he determines something is good for India, he is truly fearless.

October 12, 2017   No Comments

Mattis Describes India as a Force for Stability

Defense Secretary James Mattis, who met India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval during his visit to India end September said, “They [India] are a force for stability in South Asia. They’re a force for stability in the Indo-Pacific region. They’re a nation coming into their own, economically, as a great nation, as they have steady growth rates going on right now.”

He noted that India and the U.S. now have a strategic convergence of two natural partners as the two largest democracies in the world. “There’s an opportunity here that we have not experienced in decades to tie us together in terms of broadened level of cooperation and a natural alignment with each other’s interests,” he said.

US and India Flags

“There are a number of things in motion right now, and decisions will be coming very soon,” Mattis told members of House Armed Services during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan, reports NDTV.

October 11, 2017   No Comments

Chinese Group Expects India to Overtake China in Innovation by 2025

According to China’s Science Technology Exchange Center, India’s innovation growth rate will rise significantly over the next 15 years, and come close to surpassing China. “It is predicted that the innovation competitiveness of India will see a significant rise with its growth rate probably surpassing China between 2025-2030,” the independent Chinese research body wrote in its BRICS Innovation Competitiveness Report 2017.

CNBC India reports: India has been taking notable steps forward in innovation, supported in part by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s reform agenda. Government initiatives such as Digital India, which expands the country’s online infrastructure, and Startup India, which promotes financial backing for entrepreneurs, have been unveiled to boost the country’s innovation and technology sectors. Meanwhile, the country’s growing information technology and scientific expertise have also helped turn it into an increasingly dominant outsourcing hub.

Innovation Poster

The International Monetary Fund recently forecast India’s GDP to grow 7.2 percent in 2017 versus China’s 6.5 percent. This new study highlights the growth that can be expected in intellectual advances, such as science and technology, which are often perceived as indicators of future growth.

September 15, 2017   No Comments