INDIA INC - News, Views & Exclusive Interviews on India's Globalisation http://www.indiaincorporated.com Tue, 24 Oct 2017 08:50:54 +0100 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Diwali sparks an exciting year ahead for UK-India relations http://www.indiaincorporated.com/item/6855-diwali-sparks-an-exciting-year-ahead-for-uk-india-relations.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/item/6855-diwali-sparks-an-exciting-year-ahead-for-uk-india-relations.html

by Manoj Ladwa

India Inc. Week 2018 to forge closer UK-India ties amidst a flurry of India-centric events in the UK, writes India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.
Credit: Crown Copyright
Credit: Crown Copyright

Diwali celebrations seem to get bigger every year in the UK, a reflection of the strengthening UK-India relationship and the promise these ties hold for the future.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan's annual Diwali on the Square extravaganza at Trafalgar Square in London, complete with a medley of bright lights, dance and music, was just the prelude to many new additions to Diwali festivities across the UK. The Light Up London Committee organised a special ceremony at London Eye by the river Thames, with the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Y.K. Sinha, switching on an array of multi-coloured lights on the iconic giant wheel.

Among other firsts this year, a special Diwali on the Square brought the Indian festival of lights to the West Midlands with a first-ever event at Victoria Square in the heart of the city of Birmingham. As pointed out by the High Commissioner, the special guest at the many of these celebrations: “Diwali has become such a part of life in Britain”.

With 2017 also being celebrated as the UK-India Year of Culture, the sparks are set to resonate well into the New Year as the UK prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to receive his personal invitation to the summit from Prince Charles, when the royal visits India in early November. And with Brexit negotiations going through some expected hurdles, there is a lot riding on the UK steering the 2018 summit towards closer Commonwealth ties.

As Priti Patel (pictured), the UK’s minister for international development, noted during the Diwali reception she hosted on behalf of Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street: “The Prime Minister is in Brussels negotiating to secure our future and get a brilliant deal for us. And as Britain leaves the EU… we will look to India to secure a new trade deal and work more closely with business, communities and the government of India.”

Indeed, there is a lot of work to be done to secure this new trade deal and India Inc. has also been working behind the scenes to provide much-needed momentum. We will be hosting an India Inc. Week 2018 in June, packed with a series of high-profile events in the UK to bring together thought leaders from both India and the UK who can push this bilateral relationship on to the next stage of closer cooperation.

The week will kick-start on June 19 with the High Commissioners’ Cup, a special golf day for leading business people, diplomats, and personalities from the reinvigorated Commonwealth community followed by a exclusive dinner at an idyllic venue.

This will be followed by exclusive invitation-only 5th Annual UK-India Conclave on June 20 and 21, aptly themed ‘UK-India Relations at a Crossroads’. The 2018 edition of the conclave will be held in a luxurious retreat-style setting in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside. Indian Cabinet ministers Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal had set a high bar for the proceedings last year, with the 2018 installment set to take it even further.

The two-day conclave will be followed by the second UK-India Awards at a prestigious London venue on June 22. Those who attended the inaugural edition of our Awards this year, including ministers Priti Patel and Boris Johnson, will vouch for its appeal in celebrating the very best of UK-India achievements. The event will also mark the release of the ‘100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations’, a popular list of key influencers that keep the relationship alive.

There is a lot to look forward to as we celebrate this Indian New Year and I hope many of you will be joining us for some of the exciting activities planned during India Inc. Week 2018.

Meanwhile, on behalf of the India Inc. team, here’s wishing all our readers a very Happy Diwali.

For more information on India Inc week 2018, please contact:

Luther Rahman - India Inc. VP Sales
luther.rahman@indiaincorporated.com

For more information and register interest Click here

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) India Inc News Wed, 18 Oct 2017 13:57:14 +0100
Innovation in India: A work in progress http://www.indiaincorporated.com/item/6848-innovation-in-india-a-work-in-progress.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/item/6848-innovation-in-india-a-work-in-progress.html

by Manoj Ladwa

India is in need of a cultural makeover and change of pace before it can become a global hub for innovation, writes India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.


On my first visit to Palo Alto this week, I was impressed by its fabled innovation eco-system. 

Palo Alto, arguably the main engine room of global innovation, is rich with an abundance and ubiquity of risk capital. All the leading tech venture capitalists (VCs) are present here and it is fairly easy to approach them with ideas for funding.

The other, more important end of the innovation spectrum – talent – is available in equally large measure in California, the state in which Palo Alto is located. Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, are only two of the most famous. There are several others. Palo Alto doesn’t depend only on local institutions for talent. It attracts the best brains from the rest of the US as well as from all over the world, including a large number from India. But what is most impressive in this beautiful corner of California is its “best in world” structured programmes of incubators and accelerators that quickly take concepts past the pilot stage to the market.

So, it begs the question: if so many Indians can meet with so much success in this far corner of the United States, where is the innovation eco-system in India? Despite some remarkable recent successes and the much-needed ballast provided by Prime Minister Modi’s Start-up India initiative, why is it still not at par with what I have seen on my short visit to Silicon Valley. 

Can India adapt its current IT business model and evolve a reverse off-shore, on-shore model, where India works with global talent pools to bring cutting edge ideas to the market… but from India?

The answer is a complex one. Let me explain: 

A huge factor contributing to the absence of an enabling eco-system is the risk-averse culture that exists in large parts of India. And the prime reason for this is that failure is often stigmatised in India.

Silicon Valley is full of successful entrepreneurs who hit pay dirt with their second, third and even later ventures. The failure of their earlier ventures – obviously bankable ones since many of them were backed by hardnosed venture capitalists – did not doom their futures and preclude them from access to fresh capital for their subsequent ideas.

Indian society still attaches a stigma to failure. This inculcates in most, but fortunately not all, people a fear of taking risks. Many youngsters are, therefore, conditioned from childhood not to try and break new ground and, instead, stick to the straight and the narrow path.

But risks and rewards are the twin bases on which Silicon Valley has built its edifice of success – nurturing innovative ideas and backing enterprising individuals even if one or more past ventures haven’t paid off.

I read a story in ‘The Economic Times’ only a few days ago about an Indian pilot who has built a six-seater plane in his backyard in Mumbai. He has been unable to get permission from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), regulator of all civilian planes in India, to fly his aircraft and prove that his idea is worth pursuing further. After trying for six years – even the Prime Minister’s Office has been unable to get the DGCA to change its mind – the innovator now plans to take his drawings to the US to try and prove his plane airworthy. 

If he succeeds, it will be a lost opportunity for India.

But I remain optimistic about the future. Placement statistics from the IITs and the IIMs, India’s premier engineering and management institutes, show that over the last few years more and more young graduates are giving up the lure of fancy salaries and chasing their entrepreneurial dreams by starting up new innovative ventures.

This is showing up in the headline numbers as well. According to a report by Nasscom-Zinnov titled ‘Indian Start-up Ecosystem Maturing – 2016’, India retained its position as the world’s third largest start-up hub in 2016, slightly behind second-placed UK. The top position was expectedly occupied by the US.

Last year, as many as 1,400 start-ups opened shop and received over $4 billion in funding. The Indian start-up scene is expected to grow 2.2x from the 2016 figure to more than 10,500 by 2020. The report for the current year is expected shortly.

The Prime Minister’s Start-up India programme, which hand-holds entrepreneurs from concept to cash flow, has come as a massive boost to India’s innovation eco-system. It is fostering an environment akin to that existing in Silicon Valley, by ushering in a culture where experienced businessmen willingly lend a helping hand, in addition to funds and management expertise to bring innovative ideas to the market.

The government’s initiative to host the Eighth Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 in Hyderabad from November 28-30 – the first time it will be held in South Asia – will also help Indian start-up entrepreneurs network and build partnerships with, pitch ideas to and secure funding from the world’s leading tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

The Summit, which will be addressed by Prime Minister Modi and the US President’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, will have a theme of “Women First – Prosperity for All” and primarily focus on four areas – healthcare and life sciences, digital economy and financial technology, energy and infrastructure and media and entertainment. 

Palo Alto has several other attributes that I think India can emulate. It has great role models and mentors, an atmosphere of intellectual honesty and an almost total absence of class hierarchy. Some people may find it brash but at least no one wastes time in getting to the point. Result: What you see is what you get.

Which brings us back to my question: Can India – with 2.4 million Indian expats in the US and another 1.5 million in the UK, many of them holding senior positions in the tech industry as well as in government – establish a global network, similar to Palo Alto, to bring talent to its own shores?

In IT, Indian companies, working in India and at client locations abroad served the software needs of its customers in their home markets. What I am proposing is the opposite – where innovators and companies in, say, the US, the UK, Israel and elsewhere work in close conjunction with principals in India to design innovative products and services for Indian companies.

There are some greenshoots already visible and the Start-up India initiative promises to speed up the process. India has a cost arbitrage while Palo Alto has an established innovation-at-scale arbitrage.

Google’s India-born CEO Sundar Pichai told the ‘Guardian’ in a recent interview that he believes that some great tech innovations are already taking place in India. For example, Google’s recent tap-to translate and Tez payment app were developed in and for India, with some support from Google’s global operations. 

But, he added, the fundamental difference is the pace of development at Palo Alto and India.

That is what is needed in India – a change in pace, a cultural makeover that does not stigmatise failure and out of the box thinking. Add this to the bucket loads of talent and tech education that India brings to the table and you’ll have the eco-system that is needed to foster innovation.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) India Inc News Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:09:37 +0100
Sorry critics, but the figures say you’re wrong about the Indian economy http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6833-sorry-critics-but-the-figures-say-you-re-wrong-about-the-indian-economy.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6833-sorry-critics-but-the-figures-say-you-re-wrong-about-the-indian-economy.html

by Manoj Ladwa

India Inc. Founder & CEO goes behind the headline data to highlight why economic growth is on a revival path.


The problem with most economic reform measures is that the pain is front-loaded and the losers feel the pinch immediately but the gains are spread over many future quarters and the potential winners have no way of knowing the benefits that will accrue to them.

That, I feel, is the crux of the debate raging in India today.

Some background and context will be in order here: the Indian economy slowed to a three-year-low growth rate of 5.7 per cent in the April-June 2017 quarter, or Q1 of the current financial year, down from 6.1 per cent in the preceding quarter.

Coming close on the heels of two major structural reforms in the form of demonetisation and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), this gave critics within and outside the ruling BJP a handle to criticise the Modi government’s handling of the economy.

Their charge: the government had mismanaged the two recent big ticket reform moves – demonetisation and GST – and so, was responsible for the resulting slowdown.

How correct is this charge?

On the face of it, it does sound compelling. But dig a little deeper and the charge begins to unravel faster than the proverbial snowball in hell.

Yes, the headline growth rate looks poor, especially when compared to expectations of near 8 per cent growth. But do bear in mind what the Prime Minister very lucidly pointed out recently – that it is the figure of only one quarter… and that too, of a quarter when a lot of destocking had taken place in anticipation of the introduction of GST even as the lingering after-effects of the demonetisation exercise had yet waned fully.

But one swallow does not make a summer.

The President of the World Bank as well as most economists and industrialists are confident that the fall in growth rate was just a minor aberration and that the implementation of GST and the reduction in the size of the shadow economy following demonetisation will take the economy to a higher growth trajectory.

But let’s not take these gentlemen at their face value. What do the numbers say? Does it support the contention that the Modi government has mismanaged the economy?

Inflation based on the Consumer Price Index hovered between 8.4 per cent and 9.4 per cent in the last three years of the previous Congress-led UPA regime. Under Modi, it has fallen consistently from almost 7 per cent when he assumed office to 2.5 per cent now. The Consumer Food Price Index has fallen from a high of 12.1 per cent in 2013-14, the last full year of the Manmohan Singh government’s tenure, to 4.2 per cent in 2016-17 and further to -0.3 per cent in the April-August 2017 period.


Now that doesn’t look like mismanagement to me, but I’ll leave it to you to judge.

Foreign exchange reserves, which is an important measure of the strength of an economy and the confidence that foreign investors place in its management, have recently hit a record high of $402 billion. How much did the UPA leave behind? In the last three years of its rule, it hovered consistently just below the $300-billion mark, rising to $304 billion a few months before it demitted office. This late surge was driven by investments in Indian stocks on optimism about Modi winning the elections.

If some people think the accretion of more $100 billion in foreign reserves in three years is a sign of economic mismanagement, then they obviously need to re-read their school-level economics textbooks before returning to this debate.

Remember those days four-five years ago when experts across the world were debating whether India deserved to be part of BRICS and whether it would be better to place it among the ranks of the Fragile 5 economies (that could go under any time)? Well, the managers of the economy – I won’t take names here since I don’t want to make this personal – then had tried to spend their way out of trouble. Result: Their profligacy had raised the fiscal deficit to a dangerously high level – of 5.9 per cent in 2011-12 and 4.5 per cent in the last year of their reign. This had sent the rupee into a free fall against the dollar and all bets on India had been called off. It was left to the much maligned Arun Jaitley – I am mentioning him only because he has been criticised personally – to rein in this runaway deficit, restore fiscal discipline and bring this gap down to a manageable 3.5 per cent.

Sign of economic mismanagement? Ha, ha! I rest my case.

Now, let me turn to the other, related, charge that the economy is on a downhill spiral from which it will be difficult to pull back.

Proving the World Bank chief’s contention that the slowdown in the first quarter of this financial year is an aberration, several important indicators of economic growth have registered a smart about turn.

Consider these: Since June 2017, passenger car sales have grown 12 per cent, the sale of commercial vehicles – considered an important pointer to the state of an economy – have zoomed 23 per cent, two-wheeler sales have jumped 14 per cent, while domestic and international air travel have risen 14 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, and the number of telephone subscribers have increased 14 per cent.



I must point out to the naysayers with utmost humility that these don’t look like figures from a decelerating economy.

I could go on. So many other parameters – length of highways constructed, length of village roads constructed, new railway lines laid, gauge conversion, house construction, among many others – in the last three years show a marked improvement over the corresponding UPA-era figures.Obviously, the critics will not be convinced because the most difficult thing to open in the world is a closed mind.

Like millions of Indians, I’ll wait – for a few quarters more. By then, the teething troubles accompanying the launch of GST will almost certainly have been sorted, paving the way for higher economic growth and a return of a very palpable feel good factor.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Fri, 06 Oct 2017 15:02:16 +0100
Top 3 reasons to watch out for India’s textile sector http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6821-top-3-reasons-to-watch-out-for-india-s-textile-sector.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6821-top-3-reasons-to-watch-out-for-india-s-textile-sector.html

The Indian textile industry is a $100-billion beast, arguably the oldest of its kind in the world. Currently, it employs about 50 million people, making it the country's biggest employer in the organised sector and one of the largest contributors to India’s exports. 

And that’s just scratching the surface of its full potential. 

India already has the necessary tools for global leadership: abundant natural and man-made raw material, highly skilled and relatively cost effective labour, world class design talent and entrepreneurial class. What it lacked so far was freedom from bureaucratic red tape and support from the government to push ahead.

Enter Smriti Irani – the young dynamic minister now in charge of the textile sector, propelled by the support of a "can-do-will-do" Indian Prime Minister, and that last constraint is already falling away.

The opportunities are massive: 

1. India has a minuscule sub-four per cent share in readymade garments – a segment that can capture maximum value. 

Global majors such as Zara, Marks & Spencers, H&M, as well as Indian leaders such as the Aditya Birla Group, Raymond and Bombay Dyeing are investing billions of dollars on both the front and back ends of their operations, using India both as a sourcing base as well as a market for their products. 

2. China’s rising wages have diminished its competitive edge, leading American and European principals as well as many Chinese companies to look for other destinations to move their factories. 

3. Let’s not forget the sector’s huge potential to generate millions of low, medium and high skilled jobs for the waves of young Indians who enter the Indian employment market every month.

After years of moulting, India’s textile industry is finally experiencing resurgence. With its large pool of talented workers, abundant local sourcing opportunities, a wide range of available materials, thousands of design school graduates and a new focussed minister, it shouldn’t be too hard for India to fill the gap in the global market. The recent $1-billion Textile Policy unveiled by the Indian government doesn’t hurt either.


Read the full article titled Unleashing Indias Textile Talent’ in the latest issue of ‘India Investment Journal.

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saloni.shah@indiaincorporated.com (Saloni) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Fri, 29 Sep 2017 13:21:19 +0100
Growth rate dip a temporary blip for India http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6808-growth-rate-dip-a-temporary-blip-for-india.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6808-growth-rate-dip-a-temporary-blip-for-india.html

by Manoj Ladwa

Ignore the doom mongers, India will return to the high growth path by winter, writes India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.

There’s an old truism about India which holds that for everything that is true about this country, the exact opposite is also correct. This is true for the Indian economy as well.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves recently crossed the $400-billion mark, making India the world’s sixth-largest holder of forex, ahead of the Euro zone, Brazil and Taiwan. The Indian rupee, which had fallen to a low of Rs 68.85 against the US dollar four years ago under the previous Congress-led UPA regime, has gained about 6 per cent to about Rs 64 and experts expect it to strengthen further.

Driving this surge in foreign currency inflows is the flow of foreign investments into Indian equity and debt as well as the longer-term foreign direct investment (FDI).

Now for the other truth: India’s GDP growth in the April-June quarter (Q1 of 2017-18) slipped to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent on weak private investments and the lingering effects of demonetisation and the launch of the Goods & Services Tax (GST).

Since both these contradictory trends – of foreign investors remaining bullish about India even as Indian industrialists fight shy of making fresh investments – are undeniably true, how should one interpret them? What are foreigners seeing that Indians are not?

Yes, demonetisation has led to a temporary contraction in demand. The lingering after-taste of the withdrawal of 86 per cent of currency has played a role in the loss of growth momentum.

But this is only half the truth and we will return to this in a moment. 

Now, let us address the other issue – of GST. The introduction of any new tax regime – and especially one that replaces a complex multi-layered, multi-state, multi-levy system with one single tax – would have been disruptive at the best of times.

And so it has been.

Now look at the positives.

Demonetisation has led to the unearthing and de-registration of about 200,000 shell companies, many of which were conduits for tax evasion and money laundering. So, it will be fair to say that demo has played a big role in rooting out the generation of unaccounted, or black, money. Higher income tax collections testify to this.

Then, GST collections in the first month – July – were in excess of the target by about 2 per cent, in spite of about a third of taxpayers not filing their returns and remitting their taxes. This belies predictions that the new tax would result in revenue shrinkage. What’s more, World Bank India chief Junaid Ahmad has described GST as a “tectonic shift” that could take India’s growth rate to 8 per cent and beyond.

And after playing truant for a while, the Monsoon rains have returned with a gusto giving rise to optimism that this will be a normal Monsoon year. This augurs well for rural demand, which accounts for a large chunk of the Indian GDP.

Finally, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has hinted at a package to revive growth and employment.

Many economists are confident that growth will pick up on the back of the positives described above. 

“We expect the impact of demonetisation to fade and GST mechanism to stabilise… and growth to return in the last quarter of the year on the back of a good Monsoon and the festive season bump,” Randstad India MD & CEO Paul Dupuis told reporters.

Cleaning up any economy is a time consuming task. The twin blows to the shadow economy – in the form of demo and GST – have undoubtedly caused some short-term pain. But do keep in mind that a large part of the pain, caused by the bad debt overhang at banks, is a legacy issue the BJP government inherited from the Congress regime. As many parents of young children know, prescribing bitter medicines is the only way back to good health.

US government agency USDA estimates that India will grow at an average rate of 7.4 per cent to become a $6.84-trillion economy by 2030 and emerge as the world’s third-largest economy, surpassing Japan and Germany.

So, let us not pay heed to the doom mongers. Come winter and, hopefully, India will return to the high growth trajectory.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

India Investment Journal September edition Out next week

The September edition of 'India Investment Journal' has chosen India’s textile sector as its Cover Story package and the promise it holds with foreign investors pumping in more than $2.5 billion over the last decade. Successes in food retail, expert voices on GST and a State Focus on Karnataka are among some of the other highlights. Sign up here

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Fri, 22 Sep 2017 13:18:46 +0100
Rahul Gandhi: Wake up from your dynastic la-la land, stop insulting hardworking Indians http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6791-rahul-gandhi-wake-up-from-your-dynastic-la-la-land-stop-insulting-hardworking-indians.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6791-rahul-gandhi-wake-up-from-your-dynastic-la-la-land-stop-insulting-hardworking-indians.html

by Manoj Ladwa

India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa rips into Rahul Gandhi for belittling hardworking young Indians who are progressing on their merit, and says the wannabe PM needs to wake up from his dynastic la-la land.

I must confess that Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with students at the University of Berkeley, California, earlier this week has left me very confused – and more than a little disturbed. Did he say he was a dynast or a democrat? Did he insinuate that politics is his family business? And did he, or didn’t he, hint that the position of the Indian Prime Minister is an heirloom that is a part of his family legacy?

I’ll return to these questions in a moment, but first, the context. Gandhi was invited to speak on “India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward” organised by the university. He is by all accounts the presumptive prime ministerial candidate of the Congress (India’s main Opposition party) or at least that’s how his followers view him, and he has not said or done anything to deny this ambition. Except that he has alluded to some vague “process” he apparently must follow before being coronated.

However unlikely that possibility may be, I was therefore expecting Gandhi to outline his vision for the country if he or his party were catapulted, against all odds, to power in New Delhi in future. It is well known that he and his party vehemently oppose almost every decision of the Narendra Modi government, so I, and many others like me, was expecting him to come up with cogent criticism of the BJP government’s policies as well as any alternatives that, in his views, would serve the country better.

As the leader-in-waiting in India’s main Opposition party, Gandhi is perfectly entitled to criticise the government and offer an alternative vision of governance. In fact, it is incumbent upon him to do so.

I didn’t see anything of that sort.

Instead, he launched into a vitriolic criticism of Narendra Modi personally and the ruling party. Nothing wrong with that either – but what left me confused and disturbed was the brazen and thoughtless way in which he found it necessary to belittle India and Indian society – before an audience that will doubtless, over the coming decades, throw up several leaders of international corporations, civil society organisations, multilateral agencies and even foreign governments.

One of the reasons why he was called to address the gathering at Berkeley – and here, I am only guessing, though I dare say it is a reasonable assumption – was that he represented the Opposition in the world’s largest democracy.

And how did he describe it? Reacting to criticism about him being a direct beneficiary of dynastic succession in the Congress party, he replied nonchalantly: “It's a problem in all political parties in India. Most of the country runs like this, so don't go after me, Akhilesh Yadav is a dynast, Mr Stalin is a dynast, Mr (Prem Kumar) Dhumal's son is a dynast, so don't just go after me... Even Mr Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast, also Mr Ambani, that's what happens in India.”

Excuse me, did I hear/read that right?

Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India, and the current Prime Minister were all born in very humble families and rose to their current positions through dint of dedication and hard work over many decades. India has a young demographic profile – about 65 per cent of the country is under 35 years of age.

Look at India’s successes in the IT industry, the space sector, in pharmaceuticals… look at any other field… they are all filled with people who have achieved their success the hard way, without powerful surnames or family connections. Rahul Gandhi’s brash assertion belittles all of them and ridicules their sacrifices to get to where they are.

And who did he compare himself with? Akhilesh Yadav and Stalin are dynastic successors in two of India’s regional parties that are steeped in corruption scandals and currently out of power in their respective states. Is the Congress Vice-President saying his party is like the other two?

And how can he compare the children of film stars and business tycoons with political successions? Cinema is the family business of the Bachchan clan. And Ambani runs India’s largest private sector company. The comparison is completely fallacious, unless… unless Rahul Gandhi is saying that just as many (albeit not all) business families the world over hand over the keys to the corner office, and with it, the wealth, power and prestige that go with the position to their designated heirs, his family has done the right thing by selecting several Congress presidents and Indian prime ministers from one bloodline only.

I find this all too disturbing. Gandhi articulates the crooked politics of the past, a pond which he feels comfortable to swim in, whilst neglecting the hard work and progress that many millions of young Indians seek on their own merit.

There are studies that show that Young India, the demographic group that makes up two-thirds of the Indian population, abhors entitlement. By completely obliterating the distinction between private enterprise and public life, the Congress scion may have unwittingly scored a self-goal. We’ll find out whether he has in due course.

I could go on. This speech and his responses to questions offer enough points to debate about, but for the limited purpose of my blog, I will focus on only two issues.

Gandhi accused the Modi government of encouraging crony capitalism. He said: “… India needs to turn a colossal number of small and medium businesses into international companies. Currently, all the attention in India is paid to the top 100 companies. Everything is geared towards them. Banking systems are monopolised by them, the doors of government are always open to them and laws are shaped by them.

“Meanwhile, entrepreneurs running small and medium businesses struggle to get bank loans. They have no protection and no support. Yet, these small and medium businesses are the bedrock of India and the world's innovation. Big businesses can easily manage the unpredictability of India. They are protected by their deep, deep pockets and connections. But the real innovative strength of India lies with the millions of small firms and young entrepreneurs that run them…”
I beg your pardon, Mr Gandhi, but haven’t you heard of the Mudra Scheme, which has provided loans to millions of small and micro businesses that have no access to the formal banking sector?

And where was his concern for small and medium businesses when the government presided over by his family was selling priceless broadband airwaves and coal mines to a select cabal of corrupt businessmen closely linked to the Congress? The loss to the exchequer was in the region, give or take a little, of $50 billion.

I am not saying this. The Supreme Court of India had to step in to cancel the corruption-ridden allocations of airwaves and coal mines. His party bears direct responsibility for the resulting loss of global confidence in the Indian economy. And let me politely remind him, that it was the current Prime Minister’s credibility and tireless efforts that put India back on the global business map as what International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde describes as the “lone beacon of hope in this world.”

Now, allow me to turn to Gandhi’s apparent concern for the Indian poor. His party was in power for 10 years from 2004-2014. Why couldn’t he come up with a scheme like Jan Dhan Yojana, the largest financial inclusion scheme in the world that even the World Bank now wants to replicate in poor countries around the world with Indian help?

Gandhi made several other assertions I could join issue with, but won’t. Criticising the Prime Minister and the government is his job as an Opposition leader and I have no wish to argue against his right to do so. But as a Person of Indian Origin who engages with opinion formers around the world on Indian matters, I only wish he is armed better with facts and equipped with more intellectually rigorous arguments the next time he travels abroad. May be next time, the organisers of a Rahul Gandhi speech should issue an appropriate health warning to the audience before he opens his mounth! 

God bless him, he needs to wake up from his dynastic la-la land.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa 

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Fri, 15 Sep 2017 13:30:19 +0100
India’s Cabinet juggle: Ready for 2019 & beyond http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6777-india-s-cabinet-juggle-ready-for-2019-beyond.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6777-india-s-cabinet-juggle-ready-for-2019-beyond.html

by Manoj Ladwa

India's Cabinet reshuffle signals the BJP stepping up the tempo on reforms and policy delivery ahead of the 2019 general elections, writes India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s uncanny ability to spring surprises and stay one step ahead of the Opposition was on full display when he reshuffled his Council of Ministers on September 3, 2017. He promoted four top performing Ministers of State to full Cabinet rank and inducted nine new members as Ministers of State.

A few minutes after the swearing in, commentators on almost every TV channel and online news portals were asking: “So what?” The early consensus was that Modi’s last Cabinet reshuffle/expansion was mere tinkering and lacked a bigger picture.

A few moments later, the portfolios were announced. That suddenly changed the narrative completely and forced even sworn critics such as former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to congratulate the Prime Minister. 

What had changed in a matter of an hour?

The Prime Minister had lived up to his reputation of being focused on performance and delivery and had appointed four former bureaucrats – India’s former representative to the UN Hardeep Puri, former Home Secretary R.K. Singh, former Police Commissioner of Mumbai S.P. Singh and former DDA Commissioner K. Alphons (who earned the sobriquet of Demolition Man for his successful drive to demolish more than 15,000 illegal buildings in Delhi) – in important people-facing ministries.

Then, he rewarded performance by promoting four of his top performing Ministers of State – Power, Renewable Energy and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Petroleum, Oil and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan – to full Cabinet rank.

But the biggest talking point was the appointment of Minister State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman to the position of Minister of Defence. In India, the ministries of Home, Finance, Defence and Foreign Affairs are called the “Big Four” as the ministers are ex-officio members of the all-important Cabinet Sub-Committee called the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). 

Sitharaman is the first woman Defence Minister of India. Earlier, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had twice held concurrent charge of defence when the then defence ministers had been moved to other departments. 

Thus, for the first time in India’s history, there are two women –Sitharaman and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj – on the CCS.

Sitharaman who took over as Defence Minister from Arun Jaitley, who was holding additional charge of the portfolio in addition to his regular day job as Finance Miniser, has said her priorities would be military preparedness, ‘Make in India’ and welfare of soldiers and their families.

“My priority will definitely be the armed forces preparedness. It is important that the Indian armed forces receive the attention in terms of giving them every endowment and equipment necessary for them to perform their duty with the best of equipment available,” she said in a message after assuming charge.

As Commerce Minister, Sitharaman had piloted the Make in India initiative under the guidance of the Prime Minister. Now, as Minister of Defence, she will have to oversee the initiative to build a domestic defence industrial base almost from scratch.

On her plate are proposals from US defence contractor Lockheed Martin and Swedish plane maker SAAB to make the F-16 and Gripen fighters in India. Then, there are plans to build dozens of submarines, armoured vehicles, guns and missiles in the private sector with collaboration and transfer of technology from foreign vendors.

Jaitley has already drawn up the blueprint for this, but she will have to now write the fine print of this policy and roll it out. It’s a huge challenge and I wish her the very best in her endeavours.

Piyush Goyal, who is credited with turning India’s moribund power sector around, was elevated to full Cabinet rank and given charge of the Railways portfolio.

This department, which had a budget that was placed before Parliament separately from the General Budget till this year, has been badly neglected for more than 70 years. Previous governments had used the Railways as a milch cow. Most previous Railway Ministers had used it to benefit their own political constituencies, keeping passenger fares artificially low, announcing new trains in uneconomic sectors and neglecting modernisation and safety.

As a result, the Indian Railways, the world’s second largest, is plagued by inefficiencies, a bloated work force and an abysmal safety record. Suresh Prabhu, Goyal’s predecessor had begun the work of restoring the Railways to financial and operational health, allocating about $20 billion for modernising this gargantuan organisation and improving safety.

By most metrics, he did a good job. The number of accidents came down, track modernisation and electrification were taken up on a war footing and the number of railway accidents actually came down substantially during his tenure.

Unfortunately, three accidents in the last month of his tenure led to dozens of tragic deaths, prompting the very conscientious Prabhu to tender his resignation to the Prime Minister, who reportedly asked him “to wait”.

Goyal now has his work cut out. He will have to build on the platform laid by Prabhu and complete the modernisation programme already underway. Given his success in the equally bureaucratic and till recently moribund Power Ministry, there is reason for optimism that the Railways’ journey to good health will continue unhindered.

The media declared that Prabhu was on his way out of the ministry. But Modi, a sharp judge of performance and talent, wasn’t done with him. He simply transferred him to the Commerce and Industry Ministry vacated by Sitharaman.

Here, his biggest priorities will be to ensure a turnaround in India’s export performance. But given the winds of protection blowing in the US and the EU, India’s two biggest export markets, this will not be an easy task. 

Then, he will also have to ensure that Make in India, one of the government’s flagship initiatives, is carried through to its logical conclusion. 

In many ways, these two tasks are related. In order to lift exports, Indian industry will have to produce more, at lower prices and at quality levels acceptable to global buyers.

But private investments – key to the success of Make in India – have been stubbornly stagnant for a number of reasons, the most important ones being the inability of banks to lend and the lingering effects of archaic rules and a lethargic bureaucracy, resulting in a poor ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

The first bottleneck is being addressed jointly by the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Finance in the form of speeded up proceedings under the new Bankruptcy Code.

The second bottleneck – on improving India’s ranking on ease of doing business – is now in Prabhu’s court. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the Ministry of Commerce has taken several steps to make it easier to do business in India. This has resulted in an improvement in India’s ranking on the index from 142 to 130, the biggest annual improvement by any country. 

Prabhu will have to ensure that the momentum is maintained so as to be able to achieve Modi’s vision of breaking into the top 50 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index within a reasonable period of time.

The Prime Minister has appointed former Home Secretary R.K. Singh as the new Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministries of Power and Renewable Energy, the ministries headed by Goyal. A first-term Member of Parliament, Singh has big shoes to fill. His induction into the ministry has surprised many but in my opinion, it goes to show that the Prime Minister and BJP President Amit Shah have chosen merit over politics keeping in mind the looming elections just 18 months away.

Singh has a reputation as an incorruptible, efficient and well regarded officer with a proven track record of delivering on difficult assignments during his 34 years of bureaucratic service. He retired in 2013, so, all the officials in his new ministry are his service juniors. He also has the advantage of being an insider, who knows how to get work done in New Delhi’s notoriously labyrinthine and Byzantine power circles.

Singh has said he will carry on and complete the work started by his predecessor Piyush Goyal. When asked about his priorities as Power and RE Minister, he said he will comment on his new charge after a few days (ie, after he is briefed by his predecessor and the officials in his two departments). 

Skill India, the ambitious programme to reskill the Indian workforce is probably one flagship initiative that hasn’t yet borne fruit. It has been placed under the stewardship of Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who earned his spurs by making a huge success of the Prime Minister’s pet scheme to distribute free cooking gas cylinders to families below the poverty line.

And Nitin Gadkari, who epitomises the Modi government’s can-do-will-do credo, has been given additional charge of River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. He got off the blocks quickly by announcing his intention of creating a national water grid – on the lines of the power grid – to evacuate water from surplus regions to supply the same to regions facing a deficit in order to tackle the perennial problem of simultaneous floods and droughts in different regions of this vast country. 

The next General Election is due in April-May 2019. The ruling BJP also faces several important state elections – in Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – between end-2017 and end-2018. 

The reshuffle seems to suggest the Prime Minister is keen on handing over the implementation of key election promises (which are crucial for his re-election) to professionals and proven performers.

The latest reshuffle also seems to suggest that the usual considerations in Indian politics – of distributing portfolios according to caste, region and political heft – have played a lesser role this time.

The overall composition of the refreshed Council of Ministers also strongly suggests that Modi’s reforms agenda will continue and even gather pace.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Fri, 08 Sep 2017 13:47:06 +0100
Demonetisation a failure: Really? http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6764-demonetisation-a-failure-really.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6764-demonetisation-a-failure-really.html

by Manoj Ladwa

Lazy journalism has resulted in painting an incomplete picture of what demonetisation really means for the Indian economy, writes India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa.

 

There is a large section in the Indian media (and I include the India correspondents of many western agencies and publications in this basket) and some of India’s so-called intellectual elites that have made it their mission to find fault with and pick holes in whatever the Narendra Modi government does. There is another, smaller, lot that pulls in exactly the opposite direction. In most cases, the truth lies somewhere in between the extreme opinions of the two camps.

The recent release of the annual report of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gave both sides ammunition to carry out their proxy war.

Demonetisation has failed, screamed the first lot, with a lot of self-congratulatory analysis on how their predictions of economic doom had been allegedly borne out by the RBI report.

Nonsense, shouted the other group, but by most accounts, their voice has been drowned in the din.

But what is the primary evidence for this latest bout of competitive chest thumping?

The RBI annual report said 99 per cent of the currency demonetised on November 8, 2016 had been deposited in banks and had been exchanged for new currency notes.

The conclusions the first lot drew from this were:

a)  All or most of the alleged black money in the system was back in circulation, thus, defeating the government’s objective of snuffing out unaccounted cash.
b)  The government’s goal of gaining a windfall of about $50-60 billion from extinguished currency notes (those that would not be returned) has not been achieved.
c)  The government’s alleged intention of using this windfall for expenditure on social welfare and infrastructure building has come to nought.
d)  And, the pain suffered by the people in anticipation of this cumulative gain to the economy has been in vain.

Therefore, a section of the media shouted, demonetisation had failed. Even the venerable BBC echoed this sentiment.

I would say I have great respect for the BBC as an institution. But I cannot help but say that this report is a prime example of lazy journalism, where the reporter concerned has let his audiences down by substituting facts with opinions.

After all, it is much easier (and dare I use the word “sexier”) to tom-tom the alleged non-return of $50-60 billion to the government’s coffers than to do a detailed cost-benefit analysis of a complex multi-pronged exercise, of which demonetisation is only one part, to tackle and eradicate a deep rooted and hydra-headed monster like black money.

The questions the BBC reporter, and others who filed similar reports, should have pondered over were these:

1)  Was the extinguishing of a part of the currency in circulation the objective of the demonetisation exercise?

2)  More importantly, was it the only or even the most important goal?

It is while answering these questions that I concluded that those accusing the government of failure have cherry picked facts – accepting only those arguments that supported their hypothesis and ignoring other, stronger ones that proved them wrong.

Let us now go back to that fateful night of November 8, 2016 when Prime Minister Modi made an unscheduled address to the Indian nation at 8.00 pm IST and announced his bold plan to withdraw Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, accounting for 86 per cent of the value of currency in circulation, from midnight, i.e. in less than four hours from his announcement.

Not once in his speech did he mention anything about notes being extinguished. He spoke about how the action would curb the shadow (black in Indian parlance) economy, encourage digitisation of transactions and help the government crack down on illegal funding and terrorist activities.

Later, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley spoke of how in India, the cash in circulation was about 12-13 per cent of GDP compared to 4-5 per cent in developed countries and that the government was hoping to bring this ratio down to about 8 per cent. He added that as more transactions came into the banking system, they would leave a digital trail, making it difficult to evade scrutiny.

Thus, more transactions would come into the tax net, increasing the tax base, improving the tax to GDP ratio, increasing GDP growth, boosting government revenues and lowering the fiscal deficit, leading to higher expenditure on defence and rural infrastructure, he had said.

“Anonymity of money is gone with demonetisation as the money has come into the banking framework and becomes part of the formal system leading to strengthening of banking,” the Finance Minister had added.

The only, albeit oblique, reference I could find to any government official speaking of money not returning to the RBI was when then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court that Rs 12 lakh crore (about $180 billion at the then prevailing exchange rate), which exceeded the government’s estimates of cash that would be returned, had been deposited in the banking system.

You will notice, even here, there is no mention of extinguishing the notes in order to generate a windfall for the RBI, which could then be transferred to the government as dividend.

So where did that argument come from?

I have, in the past 24 hours, gone through dozens of news articles and analyses on demonetisation. This was a theory floated by some analysts and experts. This was lazy analysis but, perhaps, because of the huge amount involved, became common currency and the accepted wisdom on demonetisation.

Now, let us look at the real positives that have flowed from demonetisation and measure them against the goals set by the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.

At the end of 2016-17 (year in which the demo initiative was undertaken), the income tax payer base increased substantially to 62.6 million from about 40 million earlier, according to the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

Then, more than Rs 3 lakh crore (more than $45 billion) entered the banking system for the first time. The trail left behind by this money and the improved use of data analytics methods have led to the identification of about 200,000 shell companies that are now under investigation for their role in generation and circulation of black money.

According to data available publicly on the RBI website, the volume of overall digital payments in the Indian economy grew almost 70 per cent to 10,740 million in 2016-17 from 6,337 million in 2015-16 – a sharp increase over the growth rate of 54 per cent over the previous four years.

Mobile banking, too, has grown a phenomenal 150 per cent in volume and 224 per cent in value terms in 2016-17 over the previous year.

Now, let us come to terror funding, the other point made by the Prime Minister in his November 8, 2016 address to the nation.

Is it a coincidence that in the months following demonetisation, a sting operation by a TV channel exposed the hawala (illegal and unofficial cross-border financial transactions) racket that channelled millions of dollars of unaccounted money to separatist leaders in Kashmir to finance the so called “popular street protests” against Indian authorities?

Is it also a coincidence that incidents of stone pelting by unemployed youth at Indian security forces has witnessed a dramatic decrease in the months following demo?

And what about Naxalite violence in central and eastern India? There hasn’t been a single major Maoist attack since November 8, 2016.

The evidence is compelling. But if some people choose to deliberately ignore it, then good luck to them.

And finally, before I end, I would like to point out that the fight against black (unaccounted) money is not a single-pronged campaign. Demonetisation was just one arm of a pincer attack. The other arms are GST, which forces businesses to create a digital trail of transactions, and the Benami Properties Act, which clamps down on real estate transactions made in the name of third parties.

These actions are ongoing and will doubtless face roadblocks from vested interests and criticism from the Opposition.

But the important thing is that the battle has begun. And for a change, there are many people who believe the government is winning. The huge popular support for the Modi-led dispensation in the Uttar Pradesh elections and the return to the NDA of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar prove that.

So, the next time you come across a news item, such as the recent BBC report on the alleged failure of demonetisation, please remember, lazy journalism can afflict even the best agencies in the world.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:26:46 +0100
Revving up: Auto sector going global http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6753-revving-up-auto-sector-going-global.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6753-revving-up-auto-sector-going-global.html

by Manoj Ladwa

India Inc. Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa tracks how India has driven its auto sector on to the road of global success.

 

Even as you read this piece, there are at least 1,500 passenger cars and 6,000 motorcycles being loaded onto ships at some Indian port for export to the Middle East, Africa, Europe and even the US. The badges they wear read like a veritable who’s who of the international auto industry and include such marquee names as Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, Suzuki and Renault among cars and Honda, Bajaj and Hero MotoCorp among two-wheelers. And I haven’t even mentioned tractors, heavy, medium and light commercial vehicles, three-wheelers and a host of complex and simple auto components.

Over the last three decades, India has developed a very robust domestic automobile sector where the world’s largest and most popular brands jostle for market share with home-grown auto majors such as Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bajaj Auto Ltd and Hero MotoCorp, among many others.

Today, it is not uncommon to find consumers in the most developed countries in the world driving around in Made in India vehicles. Yes, a vast majority of these vehicles carry the brand names of US, European, Japanese and South Korean companies but make no mistake – each of these cars has been assembled by Indian technicians in Indian factories and mostly with components that are not only made in India but also designed at R&D labs in that country.

Then, it took an Indian enterprise and billions of dollars of Indian investments to restore and renew the glory of iconic British car maker Jaguar Land Rover and revive its fortunes. Another Indian multinational, Apollo Tyres, too, has recently invested about $500-million in a plant in Hungary, its second in Europe after the one in the Netherlands.

All these examples show that the Indian automobile industry is now fully integrated into the global supply chain – and a source of both components and kits as well as fully assembled vehicles to assembly plants, OEMs and showrooms around the world.

In this issue of ‘India Global Business’, we celebrate the global success of this indigenisation effort with our cover story titled ‘Picking up speed’ not only because it is, arguably, among the most successful Make in India initiatives but also because of the lessons it holds for the Narendra Modi government’s efforts to transform India into a global manufacturing hub, which is a precondition to providing new jobs to the millions of young Indians who enter the country’s workforce every year.

The beginnings were small, mostly unheralded and, as is usual with most path breaking economic initiatives in India, widely criticised for opening up the Indian market to foreign players.

Note the similarities with the Modi government’s efforts to build a domestic defence-industrial base in India and its efforts to position India as a global electronics manufacturing hub.

From those small beginnings in the early 1980s, when a handful of Japanese car and two-wheeler makers set up plants to assemble a few thousand units of their vehicles a year from completely or semi knocked down kits imported from their mother countries, India slowly, and organically, developed a local vendor base to bring down the import component in these vehicles to globally acceptable levels and even developed the knowhow and “know why” to be able to develop not only components but complete cars and bikes within the country.

Today, India makes more than 3 million passenger cars and close to 20 million two-wheelers and exports more than half a million of the former and about 2 million of the latter.

China and before it the South East Asian Tiger Economies all followed this approach when they set out to conquer the world of business at various times in the last century.

India is a late adopter of this approach but, as its success in the automobile sector shows, has the necessary wherewithal, including the scientific base and manufacturing capabilities, to replicate this success in other complex engineering sectors.

There are reports that India is considering issuing licenses for the assembly of F-16 or SAAB Gripen fighter planes in India if their parent companies agree to replicate their domestic eco-system of vendors and developments in India. The same is also happening in the case of submarines and artillery guns and small arms.

These initiatives, too, will have to start with limited initial ambitions. But if they are nurtured well and seen through to their logical end, we could well see Made in India fighter planes flying with NATO and Japanese colours one day and consumers in my home country, the UK, speaking on mobile phones and advancing their careers with computers and tablets assembled by an Indian company in England.

Meanwhile, apart from our in-depth feature on the Indian auto sector, there is a usual wealth of material on India’s global march in the pages ahead of this edition.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Thu, 24 Aug 2017 13:33:56 +0100
Corporate India's governance woes http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6743-corporate-india-s-governance-woes.html http://www.indiaincorporated.com/opinions/item/6743-corporate-india-s-governance-woes.html

Corporate governance needs to be reinforced in India to ensure the most talented managers rise up the corporate ladder, writes India Inc. Founder and CEO Manoj Ladwa.

The sudden and dramatic resignation of Vishal Sikka as CEO and Managing Director of Indian IT bellwether Infosys amid allegations and counter-allegations between the board of directors on the one hand and a section of the founders led by the redoubtable N.R. Narayana Murthy points to serious corporate governance issues even at India’s best managed and iconic companies.

The Infosys saga is almost a déjà vu moment for people like myself, who track India’s economy, politics and corporate scene very closely. A few months ago, another talismanic Indian industrialist came out of retirement to oust the man he had handpicked as his successor. Yes, I’m talking of Tata Group Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata and his ugly spat with Cyrus Mistry.

In a letter to Infosys employees, Mr Sikka said he had resigned with immediate effect as CEO and MD of Infosys as the continuous disruptions and distractions in recent months and quarters – a euphemism for the strident criticism unleashed by company founder and Chairman Emeritus Murthy about a number of issues including Mr Sikka’s compensation, the severance package given to former CFO Rajiv Bansal and disclosures or the lack thereof about allegations over Infosys’ recent acquisition of a company called Panaya – had made it difficult for him to focus on his goal of transforming the company.

In both these cases, the founder(s)/promoter have cited alleged deviations from the corporate governance norms they had set for their respective companies. But it must also be added that, in the absence of proof, their charges of digression from expected standards have led many to wonder if they were tilting at windmills.

The purpose of that rather lengthy introduction was not to discuss the relative merits of these two cases but to use them to point to another issue – that of corporate governance, of which succession planning at the top is, and must be, an integral part.

I’m not qualified to discuss whether Mr Murthy and Mr Tata were right or wrong in doing what they did. That is water under the bridge and mills cannot grind with the water that is past. But I hope these two high profile instances – of iconic founders/promoters clashing with their handpicked successors supposedly in defence of "high principles" – can be the stimulus for the Indian corporate world to adopt stricter governance standards.

Jack Welch was an iconic Chairman of GE. In fact, I would go so far as to say that GE’s present avatar is almost wholly the doing of one man – Welch. But when he hung up his boots and handed over the baton to Jeff Immelt, he didn’t feel the need to keep peering over his successor’s shoulders to see if his legacy was being protected.

In the West, it is fairly common for promoter families to leave the management of their companies entirely in the hands of professionals. It has happened in hundreds of cases. There is no Disney in Walt Disney & Co, no Proctor or Gamble in the company that bears their name, and no Hewlett or Packard in the legendary computer company. Then, Bill Gates’ daughter will almost certainly play no major role in the software company co-founded by her father.

Why, then, are founding families at Indian businesses so loath to give up control? This could, possibly be understood in the era when management control effectively gave promoters with relatively low shareholdings the right to extract often illegal benefits.

But that era is now, hopefully, behind us.

As we take baby steps into what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so evocatively called “new India”, we can strive for a corporate governance structure where management is separated from ownership, so that the best managers rise to the top of the corporate ladder – multiplying, in the process, the wealth of the scions of the founding families of these companies.

I’m happy that this is, indeed, happening in a few instances. No member of the Pai family, for instance, holds any executive position in any company controlled by the Manipal Pai Group. Ditto for the Burman family that controls Dabur. They are still among a minority within Indian business families.

But I’m hopeful that as more stringent corporate governance norms shine the torch of transparency into the inner workings of large and medium Indian companies, their tribe will grow in the years to come.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

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saurabh.indiainc@gmail.com (Saurabh B) GLOBALLY SPEAKING Fri, 18 Aug 2017 14:34:16 +0100