Ten Most Significant Changes in India in the Last Decade

Forbes documents the top ten most significant changes that India has witnessed from 2010 to 2017. Read a lightly edited summary of these below:

1) Emerging as one of the largest economies

The recent economic expansion noted in India has brought a record number of people out of poverty. A growing middle class fuels its impressive consumer growth. Today, India is the world’s third largest market for smart phones and the sixth largest for cars; its software industry employs more than four million people directly and more than ten million indirectly.

With almost fifty percent of India’s population under the age of twenty-six, the country faces the challenge of finding jobs for one million citizens who enter the employment market every month.

2) Gaining diplomatic clout

With economic prosperity, India gained strategic importance. India’s Civil Nuclear Treaty with the U.S. in 2008 ushered India into the global nuclear elite. For the last three years, India has given more aid than it has received, with neighbors Bhutan, Afghanistan and Nepal topping the list of recipients. All of this has added up to give India much more power in diplomatic negotiations.

The current Indian government is the first one to consistently conduct diplomacy in the language of international business. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has undertaken more than 70 foreign trips since taking office in May 2014. Given his focus on trade and investment, Modi is widely promoting the fact that India jumped 30 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business list for 2018 to the 100th place.

3) Evolving federalism

Cooperative federalism of India’s 29 states has now morphed into a competitive federalism in which states – many with the populations of large countries – vie with each other for investment. Foreign investors need to assess the political and regulatory scenarios at both the federal and state levels and pay attention to the state-wise ease of doing business rankings that are published every year.

In the middle of 2017, India replaced dozens of state and federal taxes with a national one, called the Goods and Services Tax or GST. The federal government created a more unified national market which is expected to lead to greater efficiencies and a more attractive business environment.

4) Fighting corruption and “black” money

Prime Minister Modi’s government was elected on an anti-corruption manifesto, and in November 2016, Modi announced the immediate withdrawal of two high-value currency notes. In one stunning move, 86% of the currency was sucked out of circulation, to be gradually replaced by new bills. The declared aim of the move was to fight black money and counterfeiting.

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, has recently been bolstered by an expanded Enforcement Directorate, the federal agency tasked with fighting money laundering. Between April and August of 2017, the Enforcement Directorate and the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the stock market regulator, acted against at least 331 fake companies and 100 brokerages charged with facilitating money laundering. This government has implemented Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric identification system, to root out duplication of identities and safeguard welfare plans from corruption-related leakages. Aadhaar was conceived during the previous government of Dr. Manmohan Singh but Modi’s team has fully embraced its power.

5) Forging a stricter compliance regime

The Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, has been given more power in 2017 to act against loan defaulter. The Companies Act of 2013, despite many problems, also brought clearer accountability to corporate anti-corruption and anti-fraud measures.

6) Emergence of the modern Indian  and Indian led multinational

Indian business groups began to extend their international footprint in this decade – India’s Tata Group bought Britain’s Corus Steel for $13 billion in January 2007. The next month, the Aditya Birla Group, announced the acquisition of Canada’s Novelis for $6 billion. The year after that, Tata Motors bought the Jaguar Land Rover car businesses from Ford Motor for $2.3 billion. These acquisitions have helped change the culture of corporate India, embedding international best practices in some of India’s top companies. During the same period, executives of Indian origin were appointed to lead Pepsico, Google. Adobe, Microsoft, Deutsche Bank and Reckitt Benckiser.

7) Tilting to the political right

India’s growing right-wing nationalism concerns business leaders who feel that a sense of nationalism is in the way of business decisions and policies. As the most populous democracy in the world heads towards another national election in the first half of 2019, this position is unlikely to soften anytime soon (“according to Forbes”)

8) Growing wealth of “godmen”

The fastest growing consumer company in the country today is Patanjali, which was founded just a decade ago by Baba Ramdev, a yoga evangelist whose religious sermons on his own television channel are watched by tens of millions every day. His diet-biscuit-to-dish-washer company is now a $1.6 billion behemoth whose success has forced several multinational giants to rethink their market strategies.

9) Changing security challenges

In  the November 2008 terrorist attacks, when Pakistani terrorists attacked four locations across Mumbai, India resolved to fight terrorism in a more coordinated way.

10) Leaping into a digital future

The Modi government has launched Digital India, a campaign to improve the country’s digital infrastructure and offer more government services online. Many Indian companies are leveraging artificial intelligence, data analytics and machine learning to disrupt their markets and deliver a competitive edge.

Indian flag

December 5, 2017   No Comments

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 Growing Robustly Says World Bank’s Kim

Predicting a strong global growth this year, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said India has been growing “pretty robustly”.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum meeting in New York, Kim said, “A country like India is growing, has been growing pretty robustly. We think, Japan is growing. Europe is growing in a much more healthy way. The United States continues to grow. There is a leveling-out in developing countries.” In June, the World Bank predicted a 7.2% growth rate for India this year against 6.8% growth in 2016.

Economy chart

“Dormant capital will earn a higher return, where developing countries will have access to much more capital for the infrastructure needs, even for investing in health and education, investing in resilience to climate change and other factors,” he added.

He said in terms of indebtedness, the bank was watching very carefully the debt-to-GDP ratios of every single country, reports the Hindustan Times.

October 2, 2017   No Comments

India Launches National Pharma Mission

The Government of India launched the National Pharma Mission for the development of bio pharmaceuticals through industry-academia collaboration. This program will focus on the development of specific products such as vaccines, biotherapeutics, and newer platform technologies for medical devices and diagnostics.

Funded by India’s central government and through a loan from the World Bank, the Mission will be implemented by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a unit of the  Department of Biotechnology. Renu Swarup, managing director of BIRAC said, “This mission is not for new discovery, but for creating infrastructure to move important early leads, which are in different stages, through the pipeline, and create products.”

Research

The National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-2020 announced by the Department of Biotechnology lays emphasis on making India ready to meet the challenge of achieving a $100 billion biotech industry by 2025, reports the Indian Express.

June 8, 2017   No Comments

World Bank Expects India’s Growth at 7.2% in 2017

A World Bank report said that after a modest setback, India’s economic growth is expected to pick up speed from 6.8% in 2016 to 7.2% by 2017. Further, growth is expected to gather momentum by 2019 when the Indian economy is expected to expand by 7.7%.

World Bank Logo

The report also confirmed that South Asia remains the fastest-growing region in the world, gradually increasing its lead relative to East Asia. Regional GDP growth is expected to rise from 6.7% in 2016 to 6.8% in 2017, and 7.1% in 2018, reports the Times of India.

April 24, 2017   No Comments