After top American CEOs pulled no punches about the “obstacles” in ease of doing business in India, prime minister Narendra Modi promised to fast-track the decision-making process, acknowledging that “the world is not going to wait for us”.
At a dinner hosted by Fortune magazine on Thursday (24), where 42 heads of manufacturing and infrastructure sectors were not “shy” in referring to a host of obstacles, Modi asked them to take advantage of the huge opportunities of investing in India.
“Please continue to do more of what you are doing, may be slightly faster,” CEOs of American companies with a collective networth of $4.5 trillion (£3tr), told the prime minister.
Fortune editor Alan Murray, who moderated the discussion, said issues of complicated regulations, excessive permit requirements, confusing bureaucracy, poor infrastructure and overlapping local taxes were raised by the business leaders, who urged Modi to “pick up the pace of change”.
They praised his efforts to improve the climate for business, while highlighting the obstacles. One of them said, “It is not an easy place to do business.”
Modi acknowledged their concerns and pledged to speed up efforts to reduce the role of the government in business, Murray added.
“The world is not going to wait for us. I know that,” Modi said, according to a statement issued by Murray.
“The high turnout of the CEOs highlights the prime position India holds in today’s global economy. With China slowing, India’s 7.5 per cent growth rate makes it the fastest growing major economy in the world today and many of the CEOs cited plans to expand there,” Murray added.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters after the meeting, “By and large the mood was very upbeat. There is general consensus that the prime minister is effecting change in India. The only thing all the CEOs said is that please make that change faster.”
The business leaders present at the meeting included Lockheed Martin chairman and CEO Marillyn Hewson, Ford president and CEO Mark Fields, IBM chairman Ginni Rometty, PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi and Dow Chemical chairman Andrew Liveris.
Inviting the US companies to set up manufacturing units in India, Modi told them, “Reform in governance is my No 1 priority. We are for simplified procedures, speedy decision making, transparency and accountability.”
He also listed the sectors that have been opened up in India for investment, adding, “FDI [foreign direct investment] all over the world has fallen, but in India it has increased by 40 per cent.”
“This reflects confidence in the Indian economy,” Modi said.
Meanwhile, media baron Rupert Murdoch on Friday described the time spent with Modi in New York as a “great hour” during which they discussed the role the media and entertainment industry could play in the development and generation of employment opportunities in India.
“Great hour with Indian PM Modi. Best leader with best policies since independence, but massive task to achieve in most complex nation,” the 84-year-old business magnate said in a tweet.
Modi on Thursday held a meeting with the leaders of the US media and entertainment sector, including News Corp’s Murdoch, Sony Entertainment’s Michael Lynton, and David Zaslav of Discovery Communications.
They said they were enthusiastic about the digital transformation that is taking place in India through the ‘Digital India’ initiative, an official statement said.