Goods to be shifted in India from ’13 days to 13 hours’.
By Raif Karerat
WASHINGTON, DC: Indian officials and representatives from American big business discussed the key pillars of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” campaign and what it may entail for the future of India’s economy, at an event hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Indian Embassy, in Washington DC, on Tuesday.
Amitabh Kant, Secretary of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) within the Indian government’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, went to great lengths to specify the key pillars of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. The points he distinctly underscored were: ease of doing business; enabling manufacturing through industrial corridors, infrastructure development and smart cities; opening up of FDI in key sectors such as construction, defense, railways, medical devices etc, as well as genuine commitment from the government to usher in growth.
Kant stated the most crucial challenge faced by India today is “to grow at a very rapid rates of nine to ten percent per annum, year after year… for the next three decades or more,” and explained that India intend to use technology to “leapfrog” in terms of industrial growth.
To illustrate his point, Kant painted a picture of India today, where goods produced in the northern part of the country take about 13 to 14 days to reach ports on the western coast. He then leaped into the future, stating that by 2017 India will have its own dedicated, high-speed freight train corridor that will transport goods to the western ports in 13 hours. Secretary Kant noted the radical “paradigm shift of 13 days to 13 hours.”
Kant also stated that India and the United States need to partner “on the basis of merit and innovation,” insisting “that’s the way forward.” He broke it down in terms of numbers, explaining that the combined GDPs of India and the U.S. amount to double that of China’s. Furthermore, in terms of purchasing power parity, “the GDP of India and America is 45 percent more than that of China.”
Kant repeatedly emphasized cooperation over competition, but was also bullish about India’s commercial ambitions. The Secretary name-dropped Indian companies such as Flipkart and Snapdeal, which he mentioned as challengers to the dominance of American business.
“The Amazons of the world are being taken on by young Indian entrepreneurs,” he stated.
In his keynote address, Dr. S. Jaishankar, Ambassador of India to the United States,
lauded the “strength of purpose and intent” of the new Indian government and also highlighted the new optimism in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship.
Arun Kumar, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service at the U.S. Department of Commerce, echoed Jaishankar’s positivity but had a bit more to add. “In India, there is clearly a mood of optimism in the air — combined with impatience,” he said.
Kumar then pondered how the U.S. and India could move forward together and enhance both nations’ respective economies: “How do you turn 100 billion in bilateral trade into 500 billion,” he wondered aloud.
Kumar answered his own question by delving into the various initiatives already undertaken by the U.S. Department of Commerce in collaboration with the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ program. In particular, he reiterated the U.S.’ willingness to share industrial protocols with India, through programs such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Network.
The second panel shifted the focus to corporate America’s experience in regards to manufacturing in India and featured U.S. industry representatives.
Ziad S. Ojakli, Group Vice President of Government and Community Relations at the Ford Motor Company, began by emphasizing how much the industrial landscape has changed in India. He said that while Ford has been in the country since 1926, the last 20 years have seen significantly accelerated growth.
“The state of manufacturing in India is only growing stronger,” Ojakli said, taking care to emphasize Ford’s new production plant in Sanand, Gujarat, which, if utilized to capacity, could potentially be Ford’s highest-output manufacturing facility in the world.
Ojakli also laid out two items that are needed to take Indian manufacturing to the next level: the need for more efficient partnering between federal and state governments, as well as the stability of regulatory stability. Essentially, American businesses looking to set up operations in India want to know that “policies won’t change overnight.”
Del Renigar, General Electric’s Senior Counsel for Global Government Affairs & Policy, reiterated the need for better infrastructure and less bureaucracy. He then proceeded to quote Modi, saying, “Investors deserve the red carpet, not the red tape.”
The second panel was rounded out by Stanley Roth, Vice President of International Government Relations at Boeing, who said Boeing recognizes India “wants to move on with indigenization of industry and wants to help.”
He did list some constraints and limitations that Boeing would like to see addressed, such as timeliness on the part of Indian authorities when responding to foreign businesses. As Roth explicated, American and Indian interests are both jeopardized when programs sit pending for several years after initial contracts are finalized.”Help us help you,” he said, addressing the Modi government.
The panels were moderated by Kapil Sharma, who is Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Wipro and a member of the CII-India Business Forum, along with Richard Rossow, who serves as a senior fellow and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
CII’s director of operations in the U.S. and Canada, Sumani Dash, in an interview to The American Bazaar said 170 guests were present for the meet, more than they were expecting. She also stated the CII was “very thrilled” by the manner in which the evening unfolded.
“There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm about what’s going on in India, so as many folks as we can get who are genuinely interested in Indian growth — we’re happy to have them,” said Dash.