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Advantage India, but more work needed

December 06, 2007 11:41 IST

The India Economic Summit ended on a reflective note with speakers sharply articulating all that was wrong with India, but many pointing out that there was a lot that was right with India too.

Speaking at the session on "Big Bets on Future Centres of Excellence", Ashok Leyland MD R Seshasayee, for instance said that despite an unstable policy architecture, the Indian automobile industry, not knowing where emission levels would settle, simply fixed the highest benchmark and got on with the job of producing cars and trucks, managing to make a very good job of producing cars, especially small cars.

Orit Gadiesh, Chairman, Bain & Company, USA and the chair of the session "Acquisitive India: An M& A Scorecard" said the spate of mergers and acquisitions from the Asia Pacific region saw Indian companies leading the way.

They had become globally competitive and represented global quality standards, she said. Speaking in the same session, Vijay Mallya, Group Chairman, UB Group, India, said if like the UB Group, a company believed in the market leadership mode, India was the place to do business because the limits of the market were elastic and consolidation made sense.

This, he said tended to have a catalyzing effect on the whole industry -  the airline industry in India was not doing so well two years ago. But after consolidation began, it has been growing at more than 40 per cent for the last two years.

But there is still a lot that is going wrong, speakers felt. Speaking in the session "Redefining "Made in India": Centres of Excellence in Creative Industries", Michelle Guthrie, Managing Director, Asia Providence Fund, Hong Kong SAR  warned about the corporatisation of creativity in India and the risk of losing creative element in the product.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon India, in the discussion on Global Healthcare: Tapping into India's Centres of Excellence, said that while huge cost differential in developing drugs between developed and developing countries provides the Indian pharmaceutical industry an opportunity to develop drugs in the domestic market, affordable health care was a big issue, given income levels (Rs 20 per head spending on health).

There were some constructive suggestions from hands-on players who described where it hurt most to do business in India. Shivinder Mohan Singh, CEO and Managing Director, Fortis Healthcare, India suggested subsidies for private players to improve the access to healthcare especially for the poor in rural areas.

Sunita Reddy, Executive Director (Finance) Apollo Hospital said there was need to innovate to deal with rising cost of real estate. Medical tourism, she suggested, could subsidize costs of medical care for general patients.

But all is not lost, said Seshasayee.  Who could have predicted 20 years ago, he said that India would become a world leader in wind energy?

Ranjit Shahani, President and Managing Director, Novartis India, said that innovation was crucial in improving access to modern medicine, as two-third of population had no access to modern medicine and the cost of providing medicine was going up and getting approvals getting tougher day by day.

While Government and its interference came in for all round condemnation, in their defence, political leaders used the word "democracy" on an average at least thrice in their presentations to justify controls.

Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar used the word five times during his presentation in the session Tech Sector Growth: Victim of Its Own Success?, Minister of Civil Aviation Praful Patel used the word thrice.

At least one questioner suggested that just as a Ministry of Information technology was irrelevant as the greatest challenge facing the IT industry was the rupee, why did a civil industries ministry continue to exist if there was a regulator in place? Democracy, answered Praful Patel succinctly.

BS Reporter in New Delhi
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