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5 reasons why Modi is India's most successful CEO

By Dr Sudhir Bisht
Last updated on: January 06, 2018 08:04 IST
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'A CEO is successful if he is able to retain the confidence of his shareholders. And the shareholders of India Inc have backed their prime minister-CEO to the hilt,' says Sudhir Bisht. 

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi exchanges new year greetings with PMO officials and SPG personnel at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi, January 2, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo, my favourite Web site, recently published Aakar Patel's column in which he put forth his view that 'had Modi been a CEO, he would be fired'.

Mr Patel went on to say that while the world economy is booming, India's growth rate had declined under Modi, for which he puts the blame squarely on 'eccentric actions like demonetisation'.

I have no quarrel with Mr Patel's wishful thinking. But I would also like to say that, billi ke sar pe cheeka nahi phoot tha (the cat may curse the pot of buttermilk hung high up, but that doesn't make the pot fall down and break).


As someone who understands the basic tenets of business without being an economist, I am aware that GDP growth under Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime had touched 8.4% when the National Democratic Alliance was mauled in the 2004 general election.

Why did the shareholders of India Inc, the electorate of India, issue a pink slip to Vajpayee's party despite the growth?

Because the shareholders in a democracy, as in the case of shareholders of business enterprises, don't look into just the immediate past of the CEO whom they elect.

The electorate sent home the BJP as it found its CEO-PM candidate uninspiring, tired and jaded.

They rejected the man who was projected as the PM by the then ruling BJP.

I quote from an earlier article by Nagesh Jadhav that says, 'When the NDA left, the GDP figure had touched 8.4 per cent, which showed that the growth-oriented policies and reforms initiated by the NDA had started bearing fruit. It is clearly visible that the GDP remained at an average of 8.5 per cent during UPA-I but by the time UPA-II started winding up, the GDP figures sharply declined from 9.4 per cent in 2010 to 4.5 per cent in 2013, down more than 50 per cent.'

Does it mean the electorate voted out UPA-II because the GDP growth rate had begun to decline? Not by any chance.

The shareholders of India in 2014 voted against an alliance that they perceived as corrupt, static and led by many horses, each of whom was pulling in different directions.

Let me make a political observation here. It is about the vision in the jaundiced eye of Prime Minister Narendra D Modi's opponents.

Even if the GDP growth rate had been a terrific 8% in the last three quarters, the critics would have said it could have been much higher.

And even if the GDP growth in the last three quarters were to be 12%, Narendra D Modi's critics would have said that GDP growth is worthless if it doesn't create crores and crores of new jobs!

And even if Modi's government had created an astonishing number of jobs, the critics would have said that GDP growth rate and job creation were meaningless since the economic dividend was not distributed equally among all sections of society.

Let me now come to the business and political streams of life.

Just as the primary reason for a business is to add value, serve the customers and make profits for the shareholders, the primary reason for politics is to serve the masses of the country and in the process ensure that the political party is voted back to power.

It would be foolish to say that political parties exist only for serving the nation. That indeed is the mission of political life, but the single biggest objective of every organism, and organisation, is first, to survive, and thereafter to think of thriving.

Just as the board of directors of every company seek accountability from the CEO, the elected MPs seek accountability from their leader.

Now there may be a CEO who may be responsible for the success of the company and thus in reality the board may be a little obsequious to the CEO. Similarly, most BJP MPs may be aware that PM Modi remains their most winnable captain and hence may be reverential to him.

Have you ever heard of an obsequious board sacking the CEO? So Mr Aakar Patel's contention that Modi, the CEO, would have been sacked is preposterous, to say the least.

I now list five reasons to substantiate my claim that Narendra D Modi is the greatest CEO India has ever had, at least in recent memory.

1. Modi has a vision for India and the courage to take risks for future gains.

The first and foremost task of a great board and its great CEO is to build a strategic plan for the organisation. A good board aims at future growth that may appear impossible to achieve for ordinary men and women. But a thinking board knows that what may look impossible may be achieved by a great CEO with a winning team.

The great company, ITC Limited, has a strategic plan to reach Rs 1 trillion in revenue from its non-cigarette business by 2030. And this plan was announced by ITC in 2017.

Narendra D Modi is the first prime minister to announce a plan for India of 2022, and has spelt out an eight-point development model.

He never talks about vision 2019 (the year of the next general election), but always emphasises long-term plans.

His mission for housing for the poor is named, 'Housing for all by 2022'.

His 'Make India open defecation free by 2019' mission was made after he became prime minister, and this shows his commitment to planning and announcing the definitive date of achievement of those plans. This makes his ambitious plans open for public and media scrutiny.

When was the last time we heard a prime minister of our country set a target dates for his government's missions so boldly and confidently?

Just as a great CEO is open to taking risks to achieve long term gains, Modi took the biggest risk of enforcing demonetisation in November 2016. His action was criticised as organised loot and plunder by former PM Manmohan Singh.

While it is clear that the electorate has fully backed up PM Modi's demonetisation, the jury is still out on its overall impact on the medium-term economy. But the poor and middle class sections have voted for Modi's bold move.

A Delhi school teacher -- an intransigent critic of the BJP who says he suffered during demonetisation, and yet he applauds Modi for the move -- told me, "It is crystal clear that post demonetisation, the realty sector has fallen considerably and made buying of homes affordable to many, many Indians."

"The realty sector is the main melting pot where the unaccounted money gets amalgamated in the mainstream economy," the teacher pointed out. "A big hit to this sector clearly means that the corrupt are finding it hard to safeguard their ill-gotten cash."

Another bold step taken by Modi was to insist upon linking Aadhar and PAN cards with bank accounts.

The main objective is to keep a trail of all transactions and ensure that tax defaulters are identified and taxed appropriately.

This has perturbed people who don't want anything to interrupt their daily lives, yet it is only the politicians who are grunting about it.

The people at large are taking these interruptions in their stride and this is evident in the election victories of the ruling party.

2. Narendra D Modi is the biggest reformist CEO-PM India has had.

From being a vociferous opponent of the goods and services tax when he was Gujarat CM, PM Modi has successfully implemented GST across India.

There is no doubt it led to hardships to micro and small enterprises that were used to paying no taxes. But no one can deny that that GST is one of the biggest reforms to have been implemented in India in recent times.

The GST mechanism will ensure that most transactions are done using an invoice and this will help in establishing a trail of all transactions.

Modi faced tremendous opposition from the Opposition as well as from conservative groups in his own party and yet he streamrolled them all and implemented it.

The implementation is far from smooth, but the fact is that if one waits for the right magical moment to kick-start a reform process, the status quo will never be overcome.

It is evident in the electoral victory in Gujarat, in places like Surat that houses thousands of small businesses, that Modi has been able to successfully sell the idea of GST to India.

3. Narendra D Modi leads from the front and revels in challenges.

The PM hasn't taken a single day off yet and he maintains a punishing schedule for himself and his team.

Even though I am personally not very supportive of the idea of 'all-work-and-no-play', Modi understands that to achieve substantive results, he and his team may be a bit short on time.

He has motivated his team to push the Budget a month ahead of the usual last day of February.

He has also been trying to change the financial year that typically starts on April 1 and ends on March 31 to January 1 to December 31.

These are all breaks from tradition and he and his finance minister have taken it upon themselves to push for such changes, with or without building a consensus.

And Narendra D Modi has been leading his party too from the front.

He has campaigned untiringly and ungrudgingly in all state assembly elections and is the single biggest factor in ensuring that his party won most elections in recent times.

The electorate of India is much in awe of their CEO who personally contributes to the cause of the nation's development.

4. Narendra D Modi takes full responsibility for his government.

Readers may recall that then prime minister Manmohan Singh sought to lay blame on the acts of commissions and omissions of his ministers at their doorstep. He often referred to coalition compulsions and stuff like that, but Modi makes no such excuses.

He doesn't leave his defence minister to handle the Doklam issue alone. He gets actively involved in matters of the nation's security.

Similarly, he didn't leave his finance minister to fight the bad press and negative sentiments by himself after he announced demonetisation.

He took full responsibility and spoke to the people himself, even shedding tears in his public address, telling the people that he had put his own reputation as a doer on the line and that he was determined to sort out all issues.

5. Narendra D Modi fully knows what the shareholders of India want and has a clear vision of it.

He knows that his electorate isn't bothered about GDP growth. In fact, he is fully aware that most of them don't even know what GDP is.

And he knows that a poverty-stricken lactating mother's eyes will light up if she gets an allowance of Rs 6,000 from the pregnancy aid scheme that was passed by the Union Cabinet last year.

GDP, its growth and its implications have no meaning for any of the 3.2 crores households who received a free LPG connection under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

A CEO is successful if he is able to retain the confidence of his shareholders. And the shareholders of India Inc have backed their prime minister-CEO to the hilt.

The five points that I mentioned clearly prove that Narendra D Modi is the CEO who the MPs will continue to choose and the electorate would continue to vote for.

If he were the CEO of a corporate entity, he would have continued to enjoy the full confidence of all the stakeholders.

In the end I will address the issue raised by Mr Aakar Patel about the decline in India's growth rate.

Mr Patel should know that corporate India doesn't sack CEOs for to a minor dip in growth here and there.

If that was the case then many top companies would have seen the sackings of CEOs after every three or four quarters.

CEOs of the Flipkarts and Amazons and the Olas and Ubers of the corporate world have made huge losses over many quarters. None of them was sacked due to a slowdown in one quarter or two quarters or even four.

A CEO is elected with the mandate to perform over several years. It would be short-sighted on the part of the shareholders to give a short shrift to the CEO over a planned slowdown.

The slowdown after demonetisation was anticipated, though not announced. This is another great quality of this CEO.

He knows that a transformative measure may cause some disruptions. He does his best to minimise the effect of short-term disruptions and doesn't create panic among stakeholders.

I have no hesitation in telling Mr Aakar Patel that NaMo is a transformative and visionary CEO prime minister of India.

Sudhir Bisht, PhD, Delhi-based author and columnist, tweets at @sudhir_bisht

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