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Indian biz needs govt support to counter China abroad: Sunil Mittal

November 10, 2014 16:40 IST

Sunil MittalIndian companies will need active help from the new government in expanding overseas, but such support has been lacking in the past as against China which has always put its might behind its enterprises, leading industrialist Sunil Bharti Mittal said on Monday.

"We are facing might of Chinese state wherever we go abroad," said Mittal, who heads telecom-to-retail conglomerate Bharti group.

Sharing his experiences from the past, Mittal said when his company ventured into Sri Lanka, the government there was expecting assistance of $100 million for a project.

"I conveyed it in Ministry of External Affairs and officers in Prime Minister Office but nothing moved after that. I could only convey. Few months after that, China doled out cheque of $1 billion to Sri Lanka which helped its companies," Mittal said at the India Global Forum in New Delhi.

He said Indian companies started venturing abroad and investing big after Tata acquired European steel firm Corus in 2006 and soon it was followed by acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover.

"Indian companies are making big investments abroad.

“Some of them are extremely successful, some moderate and some are in the process.

In Africa, I have seen good amount of goodwill for India. Though we cannot match the amount of money they (China) commit in Africa but government can support Indian businesses there," Mittal said.

Airtel acquired African telecom operator Zain in 2010 for $10.7 billion.

The telecom major operates in 17 African countries but is yet to register profit.

At the same event, Wockhardt Chairman and Group CEO Habil Khorakiwala said that Indian companies have brought down price of HIV drugs by about 98 per cent in Africa which was earlier unaffordable for people there.

Mittal said positive changes are taking place under the new government but more needs to be done.        

"PM (Narendra Modi) is now making bold moves overseas. He asked us to introduce ourself in Japan," Mittal said.

But unlike foreign businessmen who are made part of delegation when their ministers visit overseas, Indian businessmen are given a badge which says "coinciding with visit of Prime Minister", he added.

"I have asked senior officials to at least make 'accompanying' if not call it delegates. We deserve some respect," Mittal said.

Bharti Enterprise chairman recalled a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin where Russian conglomerate Sistema's chairman Yevtushenkov was present during the meeting between heads of the two states.

Mittal said, "A PMO official after the meeting asked me who is Yevtushenkov and said Putin was asking PM why don't you give a telecom licence to him.

"I said you should have taken me along with you and I could have also asked for licence in Russia."

Indian businesses can play key role in helping the government build good relationship overseas but states also need to support them, he said.

US companies like Google, Facebook, Apple get tremendous support from their governments, he added.

Image: Sunil Mittal; Photograph: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

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