NEW YORK: As top American CEOs held no punches about the “obstacles” in ease of doing business in India, Prime Minister Narendra 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 where 42 CEOs of manufacturing and infrastructure sectors were not “shy” in referring to a host of obstacles, he 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 USD 4.5 trillion, told the Prime Minister.
Fortune editor Alan Murray, who moderated the discussion, said complicated regulations, excessive permitting, confusing bureaucracy, poor infrastructure and overlapping local taxes were raised by the CEOs who urged the Prime Minister to “pick up the pace of change”.
They praised the Prime Minister’s efforts to improve the climate for business, while highlighting the obstacles. One of them said, “It is not an easy place to do business.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged their concerns and pledged to speed up efforts to reduce the role of the government in business.
“The world is not going to wait for us. I know that,” Modi said, according to a newsletter 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 CEOs present at the meeting included Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Marillyn Hewson, Ford president and CEO Mark Fields, IBM chairman Ginni Rometty, Pepsi Co chief Indra Nooyi and Dow Chemical Chairman Andrew Liveris.
During the ‘Roundtable with American Inc’, the Prime Minister listened to each one of the CEOs present in the room about their concerns and plans for India and how these issues can be resolved, he said.
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 and said that “FDI 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 while interacting with the CEOs from the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors.
Briefing reporters about the day-long interactions that the Prime Minister had with the corporate world, Indian Ambassador to the US Arun K Singh said there were some suggestions made about “additional steps that can be taken in terms of ease of doing business”.
“Those are things that the government would assess,” he added.