At World Economic Forum, Indian business leaders cautiously optimistic

Written by PTI | Davos | Updated: Jan 26 2014, 02:31am hrs
WEFWorld Economic Forum at Davos is being held against the backdrop of a slow global recovery. PTI
As the World Economic Forum (WEF 2014) annual meet draws to a close, Indian business leaders say their main takeaway would be cautious optimism about their country, even as the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and evolving political scene seemed to dominate India discussions at this global gathering.

This year's World Economic Forum (WEF), which is being held against the backdrop of a slow global recovery, has a large Indian delegation in attendance.

Diversified group Mahindra & Mahindra's senior executive Pawan Goenka said: "There is enough optimism about India. Therefore, I don't think that India story is dead at Davos". "In fact when I talk about India, there is this whole feeling that India has taken a back seat at Davos. But I did not see that," stated Goenka, who is Executive Director & President Automotive & Farm Equipment Sectors at the group.

Discussions about the outcome of upcoming polls and the advent of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were major talking points. Everyone is more positive about economic recovery in different markets and there is an increasingly positive mood

in Davos this year. About India, everyone is waiting for the elections and people are in watch mode," N Chandrasekaran, CEO & MD of India's largest IT firm TCS told PTI.

"What I am telling the Indian ministers here is that they should use platform like Davos to tell the world about their showcase projects that they have delivered," Hinduja Group's Prakash Hinduja said.

According to Hinduja, a noted businessman, there is a perception the Indian government has done little, but that is far from the truth as government has indeed done many things. Global real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle's (JLL) India head Anuj Puri said the mood about India is "something like subdued optimism or dissatisfied optimism". Participating at WEF, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma had said foreign investors continue to remain bullish on India and government's steps to fast track project clearances have given a boost to the growth story.

IT major Tech Mahindra's Executive Vice Chairman Vineet Nayyar said there has been an interesting focus on India. "Growth is being predicted and everyone is making their own assumption on the type of the government that would come

in, but we will have to wait and watch," he said.

Striking a cautious note, he said that there is an element of disappointment about India's growth story. "We have not met our potential. Its not that we have not grown, but our potential and our human capital is so good...we have not been able to catch up in the true sense," he added. Puri, who is JLL India's Chairman and Country Head, said the mood is optimistic, but still there is some kind of dissatisfaction. This is mainly because the business community being largely optimistic about strong fundamentals of the India story, is facing certain hiccups, he added.

"We are getting a sense from the international community that they understand our intent, but want us to show some action. That is the summary we can take away from Davos this year," he said.

Regarding polls, M&M's Goenka said with AAP coming in, the interest has further gone up and what the business community is looking at is to get the best of what AAP can bring in and the best of both the Congress and the BJP as well.

"Obviously these three cannot come together, but if a government can be formed with best qualities of these three, that could be really good for the country and the economy.

"Everyone wants AAP's anti-corruption platform, BJP's pro-reform agenda and decisiveness, and Congress' inclusive growth agenda," Goenka said.

On whether global leaders are asking about the rise of AAP, TCS' Chandrasekaran said: "In my meetings with companies, there have been mostly general talk about Indian politics, but nothing specific about individual parties".

Noting that there is lot of optimism about India, industry chamber CII's Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said people are convinced about the India story.

"There has been a blip in India's growth rate, but still the growth has been decent. There has been a talk about elections, but that is understandable given the importance

India has got among the global communities," he added.

Prominent banker Uday Kotak said the Indian story is looking better this year, but nowhere near the exuberance seen a few years ago at the WEF.