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India Tries to Drum Up Investment

  • Anjana Pasricha

FILE - India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks at an Economist conference in New Delhi, India, Sept. 9, 2015.

FILE - India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks at an Economist conference in New Delhi, India, Sept. 9, 2015.

From the financial hubs of East Asia to Silicon Valley in the United States, India is pushing to drum up investment, pointing out that unlike other emerging economies its growth momentum has not slackened.

On a four-day visit to Singapore and Hong Kong that wrapped up Monday, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said that many global trends such as falling commodity prices and declining exports would impact India less than the rest of the world.

“Our parameters are fairly stable, our fiscal discipline has been restored, comparatively our currency has been more stable than currencies elsewhere in the world. We have opened up most sectors of the economy.”

Charming investors

Despite attempts to woo global businesses by the 15-month old government, investment has not picked up, as investors fret about the slow pace of reforms.

But hoping the slowdown in several emerging economies will put India on the map as an investment destination, its leaders are pointing to several forecasts that say it will be the fastest-growing major economy during the next two years. Jaitley told foreign investors in Hong Kong that growth this year will top last year’s 7.3 percent.

The Singapore-based managing director of Frontier Strategy Group, a research firm that advises multinational companies, Bhavya Sehgal, said many global firms are expanding their portfolios in India, attracted not just by the growing economy, but also the rapid urbanization in the country of 1.2 billion people.

“If I am comparing India with let’s say Brazil, or Russia, or China, or Indonesia or anything else in Africa, India will continue to be the fastest growing country, with a reasonably large GDP base as well,” Sehgal said. “Which obviously is putting a lot of pressure on heads of APAC [Asia Pacific]. From [that] standpoint, why are we not investing more?”

Hub for digital industry

While Finance Minister Jaitley focused on winning investment in East Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will try to position India as a new hub for the digital industry when he visits California later this week.

Modi hopes to capitalize on the close connections between India and Silicon Valley, which is home to many Indian techies and where Indian-origin executives have risen to prominence.

The Indian prime minister will attend a town-hall style event with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg. Among others, he will meet the CEO of Apple and three Indian-born CEOs of tech companies: Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen.

Officials say Modi hopes to take his pro-business message to technology firms that want to invest in India for a campaign he has launched called “Digital India”.

It aims to expand Internet access, boost electronic manufacturing and develop apps to improve delivery of government services. He also wants U.S. technology hardware firms to invest more in manufacturing facilities in India.

Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to visit Silicon Valley in more than three decades.