f o r    m a n a g i n g    t o m o r r o w
JANUARY 14, 2007
 Letter From
 Message From
The Prime Minister
 Editor's Letter
 The Great Indian
M iddle Class
 India'S Poor
 The Next 15 Years

Flying High
The Indian aviation industry is growing at a rapid pace, thanks to air transport deregulation, emergence of new operators, lower fares and large untapped demand for air travel. The numbers tell an interesting story: India will require an estimated 1,100 aircraft. The average annual passenger traffic growth in India through 2025 is estimated at 7.7 per cent, well above the world average of 4.8 per cent and China's 7.2 per cent.

Bars Of Gold
The global gold industry is flourishing, largely fuelled by Asian demand and a weak US dollar. The boom is probably only halfway through since prices bottomed out in 2000. Since 1800, the boom and bust cycles have averaged about 10 years. While production is down, the value of gold purchased today is up 47 per cent from a year ago. The super-cycle of high metal prices is seen to be spurred largely by demand from China and India. An analysis.
More Net Specials
Business Today,  December 31, 2006

Dare To Dream Big And Do It;
The World Is Yours


Two decades ago our economy was insular. Today, we have grabbed the world's attention and imagination

India is in the midst of a great transformation, almost epochal in scope. The diffidence, complexes and hesitancy of the past are being shed, and, I daresay, a new-found sense of confidence seems to be taking root. Two decades ago our economy was insular, cut off from the rest of the world. Today, we have grabbed the world's attention and imagination. Every major global corporation-be it IBM, GM, GE, Siemens, Microsoft or Honda-gives highest priority to its India strategy. For global portfolio managers, India has become a distinct asset class-we now have capital flows from regions such as Korea and Japan, the Scandinavian countries and West Asia, in addition to the traditional institutional investors from the us and Europe. Indian business has carved out a niche in the world economy. And this can only grow in stature and significance.

We were fortunate to have sensed the shifts in the global tides and the beginning of a new and open world, and began changing our mindsets and attitudes to be able to capitalise on the new opportunities. India's staggering potential and the richness of its endowments-be it by way of its people, its culture, its accomplishments, its democracy, its religions, its diversity-are now grasped by a world that not too long ago gave it just a passing glance, and mistook the diversity and the size of our population as drawbacks.

Many deserve credit for getting India back in the stream of global consciousness. We have been fortunate to have had a political system that has supported the bold steps required to change and reform. Successive governments have maintained the continuity and consistency of policy.

Many of today's large businesses were born after 1991, and their success is testimony to the catalytic role that reforms have played. While this is not the place to provide a comprehensive summary of all that has been achieved in these past 15 years, it is appropriate to reiterate certain quantum and impressive changes. An outward looking India's trade to GDP ratio is close to 40 per cent today, thrice as much as what it was 15 years ago. Our foreign exchange stock, which triggered reforms in the first place, is among the five highest in the world. There is even talk of Indian currency becoming a reserve currency for a few nations. Indians have gotten used to the strengthening of the rupee against international currencies, an unprecedented phenomenon since India's independence. Whether it is trade, finance and banking or across industries, there is a sea change in the operating environment, in outlook, in optimism and in the mindsets. Of course, India wasn't the only country undergoing change. The whole world changed dramatically, too. Apparently, the idea of globalisation is now entrenched and cuts across all political lines and most countries.

Today, we are the fourth largest economy in the world in purchasing power parity, the third largest in Asia and the second largest among the emerging nations. India is its people. The contributions made by our engineers, scientists, and doctors are legion. So, are the achievements of the Indian diaspora, whose footprints-and imprint-cut across every country and in every field. A number of Indians are at the top of leading global corporations-at McKinsey, Citibank, Pepsi, Vodaphone, to name just a few. They are more than proportionately represented in leading research laboratories and university faculties in the developed countries. The world, it would seem, is rediscovering India where Columbus left off.

Generalists will give way to specialists. The lines between business and government enterprises may become blurred

That said, our global success far transcends Indians as individuals. If I have to put my finger on one of the key drivers of India's emergence as a global player, it would undoubtedly be the entrepreneurship displayed by Indian corporates. It has been nothing short of breathtaking, in the way they have risen to the challenge of fierce global competition and limited resources. Our technological creativity is well recognised. In areas such as information technology, pharmaceuticals and auto ancillaries, we have developed formidable competencies and competitive advantages, which have catapulted us into a position of global leadership.

We are well on the path of replicating that success in a number of other sectors-metals and textiles, for instance. Whereas, some years ago, Indian companies may have sensed the threat of being acquisition targets, today it is often the reverse-it is Indian companies that are starting on an acquisition spree of units overseas. In certain new-age businesses-BPO and KPO, for instance-Indian companies have been pioneers in changing the way corporations abroad operate.

In its report on "The New Global Challengers (2006)", the Boston Consulting Group surveyed a sample of hundred leading companies from Rapidly Developing Economies. Of these, 21 companies belong to India, representing a broad spectrum of industries from services to manufacturing, from auto-ancillaries to pharmaceuticals, from it to oil and gas, from engineering services to metals, and to foods and beverages. Leaders on their home turf, these companies realise that to grow further, create value and sustain long-term competitiveness, the world must be their oyster.

Quite a few Indian business groups have made a mark globally. Bharat Forge is the world's second largest forging company. Ranbaxy is among the top 10 generic pharmaceutical global players. Wipro is the world's largest third party engineering services company. Suzlon ranks among the top three non-conventional energy business world over. Infosys is an excellent brand. Our public sector companies, such as ONGC, have adopted a novel outward looking strategy to ensure energy security, which entails establishing assets in foreign lands. Our private sector too is not left behind, as it aggressively pursues acquisitions abroad. India now has many of the building blocks in place that can accelerate its push to transform itself into a global force of amazing magnitude in the next 15 years.

As for the Aditya Birla Group, we take pride in the fact of our being the first truly Indian multinational. Shackled by the Licence Raj, when my father looked beyond the shores of the country over three-and-a-half decades ago, it was truly visionary. Now, when we make investments overseas, it is born out of today's compulsions. It is driven by our vision of being "A premium global conglomerate with a clear focus on each business".

Hence in the last 10 years, our global presence has moved far beyond South East Asia. Besides South East Asia, today we have operations in Egypt, China, Canada, Australia, US, UK, Germany and Hungary. In each of the sectors in which we operate, we enjoy a leadership position at home and globally. For example, our group is on top of the league in viscose staple fibre, is among the top four in carbon black, the 11th largest in cement and among the top 10 BPO companies in North America. By the turn of this decade, our group would catapult to the top 10 non-ferrous metals company in the world as well. Of our $10-billion turnover, the contribution of our overseas business stands at a very healthy 24 per cent. Nearly 20,000 of our group's 82,000 employees are drawn from 20 foreign nationalities.

To capitalise on our strengths and capabilities, we have scaled up our ambitions exponentially. We have set our sight on entering the League of the Fortune 500 by 2010. Even as our structure may not see us named in the Fortune 500, we would be there in terms of revenues, profitability and market capitalisation. We will achieve this sustainable growth along with our commitment to our values, global customer excellence, and our people and community.

In the years ahead, the criticality of the human element, which is almost universal in today's business, will be even more pronounced. Undeniably, what sparks and sustains the success of an enterprise is its people. No two ways about it. The ascendancy of the human element will grow with the times.

As corporates enlarge their global footprint, it will be no surprise if many business houses are led by expatriates

The global world increasingly will be a tougher place-full of churn, uncertainty, change-sometimes gradual, but often exponential and perhaps even revolutionary on every front. In this kind of a milieu, one looks for leadership that is alchemical. The enterprise over the next 15 years may be paradoxical. Characterised by consistency and constant change, centralisation and de-centralisation, control and empowerment, mavericks and others moving side by side. The era of the generalists will give way to specialists. The lines between business and government enterprises may become blurred as leadership exchanges between the two become a regular feature.

Forging public-private partnerships will transcend the concept as currently comprehended. A whole new movement may surface, wherein government officials take up jobs in industry and businessmen and professionals ascend to leadership positions in roles that have hitherto been the domain of bureaucrats. Both will be professionally-run outfits.

As Indian corporates enlarge their global footprint, that many Indian business houses will be led by expatriates, should come as no surprise. The writing on the wall is clear. This is a trend that we are witnessing in the new-age businesses such as hospitality, retail and entertainment. Given blurring boundaries, we can expect their tribe to multiply.

The composition of the board of directors in a company would alter significantly to reflect their customer composition. So, if 20 per cent of a company's customers are homed in the US, the board would be aligned accordingly, albeit to reflect the internationalism of the company. Importantly, more and more employees will be equity holders. They will use this leeway to challenge management decisions instead of the internal platform or the labour union.

To create an MNC workforce, Indian corporates would proactively recruit talent in large numbers from foreign universities. A multi-cultural, diverse workforce would be reckoned as a positive plus, bringing as they do new and different perspectives to the table. As a matter of fact, the Indian employer brand-which today is not much of a pull globally-would become attractive and a force to reckon with.

Even as this happens, Indian talent will continue to be highly valued and will straddle nations with the ease of a trapeze artist. And ironically some of our finest talent will be perched outside of the homeland. I believe their priorities in life would be very different. They will work for a time, earn a lot of money and then decide to opt for something different. Such as, take a sabbatical, be with nature, join an NGO or climb the Himalayas. After a while, they may want to come back to the organisation. And they need to be welcomed.

Furthermore, our successful diaspora will not only generate greater entrepreneurial activity here, they will want to ensure that the benefits of capitalism reach beyond the middle class. Our professionals in India too would be similarly inclined, having attained riches at a relatively young age. Like some of us, they would strongly believe that wealth creation is a noble pursuit and that wealth can be best enhanced and made enduring by sharing it. Fifteen years down the line, perhaps even earlier, will emerge a new way of doing business, a new ethos-what I would term as "compassionate capitalism'. In 2020, if we go into a retrospective mode, we must feel and act on a new ethos of generosity characterised by a willingness to build a society that works for everyone. The inequities then in our nation, the have-nots would become a relic of the past.

In sum, today we stand on the cusp of a new and near global India. An India that is becoming increasingly modern, but whose contemporariness stands on the foundation of values that have stood the test of time. India Inc. has the confidence and the capability to dream audaciously and make the dream come true.




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