US president Barack Obama’s recent visit has put India in the spotlight again and won it many accolades for its high single digit GDP growth at a time when world over, the demons of recession continues to haunt global economies. But is India taking full advantage of this positive situation? ‘Yes, but we have a long way to go…’ says Dilip Dandekar the man who represents the country’s oldest industry body, the Indian Merchants’ Chamber as its president. According to him, “we really need to focus on energy and infrastructure” today for the ‘India of Tomorrow’. Excerpts…
You were part of the business delegation that met US president Barack Obama. Has India emerged as a global destination for the business world?
President Obama’s Speech was passionate, highly business oriented and inspirational. What I would like to mention here is the new confidence level amongst Indians in the changed economic scenario. The entire approach of the business community is positive. Clearly the world cannot ignore India. We are amongst the fastest growing economy with an 8.5-9 % growth rate, while elsewhere economies are struggling with 1-2 % or some even reporting negative growth. India at present is the best destination to be in. It’s a fact that the bilateral trade between India and china is more than the trade between India and America. During Obama’s visit America signed $10 billion deals with India. That was a positive sign, from the investment point of view. The investments coming into the energy sector and in nuclear technology are going to be of tremendous help.
Q: What about the ‘Outsourcing’ issue?
A. Americans may have lost some jobs because of outsourcing but if you compare the cost which is incurred by the American companies with the amount of profits they generate, than it is much higher. I feel it’s nothing more than the political issue.
Q: Your take on the current financial and economic scenario?
A. There are two areas where we really need to focus upon: energy and infrastructure. It is not sufficient to have infrastructure only in the urban areas; infrastructure should be provided all across the country, then only will India progress. Almost 60 % of the India’s population stays in rural India where income parity is low. Industries need to move from urban clusters. Due to ever increasing land cost, rural India has disposable income which should be used to generate economical balance. China has progressed on the same model. Any province or village in china will have similar infrastructure and progress all across.
Secondly, we need to have deepen and widen the penetration of our banking system. Just 25 % of our population has access to banking facilities. This needs to change.
Our young population is our biggest strength. Good education is the focus point. Already our students and work force are exposed to the world economy. What we lack though is vocational training which would be helpful in job creation for various sectors. The IMC is focusing on the same issue at present. I think if we overcome these few grey areas India can do wonders in terms of growth and progress.
Q: What about the issues of inflation, the appreciating rupee and the credit crunch which are plaguing India Inc.?
A: As far as Inflation is concerned, I think it will not come down drastically. Agricultural production in the country is very low compared to the world standard. Moreover, the income generated through agro produce is not sustainable. Since we do not have proper agro processing systems in place, 40 % of the agricultural produce gets wasted. We need to curb that… then only will we see inflation coming down.
The appreciating rupee should not be the major concern at present. As there are investment opportunities available in our country with interest rates as high as 6-7 %, there is a steady flow of foreign exchange. The negative impact can be seen on the trade deficit. Interest rates have gone up, but I do not see any credit crunch at present. The RBI is doing a good job..
Q: Your stance on the SME sector?
A: The biggest initiative by IMC is to get every body a platform by arranging conferences. We have been doing it for the last few years, and our recent conference was for finance and banking for the SME sector. The focus is to provide easy finance for small and medium enterprises by way of bank loans through microfinance companies to ensure sustainable growth. At IMC we have committee on the MSME sector which takes care of all this.
For India to sustain the growth trajectory at the current levels what we need is skill development. This should be aimed at small levels for the SME to grow. We at IMC have collaborated with the management institutes like Somaiya College of Management, Wellingkar Institute and NM College, for their faculties to interact and train members of our committee.
Q: Your objectives as a president of IMC.
A: I really believe in the inclusive growth philosophy for India. I want to work towards providing best opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs.
Q: What differentiates IMC from other industry bodies like FICCI and CII?
A: FICCI and CII are the federal bodies they are at the apex level, while IMC has a unique position of being based in Mumbai, the business and trade capital of India. IMC providesplatform to all the visiting business delegation from various countries to interact with Indian businessmen, and help them with Indian laws and regulations.
Q: Has responsibility at the IMC impacted your work at your own company Camlin Limited?
A. No, not at all. I am a workaholic who believes in quality time management. I devout my day equally between IMC and Camlin. Moreover, I have an excellent team of professionals who manage the affairs well. Plus the technology helps; we have installed an integrated SAP system at all the 22 depots of the company which helps me to be in touch with them all the time.