Gujarat Cos Jump on the Modi Bandwagon to Boost Visibility
Firms upbeat on ‘nation-builder’ PM and expect him to encourage all to play a bigger role in India’s growth
Behram Mehta, head of an Ahmedabadbased company that bottles Aava brand of water, has been camping at the luxurious Taj Man Singh hotel in Delhi these days. Mehta has been meeting business partners to give shape to an all-India expansion plan, and everyone seems to be keen to play ball, as he hails from “Modi-land”. Mehta, known to host top businessmen including Tata group chairman Cyrus Pallonji Mistry at his beautiful garden house by the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, landed in Delhi along with a host of Gujarati businessmen to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday. Mehta says he now plans to come to Delhi frequently and invest time here. “Now that Mr Modi is here, we better be here too,” says Mehta. The stock of Gujarati business has been on an upswing ever since Narendra Modi won the general elections to be appointed India’s 15th prime minister. Like Mehta, several Gujaratbased businessmen such as Gautam Adani, Zafar Sareshwala, owner of Parsoli Motors (he ran a campaign against Modi after the riots but eventually became a big supporter), Sudhir Mehta of Torrent Group, Pankaj Patel of Zydus Cadilla and Jaxay Shah of Savvy group, among others were visible at the Rashtrapati Bhawan with the likes of the Ambanis and Ruias. Ambanis, who are also Gujaratis but operate out of Mumbai and the Ruais of Essar, also have major businesses in Gujarat. It is not just them, even other companies and brands have been quick on their feet to enhance their visibility on the national map. Gujarat-based local companies, little known to the world outside, put out front page advertisements in national dailies. One of them was Ganesh Housing. “During his (Modi) stint as the Gujarat chief minister, a lot of Gujarati companies have grown big. Putting out congratulatory messages is a way of thanking him,” says Shekhar G Patel, managing director of Ganesh Housing, a .` 350-crore real estate firm, which put out ads for its upcoming project.
On the same day, an ad issued by Adani Group, to announce a residential project in Mumbai, said: “It takes a nation-builder to redefine luxury living”. Assuming that the nationbuilder title was for Modi, Adani seems to putting his money in the right place. The Ahmedabadbased industrialist, whose business spans from ports to power plants and coal mines across the world, has been attempting to rebrand his group as a credible global entity. Adani faced a lot of flak during the polls for his proximity to Modi. Shares of his companies have been soaring in anticipation of his fortunes turning favourably in the new regime. The Gujarati community is known for its business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit. From the traders of olden days, they have emerged as the biggest block of businessmen in the country, with the Ambani brothers leading from the front. Gujarati businessmen had supported Mahatma Gandhi during the Freedom movement, and many Gujarati leaders such as Sardar Patel have played key role in governments in Independent India. “Needless to say, having one of our own as the Prime Minister of the country is a matter of pride. We call it Gujarati Asmita,” says one businessman from Rajkot, who came down all the way to watch Modi's swearing-in ceremony. “There is nothing wrong in it,” says Sunil Parekh, who advices several large Gujaratbased companies and is a member advisory board of Vibrant Gujarat, Modi’s biennial event meant to woo domestic and foreign business into his state. “There is a certainly comfort in the fact that Mr Modi is PM. He is efficient, and will encourage everyone to play a bigger role in the nation’s growth.” Sanjay Lalbhai, chairman of world's biggest denim-maker Arvind Mills says that like all Indian businesses, even Gujarat businesses would benefit from India’s growth. “When the economy grows, all the small and medium companies based in Gujarat will benefit like everyone else,” he says. An equally excited Piruz Khambatta, chairman and managing director of Rasna, one of the first Gujarat-based brands apart from the likes of Amul and Nirma, which went national, says Rasna plans to set up new processing unit outside of Gujarat shortly. He plans to make a presentation to the PM soon, something made possible because of their Gujarat connection. “Gujarat has played a very important role in food processing sector and we hope to play a larger role going ahead,” he said. Earlier this month, when Amul announced setting up of its new manufacturing facility in Varanasi, many said Amul had followed Modi. But Amul’s plans to set up a new dairy processing plant in the holy city had no connection with Modi's victory there, said RS Sodhi, MD of Amul. He added Amul has always been a national brand.