In­dia Fac­ing Chal­lenges in an Am­bi­tious Way: Bos­ton Con­sult­ing CEO

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit -

In­dia is gen­uinely mak­ing it­self a bet­ter place for in­vest­ment and set­ting it­self up for sus­tained growth in the years ahead, says Rich Lesser, pres­i­dent and CEO at the Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group. Lesser says the gov­ern­ment’s four big agenda items—the Aad­haar pro­gramme, de­mon­eti­sa­tion, the bank­ruptcy law and the goods and ser­vices tax (GST)— have cre­ated a sense of op­ti­mism about the coun­try. But In­dia will still be slow in at­tract­ing in­vest­ments un­til th­ese re­forms take hold, Lesser tells Saumya Bhat­tacharya and Varuni Khosla in an in­ter­view. Edited ex­cerpts:

How do you see the global eco­nomic growth? I think it's slightly more en­cour­ag­ing than what we an­tic­i­pated in the be­gin­ning of the year, in par­tic­u­lar Europe. There were so many uncer­tain­ties—the elec­tions, Brexit. Europe has come on more pos­i­tively than how I and oth­ers had ex­pected. That's en­cour­ag­ing. The rest of the world has stayed in a mod­er­ate to good growth. That's prob­a­bly be­low a pointed growth we would ide­ally like, but pretty strong over­all.

How is In­dia placed as an in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion? I think there's op­ti­mism about In­dia that is grounded in the fact that In­dia seems to be tack­ling in a gen­uine and am­bi­tious way, the chal­lenges it is fac­ing. The four big agenda items of re­cent years—the Aad­haar pro­gramme, de­mon­eti­sa­tion, the bank­ruptcy law and now the GST— com­ing through is quite sub­stan­tial.

That has cre­ated a sense of op­ti­mism in the rest of the world that In­dia is gen­uinely mak­ing it­self a bet­ter place for in­vest­ment and set­ting it­self up for sus­tained growth in the years ahead.

At the same time, there was scep­ti­cism that grew over decades about how hard it was to do busi­ness in In­dia. And so, it would be un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect two or three very en­cour­ag­ing years would to­tally off­set the con­cerns and ex­pe­ri­ences that com­pa­nies had over many, many years. While I think there's op­ti­mism right now, we should ex­pect that it would be a bit slow go­ing in terms of at­tract­ing in­vest­ments over the long-term as th­ese and other re­forms take hold and show ben­e­fit over the long term.

There's been an­other equally im­por­tant is­sue for In­dian IT com­pa­nies in H1B. Should In­dian IT com­pa­nies still be con­cerned? I re­main an op­ti­mist about the US but we are go­ing through a par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing pe­riod and, in the near term, I don't know or I don't think any­one knows how the im­mi­gra- tion pol­icy would evolve. I wouldn't be sur­prised if there are some changes in the H1B pro­gramme that are be­ing dis­cussed right now in Wash­ing­ton.

It will re­quire ad­just­ments to the busi­ness model of In­dian tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies. I do be­lieve that this chal­lenge around pro­tec­tion­ism in the US has still a high de­gree of un­cer­tainty. I am hope­ful that we will work pos­i­tively through it.

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