India Facing Challenges in an Ambitious Way: Boston Consulting CEO
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.