Every decision of government needn’t be a big reform: Anand Mahindra

Anand Mahindra cannot wait to return home from the US because all the action is happening in India with a new, stable government led by Narendra Modi. Hours after chairing a Mahindra & Mahindra board meeting at midnight US time, the company’s President and CEO spoke Saturday with Satish John from Boston about hope and his aspirations for the country. The new administration is off to a good start, he said, and much is to be expected from it. Excerpt:

In the 10 point agenda of the Modi government.

I think it’s great to put at the top of the list the fact that officials should be encouraged to make decisions without fear. In a sense, he got to the heart of the paralysis problem. The Indian government is enormous and it is difficult to try to believe that one leader can make all the changes. This is a federal system. In a large bureaucracy, you cannot make the transformation of any situation without the bureaucracy.

So empowerment becomes important. That is a good sign. If you remember, one of the big concerns about Modi was his autocratic operating style. By putting it right at the top of the agenda of administrative empowerment, I think one has to appreciate and acknowledge that it is certainly not the act of an autocrat.

On the disbanding of ministry groups.

Without making the weather too extreme, he’s a case study for business schools on how to exercise leadership and have impact from the very first day on the job. He is setting a clear agenda and is making clear promises of measuring progress made against that clear agenda. For example, setting up a 100-day agenda will clarify what the matrix will be to measure its success. It is important that every day, some incremental progress is made on that agenda and that progress is transparently communicated. He’s got his team ready, it’s a focused team. To me, every decision need not be a major reform but a signal of proactive decision-making and the elimination of red tapes and bureaucracy. And a promise of even faster decision-making in the future.

About the government’s immediate priorities.

Back in the 1980s, I wrote a column titled ‘Road to Zero’. At that time we had not built enough roads. (Among) America’s competitive advantages are its highways and transportation network. Those things are the lifeblood of the economy and they create job opportunities. So, humorously speaking, the best thing anyone can do to create an inclusive economy is, ironically, through building roads, either because of the lack of market access or lack of access. Market access is one of the most discriminatory things one can do to the poor, especially to the rural poor. It is not a point that we automatically come up with, but sugar is a mechanism to create inclusion in the economy. So, I think, he does it as quickly as possible for the economy. There is a huge economic statistic that shows that roads (bring) more rural income than irrigation. It will help increase dual income for families and will allow a variety of productivity-driven diversification from agriculture.

On the relationship between India and the United States.

I’ve been here (in the US) for quite some time. Elections in India have generated great interest. Most diplomatic and political experts are now urging the leadership in Washington not to miss what they feel is a diplomatic opportunity for the United States to approach and rebuild a very strong relationship with India. Degree. They feel the US has lost its footing because of the visa controversy and now they should find ground again and build a strong relationship.

There is a sense that both Japan and China have stolen a step in building this kind of relationship with India. In my opinion, there will be a strong effort from the decision makers here to contact the Prime Minister and his colleagues to rebuild the relationship.

It is assumed that the new government will lean more towards the east – Japan, China, Korea.

There has been considerable Japanese interest. It is a country with outstanding liquidity and investment surplus. Modi is well aware of that. Why Japanese investors hold back is because they don’t see any of our promises that will attract attention.

In the field of construction and large industrial works, they can take the pole position in large projects here. With that said, everyone is speculating what the position of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will be and the Prime Minister is his own man. My view is that our Prime Minister is a realist and he knows that any form of revenge has no role in foreign policy.

I think his whole goal is to enhance India’s economic health and through that to achieve the right role of India in the world. The reality is that we are the largest democracy in the world and we are all aware that a country’s power and role in global affairs comes from economic strength. I think, in his own way and at the right time, he will react positively when the correct signals are sent from the US authorities.

Regarding FDI in the defense sector

We have been consistent since entering joint ventures with foreign companies. We do not change our stance. From the very beginning, we have stated to the government that allowing investments of at least 49% through the automated route is a positive step. Because it encourages foreign partners to deploy technology into joint ventures. On the other hand, they must prudently support 100% of the venture. So, if you really want the best technology made here, then (should have) a minimum of 49% share, which we have always advocated.

About Mahindra’s investment plan.

We have never shied away from investing. Even during the decline in revenue, we never stopped investing. We invest in the Chakan auto plant when the economy is down; we also invest in the tractor plant in Zaheerabad as the tractor market is witnessing a decline. As the tractor market improves, we can increase our output. We always take a long-term view of the economy. We have continuously invested. For example, in the defense sector, if the government starts buying back for a much-needed upgrade, we will certainly invest. Pawan (Goenka) has set the record saying we are looking at an investment of Rs 4,000 crore, regardless of new developments. That is something we will do.


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