Industry leaders from within and outside the country today pledged support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' campaign, even as they asked the government to provide a stable tax structure, tweak labour laws and expedite decision-making to facilitate investment decisions.
Launching the `Make in India' campaign, which aims at making India a global manufacturing hub, the prime minister told a gathering of top Indian and foreign CEOs gathered at New Dehi's Vigyan Bhawan that foreign direct investment should be seen as one way of reviving economic growth in the country even as it offered the investor an opportunity that rarely comes.
FDI, he said, in the Indian context should be understood as "First Develop India" along with "Foreign Direct Investment." He urged investors not to look at India merely as a market, but instead see it as an opportunity.
Business leaders, including Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Tata Group chief Cyrus Mistry and Aditya Birla Group's Kumar Mangalam Birla, all agreed that high growth and job creation would be possible only if the manufacturing sector gets into a high growth trajectory.
However, they said, for that the country needs to decide its priorities first, meaning that a policy framework should be in place for players to act.
"Our aspirations on the global manufacturing arena will be fulfilled if we address certain challenges on priority," Tata Group's Mistry said while addressing the gathering.
"These factors will include the build-up of critical infrastructure across the country supported by stable policies, transparent and competitive tax and duty structure, efficient and time-bound administration through the use of e-governance, cost effective and reliable energy coupled with logistics, critical for the competitiveness of industry," Mistry added.
Reliance Group chairman Mukesh Ambani said for the 'Make in India' Campaign to succeed, we must open up to foreign capital and technology from across the world, even as he pledged support to the initiative.
He also called for early implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), which would make India into one market, while also helping to strengthen overall 'Make in India' programme.
"Make in India is about the present and the future, 'made' is always in the past...We commit ourselves to the Make in India movement that was given to a billion Indians by our PM," he added.
Ambani said Reliance Industries would be creating 1.25 lakh jobs in the next 12-15 months, adding that the company will realise it as it gets India's villages connected to make them a part of the growth story.
"It is important to connect village clusters with international markets and not only domestic markets by building physical infrastructure and virtual infrastructure so that all our goods and services are connected to all markets," he said.
ICICI Bank managing director and CEO Chanda Kochhar said the 'Make in India' programme would become the next growth driver for the country.
"What is being launched today is actually going to be the next growth driver for India...It is believed that manufacturing, if it works to its full potential, can add about 90 million jobs in the next decade for India," she said.
"By making India a manufacturing hub for the world, we will increase our exports, so manufacturing is not just going to be a growth driver, not just a creator of jobs but also something that will strengthen the macro-economic stability of the country," Kochchar further said.
Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said if India can repeat its success in the information technology field, it can become a preferred centre of manufacturing for global companies.
The share of manufacturing in India's GDP is a mere 16 per cent compared to 36 per cent in China, 34 per cent South Korea and 22 per cent Germany, he noted.
"Quite clearly in manufacturing we have lot of catching up to do. We need manufacturing to put the economy into a higher growth trajectory and to create millions of jobs," Birla said.
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd managing director and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa reminded that India is still far from being the easiest country to do business in and said: "We are fully confident that, under the `Make in India' programme of the prime minister, factors that adversely affect the competitiveness of manufacturing will now be removed quickly."
"Costs of production in India increase because of various government policies, procedures, regulations and the way some of the laws are implemented," he said.
If such hurdles were removed, Ayukawa said, India would become one of the most competitive manufacturing countries in the world.
Bharat Forge executive director Amit Kalyani said the `Make in India' campaign has helped increase investor's confidence. "Following this, my confidence of investing and the speed of investing will go up," he said.
Bharti Enterprises vice chairman Rajan Bharti Mittal said, "It is a great initiative but it will really depend on the ground, how much it takes shape. So once that happens I am sure things will start working."
The prime minister, however, said it is important for the purchasing power of the common man to increase, as this would further boost demand, and hence spur development, in addition to benefiting investors. ''The faster people are pulled out of poverty and brought into the middle class, the more opportunity would there be for global business,'' the prime minister said.
He said, FDI needs to support jobs. Cost-effective manufacturing and a handsome buyer - one who has purchasing power - are both required, the prime minister said. More employment means more purchasing power, he added.
He said India is the only country in the world which offers the unique combination of democracy, demography, and demand. He said the new government was taking initiatives for skill development to ensure that skilled manpower was available for manufacturing. He also referred to the `Digital India' mission, saying this would ensure that government processes remained in tune with corporate processes.
The prime minister assured business chiefs that his government would not allow a situation where even Indian businessmen would want to leave India and set up business elsewhere.