India best place to invest in tech, startups: Global CEOs

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India, with its business-friendly policies and plethora of talent, is the best place to invest in the technology and start-up sectors, said heads of several global companies such as Singapore’s DBS group, Canada’s Fairfax holdings, and Apollo chain of hospitals.

“India is the best place to invest in the future. The growth is phenomenal,” said Prem Watsa, chief executive officer (CEO), Fairfax group, a financial holding company based in Toronto.

The CEOs were speaking at an event in Gurugram on Wednesday organised by Indiaspora, a non-profit organisation established in 2012 with an aim to inspire and position the global Indian diaspora as a “force for good”.

Chairperson and founder of Indiaspora, MR Rangaswami, said the event was dedicated to expanding the growth of Indian diaspora beyond the traditionally sought-after countries. “What about places like Trinidad, Ghana, Fiji; there are 30 million people part of the Indian diaspora worldwide. The aim is to be a force for good and connect people across the world, especially with entrepreneurs in India,” he told HT.

Executive director of Indiaspora, Sanjeev Joshipura, said the aim of the non-profit organisation was three-fold — philanthropy and increasing social awareness; entrepreneurship and innovation; and most of all connecting diaspora industry leaders with resident Indian entrepreneurs. “This event is to inspire and foster a relationship between diaspora leaders and resident Indian entrepreneurs. This is also to celebrate the launch of the India office,” he told HT.

The panelists deliberated on the topic — ‘what makes Indians such great entrepreneurs’.

Of the Fortune 500 firms, 12 Indian-origin CEOs head some of the top multinational companies across the world, including Alphabet, Twitter, Microsoft and Adobe.

The two things that work in the favour of Indians are demographics and the proficiency in English, said Piyush Gupta, CEO of the DBS group, a Singaporean multinational banking and financial services corporation. “Across the Indian diaspora, there is a sense of hunger,” he said. “It also helps that many are proficient in English, the language in which most business transactions happen.”

Indians’ tenacity, capacity for jugaad (innovation), and their dedication ensure they achieve their targets, Gupta added.

The key note address was delivered by World Cup winning former Indian cricket team captain Kapil Dev.

Indians are fantastically driven and have the ability to take huge risks, said Shobhana Kamineni, executive vice-chairperson of the Apollo Group. “India’s technological growth, especially during Covid-19, has opened up an opportunity for it to become relevant in the health sector in several countries,” she said. “The opportunities are immense.”

The panelists were also quizzed about the geo-political tensions and the growing sentiment of nationalism across the world. “After Covid-19, the world has become far more globalised than it was before,” said Piyush Gupta. “India’s reputation as a technological power hub has only grown. This is only going to accelerate further. Don’t subscribe to data localisation.”

The panelists added that the tensions with China are providing an opening for India as an alternative. “This is opening up a supply chain for India, especially in the technology sector,” Gupta said. “Look at the automobile sector, semiconductors, India may just be able to achieve its target of Atmanirbhar Bharat.”

A significant portion of the GDP is being consumed online, he said. “Whether it is the education sector, or financial services, the digital world is offering a range of services,” The DBS CEO added.

Watsa said India provides unlimited business opportunities. “India has business friendly policies, there are already about 100 unicorns in India. Fairfax is already invested 7 million in India, and it hopes to double the number in the next 4-5 years,” he said.

Asked about his interest in the privatisation of public sector banks, Vatsa said he was excited about the option but is waiting for the process to begin and refrained from commenting further.

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