Modi takes US corporate world by storm

Primepost News Desk

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second visit to the US in one year is creating quite a buzz in both the countries. Even before he landed in America after a historic visit to Ireland, much had been speculated about his five-day trip, including his meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday.

Obviously, it’s a business trip since he is going to skip addressing the UN General Assembly session during his New York stay. Instead, he preferred to meet top honchos of American industry, financial wizards of Wall Street and media mughals and IT czars of Silicon Valley.

Modi is focusing on innovation, manufacturing and start-ups during his meetings with some of the global biggies in industry. The centerpiece of his US agenda is to highlight the ‘Make in India’ campaign and seek more investments.

On Thursday, Modi met eight of the top 10 financial institutions’ bosses to impress upon them India’ growth story since he assumed power 15 months ago. He assured them that “any bottlenecks which should not be there will not be there.” But what could be described as a coup of sorts, Modi indulged in dinner diplomacy by hosting some of the top American CEOs. Forty-two of 500 Fortune 500 companies with a combined net worth $4.5 trillion had their heads at the dinner. Its menu, specially prepared by celebrity chef Vikas Khanna and his team, was said to be a gastronomical delight. The delicacies were chosen from across the country to give billionaires a taste of India.

According to reports, “they are excited about India, but want the Prime Minister to quicken the pace of reforms.” Vikas Swarup, Foreign Ministry spokesperson was quoted on Friday as saying that the general mood was “continue what you are doing but do it faster.”

Stressing “reform in governance is my No1 priority,” Modi had said, “Foreign direct investment all over the world has fallen. But in India, it increased by 40 per cent. This reflects confidence in the Indian economy.”

He is expected to continue his pitch for “Make in India” and “digital India” initiatives when he meets IT titans in California on Sunday and address a Townhall Q&A session along with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Needless to say, Modi meetings with corporate America are sending the social media into frenzy. The ground reality, however, seems different.

A survey done by the Boston Consultancy Group has revealed that 39 per cent of top management surveyed feels that there has been no improvement in “doing business” environment since the BJP government came to power. Nevertheless, 20% feel the atmosphere has improved “somewhat.”  While projects approvals and clearances from various government agencies have improved, land acquisition and labour problems continue to be major hurdles on the road to “ease of doing business.”

No doubt, Modi, with the gift of the gab, could convince the American corporate world. But can he push the kind of reforms the US giants want before bringing in billions of dollars? That’s a trillion dollar question. Modi’s US trip will be keenly watched both for political and economic reasons.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also in the US, meeting Who is Who of the corporate world, with an eye on investment. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif too is in the US to address UN session. Will Modi return with political goodwill and investment bonanza or will his visit turn out to be another exercise in hype and hoopla?

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