India markets itself well at Davos

By agencies   |   Thursday, 26 January 2006, 08:00 Hrs
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DAVOS: India Inc. today launched its biggest ever campaign at the World economic Forum meeting to announce its arrival on the global economic scene. The “India Everywhere” campaign will project India as the country with a vibrant democracy, thriving economy and as a country with strong growth potential and opportunities for foreign investors. More than half a dozen Indian businessmen were explaining the world media why the campaign was launched. Those representing India were Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, ITC Chairman Y.C. Deveshwar, Infosys CEO, chairman and managing director Nandan Nilekani among others. Speakers discussed Indian growing role in world economics and politics. "The last two years, we felt there was too much about China, and India wasn't being heard," Ajay Khanna, the chief executive of the India Brand Equity Foundation, which is orchestrating the promotion. "This year, we decided to make a major effort to give India a voice." Khanna estimated the total cost of the campaign and the travel expenses at $5 million. Never before, said officials at the World Economic Forum, has a country mounted such an elaborate charm offensive at Davos. "We're going to showcase the arrival of the global Indian entrepreneur," said Nilekani, "There are a number of areas where people gloss over India's challenges," said Jim O'Neill, the head of global economic research at Goldman Sachs, citing India's inadequate education system and barriers to foreign ownership of Indian assets as significant weaknesses. "It's starting to be tricky to find skilled workers there," O'Neill said. "India is also a very closed economy." Goldman contributed to the euphoria about India by projecting that its economy could grow in size by 50 times by 2050, which would make it the worlds third largest, after China and the United States. Indian entrepreneurs concede their country has problems. Social tensions from mass migration and the fragility of the current government could disrupt development. Roads and airports remain woeful - and building projects are often snarled in bureaucracy. "If you want to make Barbie dolls, don't come to India," Anand Mahindra, the head of one of India's largest conglomerates, said. "Because if you order one million of them, they'll probably be held up in traffic from Mumbai to the port." Advertisements on buses here promote India as the world's "fastest-growing free-market democracy" - a not-so-subtle reference to China, which has done little to relax the grip of the Communist Party over society. "Democracy is a big advantage for us," said Malvinder Singh, the president of Ranbaxy Laboratories, India's top drug company. "It is not the only advantage, but it is definitely one big advantage."