Top ministers in the Narendra Modi government called upon industrialists not to lose confidence because of a temporary slowdown, and assured all support in resolving outstanding issues. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the Indian economy and markets will emerge stronger, and called upon industry to work together with the government to make India a $5-trillion economy by 2024.
“Har dum Narendra Modi sarkar industry ke saath khadi hai,” Shah, the second most powerful man in the government, told a glittering, glitzy gathering of industrialists, bankers and bureaucrats at the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence on Saturday night. “Aap sabke sahayog se Hindustan $5-trillion economy banega, aisa mera vishwas hai,” he said.
Shah also asked industry to engage with ministers and regulators to resolve problems. “The government, Reserve Bank of India and all departments of the government are ready to find solutions along with you. This is a crucial time for us, the Indian industry has to take an oath to move ahead and you also have to fulfil that promise,” the home minister said.
Shah’s assurance and similar promises by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Railways and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal came a day after economic growth fell to 4.5% in the second quarter of FY20 and the core sector contracted 5.8% in October. But if three of the government’s top ministers were perturbed by this slide, they gave no indication of nervousness or despair in front of India Inc.
Rather, they sought industry’s support by inviting suggestions and promising that the government will listen to them and accept new ideas.
Sitharaman hinted at a big package of infrastructure projects soon, saying a list of such projects with frontloaded funding would be ready before December 15. She said this was part of the Rs 100-lakhcrore push mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Piyush Goyal promised industrialists — especially Vedanta Resources chairman Anil Agarwal, who batted for privatisation and single-window clearance — that the government is favourably inclined towards his suggestions, but in a calibrated manner. “We need to balance a few things. The Prime Minister, in every Cabinet meeting in the past few months, keeps saying that the government has no business to be in business.”
As the evening November sun gave way to the warm, breezy night that is so characteristic of the Maximum City, a different kind of atmosphere was being created on Hotel Trident’s poolside. A long line of powerful and successful industrialists dominated the front rows. There was Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries; Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the Aditya Birla Group; N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons; Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises; Anil Agarwal, chairman of Vedanta Resources; Rajnish Kumar, chairman of State Bank of India; Sanjiv Mehta, MD of Hindustan Unilever; and Adi Godrej, chairman of the Godrej Group.
“The audience here represents 60% of India’s GDP,” quipped Shah.
There was Sadhguru to lend a touch of spirituality. There was also the ‘Dada’ of Indian cricket, Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain, in his new role as the cricket board president. Also present was Jay Shah, BCCI secretary and Amit Shah’s son.
Facing them was an equally impressive line-up of Cabinet ministers and politicians. And waiting to receive recognition for their impressive performance were a different breed of successful entrepreneurs, bureaucrats and politicians. The year 2018-19 may have been ‘annus horribilis’ for many, but not for this crowd, which stood out for its determination to shape the agenda and fulfill dreams.
There was Sanjiv Mehta, who took full advantage of the GST-induced disruptions and price cuts to push his company into logging among the highest volume growths in Unilever’s India history since liberalisation. There was Bajaj Finance, which snatched market share and growth from under the noses of big banks and stood out for its ability to successfully navigate the liquidity crisis caused by the collapse of IL&FS.
Swiggy’s delivery boys would probably not be allowed inside a five-star hotel to deliver piping hot pav bhaji, but its CEO Sriharsha Majety was the proud winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year award. And Bandhan BankNSE -2.91 %, like Bajaj Finance, emerged unscathed from the liquidity crisis and was named the Emerging Company of the Year.
Metro Man E Sreedharan got the lifetime achievement award for his role in successfully implementing the Delhi Metro.
A special award to former finance minister Arun Jaitley for his years of public service induced a lump-in-the-throat moment when his wife Sangeeta Jaitley paid him a moving tribute. The special award for Jaitley and the recognition for Sreedharan drew a standing ovation from the audience.