My new column on ‘Giving’ at


I’m starting to write a new column on a popular website called India Incorporated ( where I hope to interview high profile business leaders, professionals, and other such people on their views on their charitable interests and giving.

When researching and writing my book on Indian entrepreneurship, I was positively flabbergasted with the level of personal involvement that high profile people invest in giving back to good causes, which I found refreshing and inspiring. But, I wondered why we’d never read about such acts of kindness and generosity in our media. I know I’d be interested.

Was it because they felt that this was “private” i.e should not be spoken about? Well, no.

If you opened the Annual Report (which is a marketing document) of their businesses, you’d find sections on how they were making a social impact by leveraging their resources effectively – so my assumption that their charity was “private” proved to be wrong.

So, why is it that we don’t read about their views on the subject of ‘Giving’?

It’s this I hope to contribute.

What I need your help on is to compile a generic list of questions you’d like answered from business leaders on charitable giving. If you’d like to contribute, then please leave a comment at the end of this blogpost.



Indian Budget 2011 – what’s going on?

It’s that time of year, again!

Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee met with Congress insiders to begin unveiling his thinking on this year’s Budget, which is expected later this month. His headaches include inflation, a current account deficit, high import duties, and importantly how best to increase government revenues.

So, before the big day, I’m asking all of you what to expect in this year’s Budget?

People keep on talking about India’s demographic dividend; will the septuagenarian Finance Minister understand what’s required to ensure that the future is prosperous for this massively important population bracket. A budget for the young, perhaps?

Will he use the opportunity to guarantee market reforms that enable foreign firms get a larger piece of the action? Will India Inc exert its influence to ensure home company advantage?

What policies is he going to put in place that will help India break the 10% GDP growth rate, that India desires? Education, Employability, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship are critical drivers to achieve this. What’s he thinking on these?

If you have any idea on the above, or on the forthcoming budget, leave your comments below.

Where’s our Trade Minister Mr Cameron?

I agree with Iain Dale (click here)on the huge ommission by Cameron on appointing a city heavyweight to the vacant International Trade Ministers’ portfolio. Surely, this isn’t the right signal to send when you’re trying to develop a commerce based foreign policy. UKTI, whilst being ably steered by Andrew Cahn, could do with a vocal champion who undertakes the role with as much gusto as Lord Digby Jones, combined with the phenomenal practical experience that Mervyn Davies brought to the role.

In any case, if you’re interested, I’ve done or am doing the following media on Dave’s visit to the motherland:

BBC Radio 5 Live with John Piennar
Hindustan Times
BBC Radio Wales Breakfast Show
Indian Express
BBC Radio 5 Live with Gaby Logan
BBC Asian Network
BBC World Service News
Al Jazeera English
BBC Radio 5 Wake Up To Money
BBC Breakfast Business News with Simon Jack
BBC Breakfast News with Sian Williams & Bill Turnbull
BBC News 24

Any new insights you can provide are welcome.


Sunil Mittal – the poster boy of Indian entrepreneurship

Visiting my relatives in India when I was young, I was always struck, even then, by the stories that were told about India’s bureaucracy. For example, we were told that to get a fixed line phone, people had to wait over 5 years after lodging their application. Given this was the state of India and in particular of her telecoms sector not so long ago, one of the statistics that astounds people today, unsurprisingly, is the take up rate of mobile phones in India – which averaged upwards of a couple of million handsets being sold every month!

Coming from quite a mature western European market, I’m totally flabbergasted with the competitiveness of India’s cellphone market. In addition her innovative ways of winning and keeping customers, such as with low cost price plans, energetic (but melodious) ring tones, value added information services etc. all are refreshing and provide great case study material in MBA schools all over the world.

But, often people outside of India (and outside of business schools) fail in recognising Indian brands and their successes fully, which was a prime motive in my writing my recently released book: India Inc: How India’s Top Ten Entrepreneurs Are Winning Globally.

My biggest regret is not that I didn’t write about Ratan Tata, Mukesh or Anil Ambani, but in fact that I didn’t include Sunil Mittal, the man behind the telecoms boom in India. He’s often credited as India’s poster boy for entrepreneurship as he’s created a phenomenal juggernaut of a company in Bharti Airtel. My reasons for excluding him, despite having met him over the past decade at many occasions, is that until recently he was totally focused on the opportunity India’s domestic market provides for Airtel – not that you can hold that against him – and my book looked at the international success of India’s corporate titans.

But, finally, all has changed. As of this week, Bharti Telecom owns Africa’s Zain Telecom and therefore makes his success an international one in the truest sense. His acquisition is second only to Tata’s purchase of Corus and provides Mittal with a growing footprint in an additional 15 countries and 150 odd million subscribers. It would be misleading to suggest that Mittal wasn’t interested in internationalising Airtel, as we all know of his failed negotiations with South Africa’s MTN over the past couple of years. But, I’m glad its finally happened.

What excites me, and many more, is his focus on Africa as it is here that I believe he’ll really be able to leverage his Indian experience to much gain. We hear of China’s love affair with Africa, but seldom do you hear of India making a beeline to some of the world’s most stunning countries and for this reason look forward to charting Sunil Mittal’s international success as much as India watchers have kept a keen eye on his domestic conquest.

Please don’t be mistaken, his rise hasn’t been free of challenge, controversy, or criticism and I don’t intend on sugar-coating his rise, but I fundamentally believe, above all, he demonstrates some phenomenal entrepreneurial traits that could teach the Bransons of our world a thing or two.

Welcome to the motherland – musings about my book tour

I write this post on the flight back to London after a mammoth visit to India and Singapore to promote my book. Gliding at 30,000 feet, I thought that I should write this before I forget the details I wanted to convey.

The visit started in Delhi, which I’ve enjoyed visiting for many years. I find the people I meet somewhat more relaxed than those in Mumbai, perhaps even more sophisticated in their dealings – all very unsurprising as Delhi is home to the thousands of civil servants, government officials, and parliamentary types – behaviour that is to be expected from an outwardly looking city.

But, this time, there was a marked difference. On the faces of the people I met, there seemed a massive anxiety, which when explored further centred on the Commonwealth Games, which are to be held later this year in the city.

The roads are gridlocked, hotels are overflowing and packed to the rafters, stadia aren’t finished – and on top no one seems to be articulating what the legacy from these games will be. One of my friends swept my observations away by quipping: “don’t worry, we’re a nation of 1.3billion, if required we’ll hand everyone a paintbrush to finish the job in the week preceding the games”.

The event at the Reliance TimeOut bookstore in Gurgaon was great. It afforded me the opportunity to practice my script and prepare for the big event hosted by the British Council the next day.

At the event in the British Council, we had a great line-up of speakers for the panel discussion. I was invited to deliver the keynote address and thereafter moderated the panel discussion, which included some heavyweights like Siddhartha Vardarajan (Strategic Affairs Editor of the Hindu), Saurabh Srivastava (Chairman, Computer Associates, India) and Rajesh Shah (Chairman of Mukand Steel and former President of the CII).

The discussion touched on themes like China, entrepreneurship, the future of family owned businesses, which the panel seemed to relish tackling. Quite a few people commented on the quality of discussion, which I too thought was incredibly good, if not fantastically moderated 🙂

This was my first visit to Mumbai after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and it was brought home to me as a result of both book events – 24th & 25th being hosted at the Taj Mahal hotel – the centrepoint for the attacks.

One of these was on the Terrace of a venue called Chambers, which was written about quite a bit in the aftermath of the attacks, as it was one of the places in the hotel that a lot of lives were lost. Without commenting on the emotions that were running through me, suffice to say that at the end of the evening I had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat.

The following evening was easier to cope with. The CII hosted a great event which saw that a number of embassies and consulates were represented. More than anything, I invited some friends who had moved to India from the UK, with who it was great to catch up and re-live the good times.

Mumbai’s quite a place. On one hand you have the Dharavi slum – Asia’s largest slum – and on the other you have the best that money can buy. Despite knowing this and having experienced both extremes during my many visits before, I was struck by the same during this stay. Mumbai is in fact not one but many, many cities with several faces to show – all of which became more evident as the evenings progressed (I’ll leave it at that for now :).

Lecturing to some of India’s brightest MBA students (at NMIMS) was as expected – great. To qualify for admission into one of these premier institutions takes a lot, so it was no surprise to see a class packed with phenomenal intellect and intelligence. Their questions, and also the discussion that ensued was eye-opening for me as their command on the subject was terrific.

The Gujarat Electronics & Software Industry Association (GESIA) invited me to deliver a keynote address in Amdavad to an audience packed with some seriously influential people. The event ran on the lines of the British Council event in Delhi, with the only difference being that the book was released by three Secretary level bureaucrats – all of whom run massive state government departments in Gujarat.

Interestingly, the book launch took place on the 600th anniversary of the foundation of Amdavad City, which resulted in a massive celebratory event on the waterfront, which is being redeveloped in a major way.

One of the criticisms of the book is that neither Kamath nor Ramadorai are entrepreneurs. They were corporate professionals who lead their respective firms to global success. So, one of the questions that was posed to Ravi Saxena, Secretary for IT was whether this was a valid criticism. In his response, he rightly knocked the stuffing out of the question by demonstrating through examples of how some of India’s most successful enterprises are in the public sector run by public servants!

The thought of opening an office in China fills me with fear, however it seems Singapore may be a great destination to get started, as it’s on the China trade corridor just as the UK is on the India trade corridor.

I was invited to speak to Aventis Business School, which is part of the New York State University, and the SP Jain School of Management, which is a leading MBA school in that part of the world. Naturally, I had to amend my messages for this visit, but I kept on being probed about the China Vs India theme that emerges in my book.

I have a few friends and relatives who’ve moved to Singapore for work, and used the opportunity to catch up with them. More than anything, what came through was despite the great lifestyle that can be afforded in Singapore, there’s no substitute for a city like London or New York.

One of the objectives was to drum up as much publicity as possible for the book, and I conducted interviews with the following:

Zee Business
Zee News
UNI Bloomberg
Press Trust of India
The Economic & Trade News
Hindustan Times
HT Cafe
IBN Live
Strait Times
Asian Age

All of which, I’m sure, will begin appearing from next week. So keep upto date on for the articles as they appear.

The book tour begins…

The last few weeks have been quite thrilling, as there’s been a lot of activity that’s definitely contributed to the book being noticed and being talked about. For example, the UKs International Trade Minister referenced the book in an article that he penned for the Economic Times of India. Also, received a phenomenal number of unique hits as a result of a flyer being emailed by the Marketing team of HCL Technologies to their entire workforce, which I’m grateful for.

I embark on my book tour tomorrow, and have been asked to speak at the following places:

22nd Feb – Reliance TimeOut store in Gurgaon, India
23rd Feb – British Council, New Delhi, India
24th Feb – HSBC Private Bank, Mumbai, India
25th Feb – Confederation of Indian Industry, Mumbai, India & Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, Mumbai, India
26th Feb – Gujarat Electronics & Software Industry Association, Ahmedabad, India
1st March – Aventis Business School / New York State University & SP Jain School of Management, Singapore

There’s also quite a few interviews arranged, such as with Hindustan Times, Financial Express and IBN Live.

As is par for the course, I’m sure the diary will change on a daily basis, as pre-planning things in India remains a huge challenge!

Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to track what I’m doing over this tour.

I’m quite excited. Let’s hope it goes well.

The Conservatives & India: Politics of climate change

So, I was invited to the launch of the UK – India Business Leaders Climate Group on Friday at the London Business School, in which David Cameron MP launched a new forum that links businesses in UK & India to find synergies and technologies that fight global warming.

Amongst the good and great, Lord Chris Patten – one time Chairman of the Conservative Party, Baroness Hogg – Chairman of 3i and former Head of John Major’s Policy Unit at Downing St, and Sir Stuart Rose of M&S – all rubbed shoulders with almost half a dozen Shadow Tory Ministers and approx 50 business folks.

On the face of it, great idea… but I can’t help thinking that DC’s statement that the group was an apolitical force for good, is slightly misleading given the make up of the room and the critical remarks of the current government.

Looking at this from the Indian side, this represents a much cleverer manner to court the Conservatives, rather than the approach they’ve adopted in the past few years of going after them in a more aggressive manner. This, the more subtler approach is probably a reaction to the narrowing in opinion polls, in which it seems we’re headed into hung-parliament territory and not a certain Tory win.

UK – India Trade & Investment figures

The following figures were provided in the the run-up to the annual UK – India Ministerial Summit that took place in London on 4th Feb, under the ausipices of the Joint Economic & Trade Committee (JETCO) whose activity to date is principally delivered through a number of industry led sector specific bilateral working groups, such as Manufacturing and Innovation, Infrastructure and PPP, Education and Skills, Financial and Business Services and Fast Moving Consumer Goods and Supply Chain Logistics – the latter being a new Group that was launched at the JETCO on February 4th.

In broad terms those issues relating to the regulatory barriers to access are discussed at Government to Government level, and addressed directly by Ministers while the B2B working groups’ dialogue is focussed on understanding Indian business needs and with them the opportunities that they represent for British business. These groups adopt a project group approach, with a remit to tackle specific issues, within a time limit period and a requirement to report back to the next meeting


The UK is India’s 3rd largest investor cumulatively – after Mauritius, and the USA. Bilateral trade is worth £12.6bn.

In 2008/9, the UK attracted 108 project investments from India (2nd only after the US), generating 4139 new jobs (again, 2nd only after the US).

There are more than 600 Indian companies with investments in the UK; about two thirds are in the ICT/software sector. The value of Indian investment in the UK is estimated to be £9bn. Taking the large acquisitions in to account, the UK receives more than 50% of India’s investment in to Europe. About 20% of India’s IT revenues come from the UK.


UK exports to India of goods £4,125 million
UK exports to India of services £1,827 million
UK exports to India of goods and services £5,952 million

UK imports from India of goods £4,478 million
UK imports from India of services £2,229 million
UK imports from India of goods and services £6,707 million


1. Annual GDP growth increased from 6% in 1990s to around 9% in the last four years. This was well above Brazil and Russia but not China.

2. India is the world’s 4th largest economy (in purchasing power parity terms). It is expected to overtake US in the mid-2030s.

3. India achieved a growth of 6.7% in FY09 warding off the worst effects of the financial crisis. Despite a poor 2009 monsoon, the government is predicting 6.5-7% growth for 2009/10.

4. Globalisation and rapid growth in trade and capital flows had driven strong growth prior to the crisis. The crisis precipitated a domestic liquidity squeeze and collapse of export markets. Prompt monetary loosening and the lagged effects of pre-election government spending (in addition to modest post-crisis stimulus packages) have successfully supported growth.

5. The crisis saw a collapse in exports. Even with rising recent volumes it is still down 7% (yoy). But FDI has held up well and return portfolio capital has driven a stock market rebound. Reserves have been rebuilt to US$290bn.

6. The gap between rich and poor is growing; the richest third of the population is growing considerably faster than the poorest third. This is attributable to differences in skills and education, and deep-rooted social exclusion

7. Regional disparities are also growing. Economic growth has been slow in states where poverty is concentrated. For example, the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh which are home to nearly a fifth of world’s poor and a third of India’s population generate only a seventh of India’s GDP. These states have average incomes more like those in least developed countries, ranging from $285 for Bihar, $474 for Uttar Pradesh and $537 for Madhya Pradesh, compared to the national average of $950.


The global financial crisis hit India squarely. Average growth of close to 9% levels decelerated to 6.7% in 2008/09. In the initial stages of the crisis, foreign investors withdrew from Indian stocks. Markets declined by more than 50% and the rupee depreciated against the US dollar by nearly 20%. India’s forex reserves fell from US$ 310bn in June 2008 to US$ 250bn.

The policy response was a swift loosening of monetary policy and massive liquidity provision to forestall a credit freeze. The government announced three stimulus packages between November and January, cutting VAT, easing firms credit access and facilitating infrastructure investment. Combined with the effects of pre-existing spending increases on wages and a farm loan waiver programme, India’s stimulus packages amount to 3.5% of GDP.

India has survived the global crisis better than most and indicators now show the worst has passed. Second quarter growth was an unexpected 7.9% despite a deficient monsoon. The robustness of rural demand, supported by government spending, kept the economy growing. Although the impact of the failed monsoon is likely to see growth moderate in the latter stages of this year, the government is predicting a growth rate of 6.5-7%.

The impact of crisis on Indian trade remains significant. Merchandise exports are still down 7% (yoy) and imports down 15%. However, despite a dip at the peak of the crisis, overall FDI flows have remained robust at US$35bn (p.a). Renewed portfolio inflows have stoked a doubling of the stock market since March 2009 and allowed a rebuilding of reserves US$290.

As external pressures subside, the government needs to unwind its supportive macroeconomic policies. The July budget from the new government continued a stimulus to support growth but ran a deficit of 6.8% of GDP (when the deficits of states and off-budget items are included the overall deficit is closer to 12% of GDP). This is unsustainable (80% debt to GDP ratio) and a return to fiscal discipline is promised by the government. The increase in government borrowing to finance the deficit has prompted the central bank to warn of risk of rising interest rates and crowding out private investment in the coming year if not addressed. Headline inflation is currently low, 1%, but rising quickly and food price inflation is at a politically sensitive 15% (reflecting supply side problems).

Fiscal reforms are needed to improve India’s ability to weather economic shocks. Higher international food, fuel and commodities prices increased inflation prior to the crisis. Administered prices limited the pass-through of international prices to domestic economy but increased fiscal costs where off-budget fuel and fertiliser subsidies are estimated at around 2% of GDP.

Both central and state government need to implement structural reforms—including land reform, infrastructure investment, trade facilitation, access to education, skill development and labour market reforms.—to unlock inclusive growth, especially in the poorest states. Although raising agricultural growth and productivity will be important for poverty reduction, in the long run India will need to manage a transition in output and employment away from agriculture.

The gap between rich and poor is growing; overall consumption inequality increased in the 1990s, particularly in urban areas, and within almost all states. This is attributable to differences in skills and education, and deep-rooted social exclusion. With rising aspirations, it is critical for the Indian economy to have more broad-based and inclusive growth, with job and income opportunities for all.

To do this the government needs to improve the quality of spending. Revenues have increased by 8.3% per annum (on average) since 1993 allowing government to increase development spending, especially over the past 8 years. India needs to make continued progress in reducing fiscal deficits and poorly-targeted subsidies, and reorienting public spending towards education and infrastructure to expand opportunities and address supply constraints.

India’s rapidly expanding private sector is trying to expand the market frontiers by tapping in to the market at ‘base of pyramid’: 800m consumers on less than $2 a day who can be potentially profitable suppliers to the corporate sector and a large market for its goods and services.

A day with Baba Kalyani – India’s Mr Manufacturing

I was quite privileged to have had Baba Kalyani fly into London, especially, to attend a press event, and then to an exclusive event that HSBC hosted for me to mark the launch of my book this evening. For your reference, Mr Kalyani’s claim to fame is that his firm (Bharat Forge) supply components to almost every singly vehicle in North America & Europe! In my book, I refer to him as ‘India’s Mr Manufacturing’.

At the press event, we had a number of journalists from a variety of sectors – sectoral press, newswires, Indian, Chinese, and French journalists etc who grilled him on big picture issues ranging from global warming & climate change, the financial slow-down, India Vs China, what to expect from Davos this year etc.

What struck me was his statement that, despite the scaremongering, the UK presented the best opportunity for manufacturing firms in Europe (and not Germany). I’m used to listening to political spin about these kinda things – we’ve recently had Lord Mandelson waxing lyrical about global manufacturing, but I believe it matters when leading players like Mr Kalyani say it.

At the evening event, which was an exclusive event with “society” figures, the focus shifted from macro issues to his personal story. I wanted to offer the audience the opportunity to ask questions to Mr Kalyani. I felt this was important because when I used to return to London and narrate what I had learnt through my interviews with the entrepreneurs to my friends, they’d chip in by saying “I wish I could ask him / them a question” – so the event allowed them exactly that.

All in all, I’m delighted to say, today was a success.

You can take a look at some of the photos here: