Successfully copied
Invest India, the country’s investment promotion agency, is going all guns blazing to fulfil the prime minister’s vision of propelling india into the next decade
By: Rajat Mishra and Anand Adhikari
Please rotate your device

We don't support landscape mode yet. Please go back to portrait mode for the best experience

A few years ago, the CEO of a multinational company (MNC) flew down to experience India’s ‘friendly’ business climate. The honcho ended up standing for hours at the jam-packed immigration desk at the airport. Some months later, when the CEO visited Vietnam, another competing destination for foreign investors, the President of the South-East Asian country rushed to the airport to welcome him. These are small, soft things; yet they matter. Things seem to be changing after Invest India, the country’s investment promotion agency (IPA) which is a one-stop shop for foreign investors, was set up and empowered. Recently, the Invest India team went to receive a global CEO where the aircraft touched down. 

It’s another story that the team had to speak to multiple departments to get clearances. “Costs are similar worldwide, [but] the investment decision in any country also depends on softer issues,” says Deepak Bagla, MD & CEO of Invest India, sitting in his first-floor office at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan. This quasi-government organisation, nestled in Delhi’s posh Lutyens area, is fast emerging as the biggest driver for foreign investment. “We are good at joining the dots in a jigsaw puzzle,” says Bagla, who knows a thing or two about investors’ psyche, having worked for marquee names like the World Bank and Citibank.

Over the last few years, India has received record FDI and created millions of jobs. It is in this journey that Invest India, the start-up of the Government of India, has played a crucial role in unleashing the county’s talent, creativity and zeal... The efforts towards increasing both ease of living and ease of doing business as also making our systems vibrant and resilient have paved the way for unlimited opportunities

Prime Minister

(Excerpts Taken From The PM’s Letter To Invest India On December 19, 2020)

India had record FDI inflows of $84.83 billion in FY22 (3.5 per cent higher than in FY21), despite the Covid-19 outbreak. Although China receives more than $180 billion annually, India’s current FDI run rate has more than doubled compared to a decade ago. “In the last few years, Invest India alone has been instrumental in getting investments worth Rs 3 lakh crore ($33 billion) and is now working on getting in a total of Rs 16 lakh crore ($196 billion) worth of investment. We have helped create 450,000 jobs, supported 81,000-plus start-ups, solved 300,000-plus queries from 174 countries, and facilitated 1,323 investment projects,” rattles off Priya Rawat, Invest India’s COO.

This activity was propelled by the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A year after taking over as PM, Modi had famously said: “The industry of red tape thrives on doubt, while the road with a red carpet is built on trust.” In a sense, Invest India is Modi’s very own unicorn. “To change red tape into red carpet, to hand-hold investors, to ease the investor journey, to facilitate investment and to be a one-stop shop, Invest India has done an excellent job towards the Hon’ble PM’s vision of making India the most preferred investment destination in the world,” says A.K. Sharma, who had worked closely with Modi in Gujarat (when Modi was chief minister between 2001 and 2014) and is currently Energy Minister in the Uttar Pradesh government.

FDI inflows exceeded $22 billion in Q1FY23, which, at the present rate, would bring the year’s total to $90 billion. When Invest India won the 2020 UN Investment Promotion Award, Modi wrote, “Over the last few years, India has received record FDI and created millions of jobs. It is in this journey that Invest India, the start-up of the Government of India, has played a crucial role in unleashing the country’s talent, creativity, and zeal.”

The Indian economy will reach tenfold in the next 25 years, by 2047. With political stability‚ high competitiveness‚ collective efforts and a developing economic system‚ India will become an economic force in the world to reckon with

Union Commerce And Industry Minister

A recent EY-CII report talks about India’s potential to attract FDI inflows of $475 billion in the next five years. What’s making investors line up is a clear road map of India’s ambitions. “The Indian economy will reach tenfold in the next 25 years, by 2047. With political stability, high competitiveness, collective efforts and a developing economic system, India will become an economic force in the world to reckon with,” Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade in Andhra Pradesh recently. Around a month ago, India displaced the UK as the world’s fifth-largest economy. The timely production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme with an outlay of Rs 2 lakh crore ($24.30 billion) in sectors like consumer electronics, auto, and pharma is attracting global multinationals like Dell, Dixon, Foxconn and Flex, among others. India is now being increasingly discussed in global boardrooms as a ‘China plus 1’ option. 

With 411 employees, most of whom are young women, Invest India addresses every minute detail of investment. Founded in 2009 as a 49:51 joint venture between the central government and industry association Ficci, not much happened for the first seven years. “There was a small room within Ficci with not enough space to have meetings with investors,” says a person in the know. In fact, when professional CEO Bagla landed in February 2015, he had to do team meetings in a coffee shop near Delhi’s Bengali Market.

To change red tape into red carpet, to hand-hold investors, to ease the investor journey, to facilitate investment and to be a one-stop shop, Invest India has done an excellent job towards the Hon’ble PM’s vision of making India the most preferred investment destination in the world

Minister Of Energy
Government Of Uttar Pradesh

Things started to change around that time, when state governments were brought in as equity partners. The team under Bagla, which finally got a home at Vigyan Bhawan in January 2017, started creating new concept notes, brought in new ways of creating research reports, showing foreigners where the opportunities are, etc. “The government always had problems recruiting young people to come for a short time and make an impact. Often, the best and brightest also want to work in other areas such as consulting, finance, tech, etc. At the same time, there are several young people who are committed to helping the country, but don’t want to make a lifetime of it,” says Adil Zainulbhai, head of the Capacity Building Commission, which is mandated with transforming the Indian civil services learning ecosystem.

Bagla says the private-sector character of Invest India helps the government understand the investor’s perspective. “When we have an entire team here with a private sector background, they know exactly how investors are thinking,” he says. The agency is the first point of contact for MNCs. “The first thing they want is complete facilitation, complete hand-holding, which is what Invest India does for them, from location search to showing them the opportunity to getting all approvals,” says Bagla (see interview for details). The agency has a team dedicated to each government department, a team dedicated to states, and also countries. “They function in a matrix fashion,” he adds.

Invest India is a unique platform for investors and businesses... It has played a key role in the digitalisation of the investor journey and revolutionised the investor engagement in India through portals such as National Single Window and India Investment Grid


There is an interesting story of how Invest India engaged with Sweden-based Autoliv that makes safety airbags, among other auto components. The Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand were the shortlisted destinations. The agency’s team, which got in touch with them after a roadshow, found that the company had earlier shortlisted a location in Chennai, but couldn’t proceed because of high costs. “We moved the selected land parcel 4.5 km away [from Chennai] to Cheyyar town and moved to a lease model. Now it is cheaper than anywhere else in the world, so the investment has moved to India,” smiles Bagla.

Similarly, in early 2000, French multinational Groupe PSA (now called Stellantis after its recent merger with Fiat Chrysler), known for brand Peugeot, exited India. By the mid-2000s, it was in a dire financial state, and began scouting for a globally competitive manufacturing destination. Invest India did some digging and found out that one of the board members was an Indian. It got in touch with him for a meeting with the board. The team flew down to Paris and made a strong pitch. It explained the market opportunity, favourable regulations, choices of states for a plant, and likely incentives. Finally, in 2017, PSA partnered with the CK Birla Group by taking over the ailing Hindustan Motors plant in south India. “That was one of our first big wins,” recalls an Invest India professional.

The agency is pulling off big projects despite having one of the lowest budgets among the world’s top 20 IPAs. But, Bagla and his squad, with an average age of 29, aren’t grumbling. Sample this: Pallavi Bishnoi, who looks after the Americas and Korea-plus desk, left her Goldman Sachs job to join Invest India. Meanwhile, Varda Taneja, who handles the Western Europe desk, has done a Masters from the London School of Economics.

Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra vouches for the team. “A young, professional and committed team has ushered in a ‘can do’ mindset. It is the team which seamlessly joins the dots and frames the picture. In effect, they have created a social ‘unicorn;’ a start-up, which in place of a billion-dollar valuation, impacts over a billion people!” Cadila Healthcare Chairman Pankaj R. Patel says it certainly goes to show that the institution has been able to look beyond the conventional framework of engaging and retaining talent and “offers the right milieu for rewarding careers”. DPIIT Secretary Anurag Jain says: “It [Invest India] has demonstrated effective and efficient utilisation of public resources and consistently delivered cost-efficient substantial outcomes.” All three sit on the agency’s 10-member board, which also includes Accenture’s Rekha Menon and Nasscom’s Debjani Ghosh. Jain is the Chairman.

Invest India is also helping start-ups through the Startup India mission, which it runs. For example, 1mg, a start-up in the digital health space that was recently acquired by the Tatas, has a good experience to share. “Our prospective investors had significant issues with visas. The Invest India team facilitated direct conversation with the requisite ministries to ensure that the investors got quick entry,” says Tata 1mg CEO Prashant Tandon. Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa, says softer elements are crucial to attracting investors. “They have done a remarkable job of projecting, promoting and putting India on the global map,” he says.

The challenge for India is to grow at high rates for the next three decades. This requires very personalised handholding of investors... It’s... [about] personally getting in touch with large MNCs, entrepreneurs, [and] convincing their CEOs and CFOs to come to India

India’s G20 Sherpa

Invest India also helps out ministries in their work. For instance, the women and child development ministry. “From developing an indigenised version of the Global Gender Gap Index to financial and technical monitoring of the ministry’s research projects, Invest India’s DRISHTI [research] team has been supporting the ministry’s core mandate,” says Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Z. Irani.

Despite the pandemic, India’s FDI story continued as Reliance Industries attracted investors like Facebook, General Atlantic, KKR, and Google for a $26-billion-plus stake sale in Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail Ventures. “Jio’s transactions certainly helped keep the FDI at a record level,” agrees Samir Sheth, Partner & Head of Deal Advisory Services at BDO India. Bagla is proud of the Startup India mission, which was launched in January 2016, and came under the Invest India fold from Day One. “We had 450 start-ups at that time. Today, we have [over] 81,000 start-ups and 107 unicorns,” he says.

Photo 1 (Above), Photo 2 (Below): Team Invest India

A year ago, Taiwanese giant Foxconn was scouting for potential locations. When India decided to provide incentives for creating a global hub for semiconductors, the electronics major set its eyes on the country. Soon after, states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Gujarat began courting it. Finally, Foxconn and joint venture partner Vedanta zeroed in on Gujarat and Maharashtra; the former managed to walk away with the Rs 1.54-lakh crore project this September. Maharashtra lost yet another deal to Gujarat when European aviation major Airbus and the Tatas also selected Gujarat for a Rs 22,000-crore aircraft manufacturing facility in October.

This battle amongst states for FDI was never seen before. For instance, Karnataka, the state with the second-largest FDI share, has country corridors—a Japanese industrial township in Tumakuru, and a Taiwan industrial park in Devanahalli.


'Good economics is at the centre of good politics,' says Invest India's Deepak Bagla

Invest India MD & CEO Deepak Bagla on competitive federalism, start-ups and more

By Sourav Majumdar, Anand Adhikari and Rajat Mishra

Deepak Bagla
Invest India

Invest india, the country's investment promotion agency, acts as a catalyst for foreign direct investment (FDI) into India. Its recent successes have led to the World Bank creating a case study on it, says Deepak Bagla, MD & CEO of Invest India. The agency also has additional responsibility of Startup India and the Prime Minister's science and technology initiative. Bagla, who has had stints with the World Bank and Citibank and is the current President of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), speaks on a range of issues in an interaction with BT. Edited excerpts:

What are the significant highlights of Invest India in the past few years?

The most interesting thing, and it's ironic, is that starting up a business in India was complex for foreign investors, and yet India did not have an investment promotion agency (IPA). Every other country in the world had one, especially if you look at the top 20 FDI destinations. There are two aspects to it. One is that it provides facilitation to the investor to handle everything. More importantly, it is a message to foreign investors that the government welcomes them. And that is what you were looking at when the honourable Prime Minister said: “I want to turn the red tape into a red carpet.” This is the red carpet.

We have states vying with each other for FDI. Competitive federalism is very valid now…

In a recent election in a state in northern India about two or three years ago, there was a full-page ad that said 'we are No. 1 in ease of doing business in northern India'. The day that happens, you realise that good economics is at the centre of good politics. That is a big change, which has been brought about by the current leadership. And this is what Invest India personifies. We are working with state governments, showing them global best practices, then rating Indian global best practices vis-à-vis theirs, and then training them to come up the curve on those. We have also started partnering the states that are doing better with the ones that are weaker.

The other interesting element is how state governments are upgrading their industrial parks to make India a plug-and-play model. This is very important, especially for the movement of MSMEs. If I have a big mobile maker coming in, you want the entire supply chain. The supply chain is MSMEs. The first thing they want is complete facilitation, hand-holding, which is what Invest India does—from location search to showing them the opportunity to getting all approvals. The second, which is more important for them, is that they need an ecosystem within which they can work and do a plug-and-play model. That is what we are seeing developing very fast in India.

What kind of work is Invest India doing in the start-up space?

The first challenge was to create the ecosystem. Second, how do we respect failure? That was a social challenge. We work with each state government on its specific start-up policy, creating the ecosystem, creating the incentives, taking best-case examples from one and sharing with the other. The next step is to see how we can bring all the start-ups together and help them by joining the dots. So, we created the Startup India Hub, which is like a virtual incubator. In that virtual incubator, you get everything from learning how to ideate, to creating a presentation, to meeting a VC, to finding a mentor, to getting an incubator, and to getting a market. Hand-holding happens [through the] entire chain.

We also have the Prime Minister's science and technology initiative. There are two elements to it—one is waste to wealth. We are bringing in new technologies on waste to wealth. For example, we are trying to see how the Ghazipur dump (in Delhi) can be converted into a road.

The other element is that we are bringing in the best innovations from outside the government into the government, be it agriculture, defence, etc.

How are you engaging with the domestic, large industrial houses or even the large to medium industrial houses, which also need some hand-holding?

Of the Rs 2.4 lakh crore investment that we have already brought in, close to about Rs 18,000-20,000 crore is domestic investment. We have created a project management group for big companies. This used to be earlier under the Cabinet Secretariat. Even the large private projects can come in. And these are being monitored at the highest level. So, in their daily meetings with either the chief secretary or the chief minister's office of that state, or senior government officials from India, [they are asked] where is it stuck? What more can we do? We go state by state. And we have already sorted out a large number of these issues. But the big change is [that] we have made it far more vibrant.

Does WAIPA help in getting FDI?

The World Bank advises all governments on investment promotion. And they were with us from Day One. They actually created a case study on Invest India last October, which they have shared with governments across the globe to tell them how they can structure an IPA, and how a country's leadership can create an institution of global excellence in a short period of time. So, how WAIPA helps us is it creates awareness across the world, that [India] is the place which is now really open to investment. The other very interesting thing for me is, when we are looking at India, two-thirds of my GDP is driven by domestic demand. So, you come, you create here, you create economies of scale. And then you export. For me, it is important to open other markets for these companies, so they can export from here. That's where WAIPA comes in.


This June, the government announced Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana as top achievers based on implementation of the Business Reforms Action Plan, which includes reforms in areas such as the single-window system, land, labour and information access, among others. The changes are visible on the ground. “There are new IPAs in Odisha, UP, and the entire North-East, which never had any investment agency,” says Bagla.

The agency also has a dashboard with MoU updates from states. The next stage is a national dashboard. Currently, Invest India is doing the bulk of the hand-holding. For example, Danish wind turbine firm Vestas, which has been present in India since 1989, reached out to Invest India for help in getting some two dozen licences and permits to set up a blade manufacturing unit. It was looking to set up another unit after its positive experience in Gujarat. Vestas finally set up a greenfield manufacturing unit in Chennai with an investment of $100 million.

The agency claims that the states’ contribution is also broad-based, with 31 states and Union territories attracting FDI. “Never before has that happened,” says Bagla. Meghalaya and Nagaland were amongst the new states receiving investment in FY22. “For me, it is not just the amount. FDI is about trust in India. It’s about trust in India’s leadership. It’s about trust in India’s tomorrow. It’s about trust in India’s opportunity,” he says.

Experts say the top four-five states are consolidating their position by cornering a large share of FDI. Mumbai traditionally gets FDI in financial services, Bengaluru gets technology, and Delhi-NCR gets real estate and construction. Bagla suggests that any sector that has a consumer base is seeing good interest. “There is huge interest in data storage, renewables, and PLI sectors,” he says. Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister for Health and Family Affairs, says Invest India has been critical in creating the perfect ecosystem for healthcare investments over many years, “especially during the past 30 months”.

A young and professional team has ushered in a ‘can do’ mindset. It is the team which seamlessly joins the dots and frames the picture. In effect‚ they have created a social ‘unicorn’; a start-up, which in place of a billiondollar valuation‚ impacts over a billion people!

Mahindra Group

The message to foreign investors is very clear. “You have one person to call and we will do the rest,” says Bishnoi of Invest India. While the pecking order of the investee countries has remained the same for the past two decades—tax-friendly Mauritius and Singapore are the top two—165 countries have contributed to FDI inflows in FY22.

The agency is now casting a wider net. “Even in the government setup, investors’ meetings take precedence over other meetings. The challenge to the team here is to never change the time of an investor meeting,” says Bagla. Invest India’s office often sees visits by delegations from various countries, political leaders and ambassadors to discuss multiple themes. “The agency has been devoting significant resources towards capacity building and creating a best-in-class investor experience from exploration to establishment, operation and expansion,” says Armando E. Heilbron, Investment Promotion Workstream Leader at World Bank. As part of the strategy, there is a focus on ‘anchor’ investors to attract FDI via a supply chain. For instance, if a big mobile maker wants to enter, Invest India works with it to bring in its entire supply chain.

The team’s ears are also glued to investor calls of global multinationals. “We pick up how many times the name of India was mentioned. Then we analyse the nature of the comments, whether positive or negative. This gives us good feedback to work on,” says Bagla. Then there are certain marquee projects that Invest India wants. “We map out the decision-makers in prospective global companies interested in India, including the board members, past experience, India connection, if any,” he adds. This is an entirely new, cut-throat approach to marketing India.

The agency has also picked up lessons from China, which excelled in attracting foreign capital. “Investment promotion is both about form and substance. But what matters most is how you manage and treat the investor,” says Bagla. It has an internal investor relationship management tool called Nalanda, which keeps track of investment projects as well as the progress made. Invest India adds investor case details on Nalanda for regular tracking and monitoring. “The respective country or embassy can log in and see the details on a daily, real-time basis,” says Bagla. He adds that Invest India even finds out if the visiting foreign guests like tea or coffee and the amount of sugar they add to it, so they can be served without being asked.

Ismail Ersahin, Executive Director at the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA, of which Bagla is President), says a very creditable feature of Invest India is its openness to partner, help and support other countries, especially in sharing their learnings and best practices. “This has positioned Invest India as a trusted partner of other countries,” he says.

Still, there is work to be done. In the World Competitiveness Index, created by the Switzerland-based Institute of Management Development, India is ranked 37; China is 17. An EY-CII report says MNCs expect momentum on faster execution of infrastructure projects, ease of doing business, tax reforms, and implementation of trade agreements.

The last point is critical. India now has three economic partnership agreements with Japan, South Korea and the UAE, as well as two economic cooperation pacts with Malaysia and Singapore. Some experts question the need for FTAs with smaller trading partners like Canada, Australia, the UAE, and the UK. “Canada opens up North America for you now with the global shift happening. The UAE opens up the entire continent of Africa. That is a big market. These are the gateways,” defends Bagla. In terms of future challenges, the forces of deglobalisation and new global taxes on MNCs could also impact FDI flows. India’s story received a big jolt recently when MNCs like Ford, Metro, Holcim, Harley-Davidson and General Motors left the country.

But the corridors of Invest India are witnessing a flurry of activity with investors moving in and out. Bagla would like to have an Invest India desk at all major airports in the country. In fact, when he was asked to prepare a business plan for the next 10 years, he remarked that if all goes well, there should be no Invest India by 2035. “You will not need it,” he signs off.


Story: Rajat Mishra and Anand Adhikari
Producer: Arnav Das Sharma
Creative Producers: Raj Verma, Nilanjan Das
Videos: Mohsin Shaikh
UI Developer: Pankaj Negi