Trading places

Some $10 billion worth of export deals were sealed during President Barack Obama's visit but, for Indian industry, there was a bigger takeaway: Those greenbacks were not - as one Indian head honcho put it - handouts, but from a hand outstretched. India Inc's CEOs spell out the gains.

Anand Mahindra
Vice Chairman and Managing Director
Mahindra & Mahindra

'A chance to brand ourselves as equals'

Indian companies should make an effort to create jobs in the US. We will have to live with the antioutsourcing rhetoric. I see nothing wrong in Indian companies creating jobs in the US. The attitude prevailing in the US today on globalisation is a matter of great concern. This is a country that I grew up to know as one that was a champion for opening up of markets. It is up to the US businesses to drive home the message that protectionism is a bad thing.

Our own company has created 6,000 jobs in the US of which 3,500 are local hires. And it has not been a difficult task. Let us not lose this chance to brand ourselves as equals. I see this as a good business opportunity and India should grab it. We have reached a position whereby we can put in place a healthy agenda for negotiation and we also have to be clear that we have to give something (to gain something). After all, here is a President of a market that is not growing; who has come to India with a large business delegation; whose body language conveys the message that "I do need jobs being created, I do need investments."

Mahindra & Mahindra has a tieup for its electric car Reva with the US-based Curtis Instruments, a New York-based company that supplies technology for electric vehicles ranging from forklifts to cars. M&M's business with Curtis will translate into supporting 350 jobs at its manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico, plus engineering and management jobs in Mount Kisco, New York and on the West Coast of the United States. There are also hundreds of Curtis factory workers in China and Europe, so the benefits don't just go to its US workers.

M&M will collaborate with the US and take advantage of beneficial technologies, such as electric cars, and will benefit from the US expertise in developing templates and business models, including new transportation models.

As told to Anusha Subramanian and Brian Carvalho

Swati Piramal
Director, Piramal Healthcare and
President, ASSOCHAM

'He listened carefully, was warm and engaging'

An e-mail arrived from Washington inviting my husband Ajay to meet with President Obama in a small group. He was interested in the idea of using high technology to find solutions for meeting the unmet needs of a vast number of people. A few years ago, my son Anand had seen the burden of disease in rural Rajasthan caused by fluorosis, which was due to contaminated drinking water. My daughter Nandini and her husband Peter now look after this project, which provides clean drinking water to thousands of people in five states.

The project uses American technology and employs some very bright people - graduates of universities like Stanford and Harvard. In addition, at the Piramal Group we had taken over three Chapter 11 companies, saved around 700 jobs and turned them around to become profitable companies that manufactured and exported out of the United States - a success story of high-tech manufacturing.

This was shared in the closed door meeting with President Obama in Mumbai. He listened carefully, was warm and engaging. I was invited the next day to the private dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the President and Michelle Obama. 7 Race Course Road, the Prime Minister's residence, was resplendent with diyas and festive marigolds. Beautiful rangolis lined the pathway.

A select gathering of around 60 people lined up to speak to the President and the First Lady. He spent a few minutes talking to each person. I told him how I hoped that innovation partnerships with companies (such as the Lilly and Merck partnerships that we had) would make affordable drugs for both our nations and reduce health-care costs. He said that was music to his ears. I also told Michelle that I was the first woman president of ASSOCHAM, the apex chamber of commerce, and that we were trying to do much more for women and children.

Jayarama Chalasani
Jayarama Chalasani
Jayarama Chalasani
Reliance Power

'These are long-term strategic partnerships'

Reliance Power has struck three deals with the United States. The first is a $750-million contract with General Electric for the supply of six Frame 9FA gas turbines and three steam turbines; the second is for the purchase of US mining equipment and services from Bucyrus International, Wisconsin, and other US vendors; these two projects support an estimated 6,110 jobs in the US. Reliance Power has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the US Exim Bank to provide up to $5 billion in financial support for the purchase of US goods and services to be used in the development of up to 8,000 MW of gasfired electricity generating units and up to 900 megawatts of renewable (solar and wind) energy facilities.

Our trade and relationships with equipment supply companies are not only about the sale and purchase of goods. It is also about entering into long-term strategic partnerships that go beyond the sale. Our deals with GE and Bucyrus include support and services for the lifetime of the equipment, which is 15 to 20 years. The relationship with the US Exim Bank is also long term as the total duration of such financing can exceed 15 years.

As told to Anusha Subramanian

Adi Godrej
Adi Godrej
Adi Godrej
Godrej Group

'Relaxing Dual-use Restrictions is Significant'

President Obama's address was a positive one and it is likely to take Indo-US economic interactions to new levels, be it in trade or investment. From his address, it was clear that there are opportunities for growth across sectors and like all companies, we too are likely to gain in business across sectors. I can't pick just one sector for which his visit will be positive in nature. I think we will get a lot more clarity about areas like dualuse technology and these will be of vital national importance (two days after Obama's address at the Mumbai summit, Washington reportedly announced that it would ease restrictions on export of technology for military purposes).

The importance of the visit can be gauged by the profile of the business delegates, including CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, who came along with the President. Also, the government side was represented by senior officials like US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who was very positive about the future of business (Locke is expected to lead a senior business delegation to India in February).

-As told to T.V.Mahalingam

Amit Mitra
Secretary General

'Outsourcing is atually saving jobs'

The core competence of the US lies in science and technology. The US has been denying 10 of the 16 types of technology that may involve dual-use applications. After the nuclear deal, the biggest event in the history of our relationship took place when Obama committed to radically restructure the export control regime with an eye to potentially lifting controls on high-tech areas. Whether it's about making vaccines or better monsoon predictions, this move will have a major impact on the common people.

The second interesting element is the change in track of President Obama from raising concerns against outsourcing to fielding for it now. According to a US Chamber of Commerce study, 74 per cent of the benefits of outsourcing go to the US companies. Outsourcing is actually savings jobs. In addition, Indian companies have created over 65,000 jobs in the US in the past two years via acquisitions and new projects.

-As told to Manu Kaushik

Prof. Sumit Ganguly
Prof. Sumit Ganguly
Prof. Sumit Ganguly
Indiana University

'Jobs boost good news'

The sudden increase in Indo-US trade relations that is expected to follow President Obama's announcements will have a big impact on Indo-US political relations. It is bound to - the business deals create an important constituency for India in the US because of all the jobs involved there. As these deals come to fruition, the US-India Business Council, for example, will be able to become an even more important advocate for India.

These business deals will also affect the way the US sees India's role in Iran and Afghanistan. Business deals are related in many ways to the trade relationships. Look at the way the US deals with China. The US is the biggest debtor nation- China holds over $1 trillion of US bonds. So the US has to tiptoe about when it comes to the relationship with China. In the end, the US will have to make concessions about India's position in those countries. Even if it does not make concessions, it will have to adjust to the reality of India's relationship with Iran and Afghanistan.

-As told to Somnath Dasgupta