India growth story: Mukesh's optimism vs Tata's pessimism

Why does Mukesh Ambani appear so optimistic about India in his interview with Fareed Zakaria barely a month or so after Ratan Tata spoke about seeking growth outside India, in Africa and other places?

Suman Layak        Last Updated: February 12, 2013  | 16:33 IST

Suman Layak
Suman Layak
Why does Mukesh Ambani appear so optimistic about India in his interview with Fareed Zakaria barely a month or so after Ratan Tata spoke about seeking growth outside India, in Africa and other places?

Tata was speaking to James Crabtree of FT.com. Crabtree writes that Tata mentioned several policy issues that hamper business in India. He went on to say that the Chinese government gets more things done and that, if Indian businesses got similar support, India could compete better with China. Tata also said that, given India's large market, common language and the rule of law, there are still a lot of things going in India's favour.

So, what did Mukesh Ambani tell CNN and Zakaria? Essentially that he is optimistic about India. He saw the recovery in China (and the US) not as competition but something aiding growth in India. Ambani also said that aspirations of a billion-strong population in India will ensure the country's re-emergence as a growth engine.

Both Tata and Ambani seem to believe that India will enjoy the benefits of a demographic dividend - a growing young population. They place similar bets on India - like almost every commentator speaking on the subject.

The divergence in their tones probably has to do with where they are individually in their careers. Ambani is in the middle of a tough period for Reliance Industries - the growth businesses are still some time away from showing results while petrochemicals and refining have stabilised. Ambani will surely lead Reliance Industries for at least another decade - he needs to cross this chasm and plan for a few more. He needs optimism to keep the morale of his employees and shareholders high.

Tata, on the other hand, has retired and could afford to do some plain speaking. So, he called the spade a spade.

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