Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on January 6, met 11 leading corporate chiefs and exhorted them to give candid feedback on what has contributed to the slowdown, along with their views on what needs to be done to reverse the trend. Each industry captain was allotted 10 minutes to highlight concerns about his specific sector and the problems with economy and policies as a whole, with the PM urging them to be frank.
While pre-Budget consultations between the finance minister and industry captains have been par for the course, Modi's invitation to them was the first of its kind, at least in recent years. Apart from the PM, there was only one official present in the room, a format which many attendees saw as designed to encourage a free exchange of views. The PM himself was forthright as he addressed some issues perceived to be gnawing at the industry, the zealous taxman for instance.
"There is no need to worry, there is no witch-hunt," he was quoted as telling his guests that included Tata Group chairman emeritus Ratan Tata, RIL boss Mukesh Ambani, AM Naik of L&T and Gautam Adani of the Adani Group. Sunil Mittal of Bharti Group, Bharat Forge CMD Baba Kalyani, Vedanta's Anil Agarwal and Anand Mahindra of Mahindra Group were among others who attended the session in the run-up to Modi 2.0's first Budget, which has taken on additional significance because of the expectation that it might mark an important intervention to beat back despondency over the economy.
The economy is estimated to have grown at 4.5% in the second quarter of the current financial year and advance estimates for 2019-20 are due to be released by the Central Statistics Office. Modi's meeting with the industry comes at a time when the government is keen to comfort businesses, some of whom have said that they "fear" investigating agencies.
Modi met a number of business leaders and entrepreneurs over the past week to seek feedback on various sectors as well as suggestions on policy measures to boost growth and accelerate the drive toward a $5-trillion economy. More such meetings are planned in the days ahead. Those who have attended these meetings so far include Uday Kotak, CEO, Kotak Mahindra Bank; Rajnish Kumar, chairman, State Bank of India; Aditya Puri, managing director, HDFC Bank; IT industry veteran TV Mohandas Pai; former finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia; CP Gurnani, CEO, Tech Mahindra; Nivruti Rai, Intel India general manager and Rajesh Gopinath, Tata Consultancy Services chief executive. The government has announced a number of measures to revive the economy. It’s looking to boost GDP to $5 trillion by 2025 from about $2.8 trillion now.