Top US business leaders who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the first day of his five-day visit to America on Thursday called for better business environment and shared their concerns as well as experiences of working with India.
They appreciated Modi for “energetic and dynamic leadership” and expressed optimism about the future of India.
Media baron Rupert Murdoch, who described Modi as the “best leader with best policies since (India’s) independence” after meeting him in New York, framed the broad outline of expectations business leaders have from the government over investing in India.
“Great hour with Indian PM Modi. Best leader with best policies since independence, but massive task to achieve in most complex nation,” Murdoch said in a tweet.
Murdoch was one of the CEOs of the top media houses who met PM Modi at the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel. They described India as the “biggest market”and called for speedier digitisation of the Indian system, including early expansion of the 4G network, during the one-of-its kind meeting with the Prime Minister.
The CEOs – representing 40% of the world’s entertainment industry – were enthusiastic about the digital transformation that is taking place in India through the Digital India initiative. They said that the current strong trajectory of the Indian economy makes it at a unique moment to accelerate growth in this sector.
The Prime Minister had a roundtable on financial sector with New York’s big names in investment banking and rating agencies, including JP Morgan and Blackstone. He also met 47 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies over a dinner organised by the prestigious Fortune magazine at the Waldorf Astoria, and invited them to join his Make in India campaign and invest in the country.
As the CEOs dined over an all-organic meal prepared by four-time Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna, Modi said India is ready to welcome them with both hands and highlighted steps taken by his government to improve business environment in India.
Ajay Banga, chief executive officer of MasterCard, said there was a constructive dialogue after meeting Modi, who presented a page-long fact sheet of the steps taken by his government in the last one year to the group of top American CEOs with a collective net worth of $4.5 trillion.
He said India needs to have predictability and ease of doing business to attract the investment needed in order to reach Modi’s target of creating one million jobs a month said after the. Banga, who is also the chairman of the US-India Business Council, said Modi has an understanding of the challenges he faces and is very focused on what needs to be done to achieve his goals.
“I told the PM that American businesses are looking for principally predictability in policy that includes getting the GST passed and clarity on minimum alternate tax that has now come,” said Banga.
“They are looking for some form of ease of doing business. We spoke about how to promote that,” he added.
Banga said everyone has apprehensions over policy reforms in the country. He gave the example of the land bill which could not be put through by the Modi government.
“But they also see the positives that there is change and growth and a government that is engaging in open constructive dialogue.”
Some of the CEOS like Marriott’s Arne M Sorenson and GE’s John Rice also praised Modi saying he is a leader who listens and is ready to bring in changes and address some of points that were made during the meeting.
“PM Modi is somebody who is interested in seeing India and its economy perform better. He is somebody who listens and I think he is making progress,” said Sorenson.
Others like Blackstone’s Stephen A Schwarzman were hopeful that Modi’s “pro-reform government” will continue to consider their suggestions and work toward making India a favourable place to do business with.
“The Indian government has already undertaken massive reforms and key message was to continue doing what you are doing,” said James Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase.