Mr. Suhel Seth
CEO, Counselage
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen I don’t know why we normally get chosen for what is known as the graveyard hour for speaking. Post lunch I don’t know if any of you are interested in government or business. Having said that I think there is a certain amount of hypocrisy which Indian business has laced itself with for several years. We chose government intervention when it serves our purpose; we ignore government intervention when it doesn’t serve our purpose. Narain Murthy hates the government for intervening in IT but Narain needs the government in order for Lufthansa to fly out of Bangalore, that’s a reality, is it, a good thing or bad thing I am not willing to comment. The tragedy is that you cannot choose your bed fellows depending on levels of convenience. Can government help India and Indian industry, of course it can. How? There is a very important organisation called the India brand equity foundation which was started by the government in partnership with the CII which has been doing reasonably ---work, more such public private initiatives need to happen and if they do we will see the government being an effective catalyst . We need to open government to understand what branding of brand India ----, how do you position India as an economic investment destination, how do you create vibrancy in the ---and embassies you have all over the world. How do you make your ambassadors and high commissioners great economic statesmen rather than just carriers of foreign policy notes between countries? If we are able to energise government in that respect then government has a tremendous role. For far too long many of us have constantly been in ----people and talking against the role of government with against government intervention. Government does play a critical role as far a country to country dialogue is concerned there is no question about it. The government can also play sometimes a positive role although I am not in agreement with the role that the government played with Lakshmi Mittal. I don’t think we had any business to support one man’s hostile bid of a steel company when that same man on Feb 24th 2005 in an interview to a financial times said and I quote, there is nothing Indian about me. But the government well all over trying to promote and support these bids, there needs to be better communication and organization in terms of what we seek from government, that hasn’t happened. Bodies like the CII have done tremendous work in identifying what needs to be done. The charter of concerns as it were has been tabled, do I see a future, and I think there is a tremendous future. It is not about whether government should be in business or not in our country as long as we are the functioning ----democracy that we will be there will always be a role for government and government will have silent -----, they will influence you in manners that you and I don’t know. And it will range from airport privatization to the allocations of SSCs. So that’s gone happened, lets not ---that away. The trick would be to leverage the potential that the government wheels because of the stake machinery it has at its command. For the last several months there has been enormous talk and in fact it has only accentuated in the last several months about the rural ------. I said that at a CI function about 2 weeks ago, I don’t believe there is anything called a rural consumer. It’s a myth and at times it is a statement to attract empathy or sympathy, there is a consumer in the rural market but to call him a rural consumer and to say that you are doing him a favour by getting into the market is silly. You are going to the market because you need to add to your consumer base. Government can play a very critical role in expanding the pie for many product categories. In even simple things like releasing spectrum for telecom companies, that’s where government can play a tremendous role. Government to my mind can play a tremendous role by ensuring that they create the least barriers of resistance in any kind of economic march to a certain level of progress. Finally I think government can play a tremendous role if the level of distrust of business is watered down, we’ve moved far away from those beliefs that profit is a dirty word. I think if this partnership is engendered both government and business will work. After all whose government is it? Thank you.
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