On the first day here at the World Economic Forum at Davos, there is no getting around Narendra Modi. Every second conversation that I strike up or am engaged in seems to come back to India’s enigmatic new Prime Minister. One of the many questions I’m asked about him is whether Modi’s popularity and ability to inspire hope are based solely on his electoral promises, or is there real substance here?
By now, it is more than evident that Narendra Modi really means business, and that the new reforms he is introducing are turning out to be very favorable for the country’s economy. The new attitude towards urbanization and growth that Modi brings in, and his vision of India competing with the world’s super-powers, has received a lot of backing not only from Indians but also served to perk up interest from foreign companies eyeing Indian shores for their operations, as well as foreign investors.
Modi has already demonstrated in Gujarat what his pro-business, infrastructure and policy-driven approach can do for economic revival and growth. His image is of a determined change-bringer and vanquisher of the lassitude that defined the old guard is what was needed most when it comes to rebooting India’s viability as a peer in the Global Economy.
Modi came at a time when the former UPA government’s image was marred by corruption cases, scams and failure to rein in rampant inflation. Today, he has an unenviable and monumental task before him now while dealing with deeply entrenched challenges and scripting a new growth story for India. He faces many obstacles on the road to delivering on his vision.
On the road to turn the Indian economy around and bring the country back into the global sweepstakes, Modi has launched many new initiatives. One of the most talked-about was his reviving the ‘smart cities’ concept – which, though not new one in India, lacked the forward momentum that comes from focused policies and the requisite policy-level funding. With these now part of the Modi government’s mandate, and with the awareness that has been created about smart cities, we are very likely to see smart cities becoming India’s new standard for urbanization, rather than interesting novelties.
Information technology, which we all acknowledge as an important economic driver for India, has not leveraged optimally. It needs to move from being seen as a mere ’employment spinner’ to becoming a medium for change. Modi has set his mind to make the IT sector a shining light for Brand India, and he is backing this vision massive funding, as well.
From what we have seen so far, ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ does not appear to be an empty election slogan. I believe that the direction that Modi’s new reforms point towards a very favorable future for India. It is early days yet, and we should not expect overnight miracles; further major reforms that will potentially improve business sentiments in the Indian economy will necessarily have to happen more gradually. What is certain is that with a relentlessly pro-business government at the Centre, they will not have to wait too long in the wings anymore.