Business Standard

BS Manthan: Trade policy in tune with development journey, says Goyal

Top names in polity, economy, diplomacy, business, startups, agri, luxury & sustainability made BS Manthan a star-studded show

Piyush Goyal

Union minister Piyush Goyal on the second and concluding day of Business Standard Manthan, in New Delhi on Thursday (Photo: Priyanka Parashar)

BS Reporter New Delhi
Dismissing concerns around protectionism, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and Textiles Piyush Goyal said India’s trade policy was a calibrated one and that it was in line with the country’s development journey . He was speaking on the second and concluding day of the inaugural edition of Business Standard’s annual summit, Business Manthan, in New Delhi on Thursday. 

Goyal’s view on India’s tariff approach echoed those expressed by Union Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman a day earlier at the summit. 

Hosted at Bharat Mandapam, venue of the G20 summit last year, to celebrate Business Standard’s 50th year, the event brought together distinguished personalities from across the spectrum: ministers, diplomats, economists, entrepreneurs, luxury merchants, sustainability champions, agriculture experts, MNC leaders, and many more.

While emphasising that as a developed country, India needed a thought-out trade engagement with the world, Goyal said there was also a need to internationalise the economy.

Staying with the summit’s theme, “A Developed India by 2047: The Roadmap”, Amitabh Kant, G20 sherpa and former CEO, Niti Aayog, mooted the idea of “champion states” – those that are agents of transformation. He also said that India needed many more Ambanis, Adanis and Tatas – a reference to large companies. Making a passionate case for the growth of manufacturing, he said, this was imperative if India intended to achieve its developed-nation goal.

Kant also offered an insider’s view into the dogged efforts that went into achieving consensus amidst a conflicted world at the G20 summit. On Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy’s suggestion that youth needed to work 70 hours a week, Kant remarked, “What matters is not the number of hours you work, but the outcomes you deliver.” To a question on whether he would consider entering politics, his reply was immediate and emphatic: “I am not cut out for politics.”

Meanwhile, cooperative federalism was discussed threadbare in a scintillating debate between two noted economists: Arvind Subramanian, former chief economic advisor to the Union government, and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.

The two dissected the contours of the “Centre-state relations necessary for India’s successful journey towards 2047”. Arenas of contestations in fiscal federalism were taken up. Subramanian said India needed a mix of cooperative federalism and competitive federalism.

Ahluwalia said cooperative federalism was critical and needed to be managed better. He argued in favour of state governments decentralising resources to sub-state level.

Earlier in the day, leading foreign policy voices unravelled the China challenge. In a conversation with former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, Shivshankar Menon, former national security advisor, and Nalin Surie, former Indian high commissioner to the UK, said that India needed to work out its own trajectory, focused on its core economic strengths, rather than trying to replicate the China model. This was vital if India wanted to shed the western world’s image of it being a Plus One to China.

The future of how India would travel was viewed through the vision of RC Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki and the man synonymous with India’s small-car revolution and later, its all-car revolution. “By 2047, we must have a much larger percentage of cleaner cars throughout India – maybe all of them,” he said. 

The craze for large vehicles, he predicted, would soon pass. “The world will realise that you don’t really need such large cars,” he said. On electric vehicles (EVs), he said, “Not just EVs, we need to harness all green technologies, including biogas, to achieve India’s net-zero targets.”

Speaking of the future, the startup ecosystem, which is known to predict and harness the potential of emerging trends, turned up in good strength at the Business Standard summit.

Looking back at the transformation he has witnessed in the business ecosystem in the 40 years since he started working, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, often described as the father of Indian startups, said a lot of change had come from companies that did not exist or barely existed when he started. These ranged from mobile telephony to ecommerce. A lot of this change was driven by startups, said the co-founder of internet company Info Edge and the entrepreneur behind jobs portal 

In the years to come, change, he said, would be triggered by the same five factors: “regulations, technology, capital, entrepreneurship and talent.”

Expressing optimism about the India market, Manish Tiwary, vice president and India manager, Amazon, said there is no better country than India for any company operating in the technology sector. Meanwhile, Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip, advised those looking to start a business to “have a very-very long-term view”. On the question of a funding winter, he said, “I don't think there is a shortage of capital. More questions – and the right kind of questions – are being asked in the funding market, which is a good thing.”

With the country focusing on services and manufacturing, where does that leave agriculture? Agri experts discussed this in detail, with Ramesh Chand, member-agriculture, Niti Aayog, saying that “growth in agriculture is more powerful in reducing poverty”. Agriculture economist Ashok Gulati spoke about the need to look beyond food security to nutritional security. And Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, emphasised building in-house capacity rather than turning to international consultants on matters of agriculture.

Environment experts put their heads together on the issue of climate change, which they said impacted the unorganised sector in a big way. It’s an area that needs urgent and concerted action, they said.

The day also included conversations around the luxury sector, which does not often get talked about when discussing developed-India ambitions. India’s growth story, said the panellists, would dazzle through its luxury industry too. There was a lot going for luxury. Corporate India’s investment in domestic brands, for instance, was a good sign, said Pushpa Bector, senior executive director, DLF Retail. Kapil Chopra, founder and CEO of Postcard Hotels and founder of EazyDiner, drew attention to “the exceptional luxury hotels”. And Alexis de Ducla, who represents some French luxury brands in India, predicted that “the next Chanel will come from India”.

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First Published: Mar 29 2024 | 12:34 AM IST

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