GREAT EXPECTATIONS

India Inc. fears that Modi’s marketing machine may be getting ahead of itself

Obsession
Modi's Moment
Obsession
Modi's Moment

“For the first time, the government is doing a fantastic marketing job,” says Rajeev Vasudeva. “Modi is connecting very well with the global community,” adds the New Delhi-based chief executive of Egon Zehnder, a recruitment group.

But the thing is, the hyperactive, jet-setting, pro-business prime minister may be getting ahead of himself. His government “is doing such a great marketing job that it can’t deliver at the same pace,” Vasudeva adds.

The budget on Feb. 28 will be the first true test of whether the theory behind Modinomics will be delivered in practice. Expectations are high among India Inc., but doubts remain about the government’s ability to deliver, according to company bosses that spoke with Quartz.

“The joke is that India is a country with great potential, and continues to be,” Vasudeva says. “This our big opportunity to deliver on that potential.”

Karan Chanana reckons that 9% GDP growth is “just around the corner.” The chairman and CEO of Amira Nature Foods says that life for his company—a Dubai-based, New York-listed food group with roots in India—is already easier as a result of the Make in India program. A government committed to “de-clogging” decisionmaking between the federal and state levels—on tax, foreign investment, and other areas—will attract more “on-the-ground investments” within the next year, Chanana says.

CP Gurnani tells a similar story. The CEO of Tech Mahindra, an outsourcing company, speaks of “business momentum and rising confidence” following Modi’s election. But the “real growth” will only come if the hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of “stuck” infrastructure projects are pushed to completion.

“We’ve been here before,” notes Anuj Puri, who heads the India practice at JLL, a property group. “People are still suspect about India.” Indeed, surveys show that companies are still reluctant to invest in a big way, despite all the optimism around Modinomics.

Potential investors are seeking Puri out more than before, “but the checks haven’t started to come in yet,” he says. The budget is crucial to opening executives’ wallets, and if the government’s promises fall short, “there will be a loss of confidence,” Puri adds.

“I’ve never been able to meet with ministers so often as in the past eight months,” he says. But talk is cheap. When finance minister Arun Jaitley unveils the government’s financial priorities on Saturday, he will—quite literally—put its money where its mouth is.

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