NEW YORK -- In the biggest pitch yet to woo US investments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today courted top financial sector CEOs to sell the India growth story, assuring them their concerns will be resolved and bottlenecks removed.
Kicking off his second visit to the US in one year with a meeting with eight of the top 10 financial entities in the US, including JP Morgan and Blackstone, Modi outlined efforts made during the last 15 months to increase investment in key areas like infrastructure.
He outlined the government's reform agenda as well as improving economic climate and said "any bottlenecks which should not be there, will not be there."
The GDP growth last year was 7.3 per cent - among the highest in large economies world over, he said. Also, there has been a 40 per cent jump in foreign direct investment (FDI).
World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Moody's say the economic climate is bound to improve further, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup quoted the Prime Minister as telling the one-hour long roundtable.
CEOs, he said, shared their concerns as well as experiences of doing business in India.
The Prime Minister "took on board" suggestions made by the executives as he outlined the sheer scale of development that will happen in India and the "tremendous opportunities" it offers to foreign institutional investors and for FDI.
Swarup said the Prime Minister assured the investors that "work is already underway" to resolve concerns of doing business and investing in India.
"The Prime Minister spoke very candidly. He outlined his vision for India. He said any bottlenecks which should not be there will not be there," he said.
Swarup said some of the concerns raised by investors are that there is still some bureaucracy left, deregulation has not been as fast as they had expected. On the REIT side they had some concerns about taxation policies, bankruptcy laws and deregulation and wanted faster pace of infrastructure development.
He added that these were not new issues and the Prime Minister is fully aware of them.
Modi has asked the CEOs to give him a detailed note on all the points and concerns raised by them to examine in detail and respond.
"Prime Minister Modi appreciated the fact that they had aired these issues and he was very committed to working to resolve them," Swarup said.
He said the companies manage billions and billions of dollars and most of them have exposure to India.
"This was a very good opportunity for the Prime Minister to listen to their experience of dong business in india, see what concerns they have and how we could work to remove those concerns," he said.
Swarup added that the CEOs voiced their appreciation over the steps taken by the government on ease of doing business, economic growth and reforms and "were very bullish on India."
On concerns about land acquisition, Swarup said the PM has set a target of constructing 30 km roads per day, increasing it from the current 13 km per day.
This, he said, will be possible only when there is land available and "we are trying to get political consensus on the issue."
The CEOs noted that India has a lot of potential for investment and acknowledged that financial market reforms have already started and more reforms would happen in the days to come.
The Prime Minister also outlined the massive development projects underway and in the pipeline in India including plans to build 50 million houses, provide 24x7 electricity and 175 GW of renewable energy.
He also spoke of inviting private sector participation in the development of more than 500 railway stations in the country.
The CEOs also applauded the PM for the "bold" steps taken to opening up the Indian economy, Swarup said.
On whether China came up in the discussions between the PM and the institutional investors, Swarup replied in the negative.
After the meeting, Blackstone CEO Stephen A Schwarzman said, "There were many suggestions to improve access to the country. The Prime Minister was very open to those suggestions."
Participants, he said, hoped India will seize the opportunity presented by a slowing Chinese economy and become the driver of world economy.
"With a growing population, they have one of the highest levels of growth in the world. They have to reform government.
So, things are lining up," he said.
On a question on the reforms that the US companies would like Indian Prime Minister to take, he said: "There are various, in terms of ability of US companies to take IPOs, the ability to have more capital going to rural areas."
The much-anticipated US Fed rate hike, he said, should not have a huge impact on India.
J P Morgan CEO James Dimon said: "I had a great meeting. There was a constructive dialogue in the spirit of collaboration. We are looking at India trying to get foreign direct investment. Indian people should know all the people are devoted to that."
Stating that Modi is strong and has "lifted all of India", he said, "The government has already undertaken a massive amount of reforms. Key message from the US companies was keep doing what you are doing."
J P Morgan, he said, has been in India for a long time and has more than 28,000 employees.
Vicki Fuller of NY State Common Retirement Fund said, "Yes I am," when asked if she is satisfied with the pace of economic reforms in India.
"Our goal is to make sure that we are seeing enough change, so that we feel we are comfortable in investing our capital. And then we would continue to watch and wait. For the amount of time he has been in office, there has been a lot of changes he has made. So clearly more to come, but as a potential investor, we are optimist," she said.
The roundtable on financial sector was Modi's first economic engagement in the US. Eight out of top 10 financial entities, including Blackstone and JP Morgan, came to discuss with the Prime Minister investment and other opportunities in India.
Top guns listed for the event included JP Morgan CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon, Blackstone CEO and co-founder Steve Schwarzman and Warburg Pincus co-CEO Charles Kaye.
Also on the list were KKR co-chairman Henry Kravis, General Atlantic CEO Bill Ford, AIG Insurance Presidnet and CEO Peter Hancock, Tiger Global co-founder Chase Coleman, ACE Ltd President and CEO Evan Greenberg and NY State Common Retiremnet Chief Investment Officer Vicki Fuller.
With China slowing down and Europe in stagnation, India is the probably the only bright spot for investment.